One sentence summary
Phil: Fabricio "Jacare Dundee" Werdum hunts the most dangerous game, apparently a giant Polish hobbit.
David: Captain Boomerang vs. Polish Swole Seth Rogen.
Odds: Fabricio Werdum -350 | Marcin Tybura +290
History / Introduction to both fighters
David: Alas! It’s kind of amazing. This fight is alright as a clash of pugilism. But is that why we’re excited? Of course not. This is MMA. And we finally hit peak MMA when Werdum attacked Colby Covington with a boomerang. This, of course, after some homophobic slurs. It’s given us everything we deserve in this sport - half baked bigotry, partially steeped in real world atrocities, weapons you’d only find in a DC universe movie, and classic nu metal brooding. This has nothing to do with Werdum’s opponent, of course. But that’s because MMA is just another word for ADHD. We didn’t come here for the common ventures. We came here for the anti-heroics. Bask in it, Phil! Bask!
Phil: Fabricio Werdum is an unconventional hero. OK, he's not a hero at all. He's a bit of a wally. But, if there was anyone for him to pull his shtick where he tries to flex and bully the smaller man (current list: Luke Rockhold, Jon Jones, Tony Ferguson, Edmond, and am I missing anyone?), I'm sort of glad it was Colby Covington. The fact that Colby pressed charges after all his nonsense about how he was going to eat the hearts of his enemies? After getting a gift-wrapped tourist-shop boomerang bounced off his head? Now Werdum has to stay in Australia to face the charges, while Covington's image has taken a beating. It's a scenario with no heroes, no winners, and no meaning, but it's all pretty funny, and that's about as MMA as you can get.
David: There’s that line in Tombstone. Billy Bob Thornton gets embarrassed, slapped, and humiliated inside a saloon by Kurt Russell, playing Hollywood’s version of Wyatt Earp - not the real life non vigilante. Kurt then goes and shoots the shit with Doc Holiday and the gang. Billy Bob returns, ‘heeled’ with a Winchester rifle, hoping to get some sort of revenge. Except the gang’s all there. Everyone talks, leaves, but not before Doc intones “Why Johnny... I forgot you were there…” And so this is how I feel the MMA world has addressed Tybura. Like the proverbial tear in the rain. For Werdum, however, who is notorious for in-cage eccentricity (or just plain stupidity - his loss to Stipe Miocic is a classic example of a fighter doing everything in their power to leave their own carcass to the crows), this would be a critical error.
Phil: Tybura had a modest amount of hype on his way into the UFC, but sadly ended up running into the vast Secondary Rothwell bulk of Tim Johnson, who forced him into ugly clinch exchanges over and over. Such is the fate of the heavyweight talent. Even those who have a decent amount of skill and some baseline athleticism have to get used to the fact that they've likely never fought anyone with close to the level of power, strength, and straight-up durability that they'll encounter in the UFC. Tybura has done a solid job of righting the ship since, though.
What’s at stake?
David: This is all on Werdum, really. If he wins, he’s back in the title mix. If he loses, Dana finally has a reason to think more critically about what kind of penalty assault with a boomerang deserves while one of his fighters gets banned for 18 months for a drug that isn’t even as potent as a weight watcher guru’s cup of green tea.
Phil: I don't think anyone would be wild about a Werdum/Stipe rematch, but there's really no-one else apart from Ngannou out there at the moment. Much as I love him, it's probably time to admit that Cain is never coming back as a top-level fighter.
Where do they want it?
David: At his best, Werdum is quietly dangerous on the feet. With penetrating leg kicks, and a cheater’s reach, Werdum closes distance with urgency and violence. It’s funny because he’s not terribly technical. There’s nothing real unique or inspiring about the mechanics of his striking, but sometimes velocity is all you need. He’s great in the clinch too. And from afar, he’s got that flying Johnny Cage flash kick that nearly put Travis Browne down and out. But none of this really highlights what makes him one of the best heavyweights in the world. At his size, it’s almost unfair how fluid he is on the ground. He’s a big dude with small man Jiu-Jitsu skills.
