With the odds completely stacked against him and few outside his team and Strikeforce CEO Scott Coker giving him a realistic chance, Fabricio Werdum pulled off the impossible last June and not only beat former pound-for-pound legend Fedor Emelianenko, but submitted him via triangle choke in only 69 seconds at Strikeforce: Fedor vs Werdum.
Catching up with the decorated jiu-jitsu stylist at the press conference to launch Strikeforce’s heavyweight tournament, Werdum spoke about his win, as well as his thoughts on the elaborate Strikeforce heavyweight tournament.
“Everybody tried to stand up with Fedor,” Werdum said, “tried to block his punches, his kicks. I saw in the videos everybody tried — and everybody lost.”
This necessitated a new approach against Emelianenko, devised at Werdum’s California-based camp Kings MMA under former Chute Boxe coach Rafael Cordeiro.
“I tried different strategy,” Werdum said. “I’m going to the ground because my specialty is the ground.”
In the Strikeforce heavyweight tournament, Werdum has been assigned one of the toughest first-round opponents, Alistair Overeem. He expects to match with Overeem during the second group of bouts for the tournament, perhaps in April.
“I fought with Overeem in 2006 in the Grand Prix in PRIDE,” Werdum said. “I will beat the guy one more time.”
Ending the fight via second-round kimura, Werdum must understand that Overeem is a different person with a much more highly evolved game than he was in their first meeting. Werdum remains self-assured that his previous win has earned him a psychological advantage over the Dutchman. Additionally, in MMA, Overeem has faced only one good heavyweight, Brett Rogers, during his nine-fight win streak.
Overeem does bring elite-level striking to the table as the 2010 K-1 World Grand Prix champion. In the Strikeforce tournament, there will be no chance to recycle any tricks. Overeem will be wary of Werdum’s jiu-jitsu, and Werdum will aware of Overeem’s punches, knees and kicks.
And although Werdum carries his win over Fedor into the tournament, he hasn’t let the victory inflate his ego.
“I never say I am the best in the world,” the Brazilian heavyweight said. “If the fans say, ‘Fabricio is the best in the world,’ it’s OK.”
With Emelianenko facing Antonio “Big Foot” Silva this Saturday at the Strikeforce show at New Jersey’s Izod Center (airing on Showtime), everyone will be watching to see if Emelianenko has declined. Since the winner that fight will face the winner of Overeem vs. Werdum, many fans are hoping for a rematch between Emelianenko and Werdum to see if Werdum can be consistent.
Even if he comes out as the tournament champion, Werdum will still hesitate to call himself the best in the world.