In MMA, everyone's got a chance. The question is: what are the odds?
I've been combing the media in recent days to see where folks stand. I don't expect a lot of Werdum predictions, but I am curious to see what sort of opportunities they envision he'll be able to exploit.
Josh Gross talked about this on his SI podcast. I think Gross strikes the right tone: a motivated, well-prepared Werdum has upset capability even if experts and fans widely (and fairly) view Emelianenko as the likely victor.
Tomas Rios takes a similar tone, arguing Werdum - while formulaic in his approach - is nevertheless durable. He also has the not-so atypical size advantage over Fedor, enough offensive game to at least threaten with his jiu-jitsu and is defensively minded to avoid more vulnerable positioning. To wit:
In his bout with Antonio Silva, Werdum’s habit of dropping his hands in exchanges and telegraphing leg kicks remained uncorrected, and that won’t make it past Emelianenko’s watchful eyes. That is really what separates these two and generally separates Emelianenko from other fighters: the ability to quickly perceive weaknesses and capitalize on them. Such a massive difference in fight IQ leaves Werdum hoping to make a paint-by-numbers approach work against an opponent who will see it coming from the opening bell.
Given Emelianenko’s recent flair for the violently dramatic, it’s a safe bet to assume Werdum will look every bit the worthy adversary Strikeforce is billing himself as. That optical illusion can only last so long, and once Emelianenko finds his rhythm, he will shatter any hope Werdum had of winning. The dream-smasher comes in the form of yet another stiff-starch overhand right knockout.
In the video interview linked in the picture above, Loretta Hunt asks Werdum himself. Naturally, we don't get a ton of specific answers, but Werdum wisely notes he is more likely to avoid damage from Fedor's potent striking if he is to turn this into more of a grappling affair. That's true generally, and true specifically given that Werdum's wheelhouse.
Michael David Smith, a writer whose judgment I respect, does what would normally be considered incomplete guesswork analysis, but actually works perfectly with Fedor:
Werdum is good. I consider him one of the Top 10 heavyweights in mixed martial arts, and he's undeniably one of the best Brazilian jiu-jitsu practitioners in the world -- maybe the very best. On the ground, Werdum is a threat to anyone. But Fedor is Fedor, he's the best heavyweight in the world and the best fighter of all time, and although someone will probably best him eventually, there's no reason to believe Werdum will be that someone.I like Fedor to win by second-round TKO.
As I mentioned post Fedor vs. Rogers, part of what makes the career of Emelianenko so distinguished is not just that he's beaten everyone he's ever faced, but done so even after being placed in very precarious situations. Part of the enjoyment of watching Fedor isn't just demolition, but the swing of momentum or reversal of fortune he is able to create.
And that's how I see Saturday's fight. I do expect Werdum to look significantly improved since his lightspeed drubbing at the hands of Junior dos Santos. Candidly, I do expect him to put Fedor in an eyebrow-raising moment or two. But if history is any indication, that means Werdum is creating an opportunity for Fedor to collect himself, turn the tide, ride that momentum and deliver a spectacular finish (or at a minimum, an enjoyable round).
Maybe you're not excited for the sporting implications of what a Fedor win could mean Saturday, but whatever Werdum's chances, the spectacle should be rather thrilling.