Phil: Werdum is a smart enough fighter to know what his own problem is: confidence. Without much in the way of defense, he's similar to Poirier (who we discussed last week), in that he needs to be insulated by being carried along on the rolling train of his own offense. Unlike Poirier, Werdum has a tendency to force the issue, by getting crazy with flying kicks, or trying to bumrush Miocic to disastrous effect. The issue with forcing yourself to disrespect what's coming back from the opponent is that sometimes it's something fight-ending. Essentially, Werdum knows that he's not a cautious range kickboxer, and that he needs to be in those body kick-marching punch-clinch takedown chains to be effective, but he needs to be careful that he tunes that approach. Another decent analogue here is Derek Brunson, who had a comical loss to Bobby Knuckles, then followed it up with an uncharacteristically cautious performance (as with Werdum against Overeem).
David: Tybura possesses a solid toolkit for a division that doesn’t need many tools. Imagine Anthony Johnson with dadbod mechanics, and you’ll have some idea of what Tybura has in his arsenal. With a wide range of strikes - sweeping left hook, outside high kick, lunging jab, etc - he’s surprisingly nimble for a man of his size. That knockout of Viktor Pesta is one of the more impressive knockouts in the heavyweight division. It’s not that he was able to shut off the lights, but how he was able to do it, displaying speed, awareness, and agility all in one brutal consciousness constricting blow. This style allows him to stay effective on the feet in different states; moving forward, backward, pressuring, resetting, countering etc. It’s a fluid attack attack be brings to the cage that remains unseen the bigger the bodies get. He doesn’t offer much else beyond striking, which is exactly what we presume Werdum will exploit.
Phil: Tybura reminds me of Miocic, in that he doesn't have a particularly memorable style for the freakshow heavyweight division, but this in itself is something of a reminder that hey: being generically well-rounded and decently athletic is not a common trait at this weight class. Tybura is light on his feet, with a powerful judo base and a knack for taking the back. While he's not a phenomenal puncher, he's a quick and unpredictable kicker. Defensively he's not good at all, but he does a reasonably decent job of mixing up feints, his jab, his cross, and a flicking head kick.
As said, it's a style which you see normally populating the middle of the lower divisions (James Krause, Jason Saggo and suchlike), but which rarely progresses much beyond that, due to basic weaknesses against fundamental Muay Thai, pressure and wrestling. That sounds like Werdum?
Insight from past fights
Phil: People have said that Tybura can outpace Werdum but... can he? He looked near-dead from fairly early on against Arlovski, and won because Andrei was even more utterly exhausted than he was. He also looked hugely ragged against Johnson. Werdum's cardio has historically been pretty amazing for a heavyweight. You don't get much better credentials in that regard than outlasting Cain.
David: The Miocic fight might have offered some insight if Werdum didn’t slam his head face first into Stipe’s fist. As is, I don’t see a real opening for Tybura in a fight where his opponent has so many options for victory (attrition, submission, low volume striking match, high octane eye poke fest, etc). Werdum’s standup defense, regardless of how goofy he can get, has always left a bit to be desired. He charges even when he’s moving the needle by inches, so Tybura will have his opportunities as long as the fight isn’t on the ground.
Phil: Short of karma for supporting Kadyrov whickering around through the air and clonking into Werdum's face like some kind of curved stick, I can't think of any.
David: Heavyweight is its own x-factor. Maybe physics has something to say about it all, but for now, chaos reigns in the UFC, but the gravitational pull of it all seems to wallow in the heavyweight swamp.
Phil: I was higher on Tybura's chances before reviewing the tape for this fight, but I think Werdum might be a very bad matchup for him. Tybura's TKD-style kicks will be hard to set up on Werdum's relentless forward pressure, and Werdum thrives on beating people up in the clinch and landing hard kicks to the leg and body as they retreat. Werdum's weaknesses in fundamental boxing technique and defense are also present and debatably even worse in Tybura's style. I'm prepared to be surprised, or for Werdum to look old overnight, but Fabricio Werdum by submission, round 3
David: As you said, it’s hard to reconcile Tybura’s technical, patient style with Werdum’s aggressive, but still technical momentum. If Werdum gets knocked out while pulling guard, I won’t be surprised. But this should be fairly traditional in outcome. Fabricio Werdum by rear naked choke, round 2.