Fabricio Werdum: The Man Who Would Beat the Last Emperor Fedor Emelianenko

As we near Saturday's Strikeforce main event between Fedor Emelianenko and Fabricio Werdum, the actual fight seems to be lost in a cloud of…

By: Nate Wilcox | 13 years ago
Fabricio Werdum: The Man Who Would Beat the Last Emperor Fedor Emelianenko
Bloody Elbow 2.0 | Anton Tabuena

As we near Saturday’s Strikeforce main event between Fedor Emelianenko and Fabricio Werdum, the actual fight seems to be lost in a cloud of disappointment and controversy. Fans are angry because they want to see Fedor fighting Brock Lesnar in the UFC, not Werdum on Showtime. American fans distrust and despite Fedor’s management team, M-1 Global. Lost in the shuffle is the man ranked the #9 heavyweight in the world by the USAT/SBN Consensus MMA Rankings.

Fabricio Werdum deserves better. 

Here are some things to know about Fabricio Werdum:

  • He was the 2003 and 2004 BJJ world champion in the super heavyweight division — something he accomplished BEFORE being awarded his black belt;
  •  He was the 2007 ADCC heavyweight champion — by far submission grappling’s most prestigious title;
  • He trained Mirko “Cro Cop” Filipovic in jiu jitsu for years, presumably picking up some kickboxing along the way;
  • He has been loosely affiliated with Brazil’s legendary Chute Boxe academy for years, picking up a good bit of Muay Thai training along the way;
  • He was a late addition to PRIDE’s legendary stable of heavyweights, beating Aleksander Emelianenko, Alistair Overeem and Tom Erikson during that tenure while losing to Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira and Sergei Kharitonov for an overall record of 5-2 with the promotion;
  • He has only been knocked out once in his eight year MMA career, by Junior Dos Santos;
  • He was seemingly designed to beat big tough Brazilians — his win over Antonio Silva and two victories over Gabriel Gonzaga showed a well-rounded fighter with a LOT of heart and will to win;
  • He had an odd run of luck in the UFC — his first fight against Andrei Arlovski turning boring when Arlovski refused to engage in the third round and an exhausted Werdum didn’t have the wrestling or striking skills to force the action; his victory over Brandon Vera was tainted by what many saw as an early stoppage by the ref; the UFC’s hardball negotiating tactics ran him off in short order after his loss to Dos Santos.
One of the questions that Werdum’s career raises is whether or not coming to MMA from an elite level submission grappling/BJJ background is comparable to coming in with an Olympic level wrestling or judo background. Based on the success rates of the BJJ guys vs the wrestlers vs the judo players, it looks like it’s better than judo, but not as applicable as wrestling. But this is all very debatable.
He seems to be in a good mental frame going into the biggest fight of his career. From MMA Fighting:
“It’s a great honor for me to fight the No. 1 mixed martial artist in the world, but those rankings often take away from what a great sportsman and athlete that Fedor is,” he said. “It’s an honor to be considered in the same class of athlete as a person such as Fedor is. He’s a deeply religious man who I respect greatly. So it’s a great inspiration and motivating factor for me to step in the cage with a man such as Fedor.”

When he had the chance, Werdum (13-4) repeatedly emphasized that he’s ready to seize the moment, and that he’s drawing his confidence from his preparation, and his motivation from his family. He said he’s been studying Emelianenko’s fights throughout his entire career, so the surprises in play should be limited.

Interestingly, Werdum has not focused on training with heavyweights, instead opting for lighter, quicker fighters that can more closely mimic Emelianenko’s speed. Among those he mentioned as recent training/sparring partners in the leadup: Wanderlei Silva, Renato “Babalu” Sobral, Mark Munoz, Vladimir Matyushenko and “King Mo” Muhammed Lawal. Not a heavyweight among the group.

He may be onto something by training against light heavyweights to prepare for Fedor who is a small and quick heavyweight that could likely cut weight and make 205lbs.

And here’s an interesting nugget from a Tatame.com interview with Werdum from February 2009:

In a future fight against Fedor, what would be the strategy to defeat him?

I would do something really simple, try to put him down. It is difficult to get the fat go down, but I would be on top, passing the guard and mount, get a kimura… It is hard to beat Fedor (on his back), giving him punches down. It can happen, but it will be very difficult to punch him and stop him, you have to get him at a key for him to surrender. I think he lets his arm broke, but don’t hit. Must be in the neck to put him to sleep. I would train much Wrestling to put him down and, if I were below, I would be with a very close guard.

It will be very interesting to see if Werdum can do what his nemesis Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira never managed to do — get top position on Fedor and threaten a submission. But whether he can or not, the important thing is that Werdum isn’t just some random who wandered into the cage against Fedor. He’s a top flight MMA fighter, a gritty contender at the highest levels who’s never put it together to win the big fight, but a threat to beat anyone in the division on any given night.

Would I prefer to see Fedor vs Brock Lesnar? Yes, absolutely. Am I nonetheless thrilled to see Fedor vs Werdum? Yes, absolutely.

In the full entry I’ve posted a few of Werdum’s PRIDE era fights and a nice HL reel. 

Werdum vs Aleksander Emelianenko, Nov. 12, 2006

Werdum’s PRIDE debut against Tom Erikson, Feb 20, 2005 

Werdum vs Alistair Overeem, May 5, 2006

Werdum HL, includes lots of BJJ and submission grappling footage

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About the author
Nate Wilcox
Nate Wilcox

Nate Wilcox is the founding editor of BloodyElbow.com. As such he has hired every editor and writer to work for the site. Wilcox’s writing for BE is known for its emphasis on MMA history, the evolution of fighting techniques and strong opinions. Wilcox developed the SBN MMA consensus rankings which were featured in USA Today from 2009 to 2011. Before founding BE, Wilcox was a political operative working for such figures as Senators John Kerry and Mark Warner and an early political blogger. He is the co-author of Netroots Rising, a history of the political blogosphere from 2003 to 2007. Wilcox also hosts the Let It Roll podcast on music history for the Pantheon Podcast Network.

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