Werdum wins, but Velasquez still the only real champion

BY Damon Martin • November 16, 2014

In the history of the UFC, the interim title has been handed out on numerous occasions, but rarely has it ever ended well for the person claiming the belt. The heavyweight division has actually been riddled with interim champions over the years with everyone from Andrei Arlovski to Frank Mir to Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira winning the belt at one point or another.

Only Arlovski won his next fight after claiming the interim title and he never actually faced the original champion because Frank Mir was out for well over a year due to a horrific motorcycle accident that nearly ended his career.  All of the other interim champions (Shane Carwin, Frank Mir and Nogueira) lost in their next fight.

In other words the odds don't bode well for new interim heavyweight champion Fabricio Werdum, who claimed the title on Saturday night with a knockout win over Mark Hunt.  It was one of those unlikely fights where Werdum was the heavy betting favorite, but Cinderella Man himself, Mark Hunt, nearly pulled off the upset with an early first round knockdown. 

In the end, Werdum still won, but he might want to hold that title close because the belt probably won't be around his waist for very long.

Cain Velasquez is possibly the most dominant heavyweight the UFC has ever known and his greatest enemy hasn't been anyone he's faced in the Octagon.  It's been his own body, backfiring again and again.

He's only tasted defeat on one occasion in a fight against Junior dos Santos that he took against the advice of doctors and coaches. He stepped into the Octagon with a knee that should have put him into surgery instead of a title bout.  Velasquez proved the first fight was a fluke because in the two subsequent rematches, he beat dos Santos from one side of the cage to the other and back again.

If it wasn't for Velasquez being in the division, we might be talking about dos Santos as the greatest heavyweight in UFC history, but he met his ultimate test and fell to defeat twice.  The second time worst than the first. Velasquez is just that good.

He's also only fought four times since 2012, and this year will come to an end without a single bout for Velasquez.

So it's unfortunate that the close of the UFC's first-ever show in Mexico is still somewhat tainted because the real champion was unable to perform due to another knee injury, and he had to sit cage side while somebody else fought and won the heavyweight title.  It's bittersweet and there's no way the situation can't devalue Werdum's win, no matter how excited he was to take home his first major title after a 12-year career that's spanned two UFC stints as well as runs in Strikeforce and PRIDE Fighting Championships.

Maybe if Velasquez wasn't the fighter who annihilated Brock Lesnar, crushed Antonio "Bigfoot" Silva on two occasions and bludgeoned dos Santos for almost an hour inside the Octagon, we could accept Werdum as champion. He's a suitable substitute by most normal standards.

He's won five fights in a row, become only the second fighter in history to submit Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira and just knocked out a former K-1 Grand Prix kickboxing champion in the second round.  Despite all those accolades and accomplishments, Werdum is still no Cain Velasquez and everybody knows it. 

At some point tonight after the champagne and adrenaline wear off, even Werdum is going to come back to Earth and realize the only way to legitimize the belt he's holding is to face Velasquez.

It's not Werdum's fault the champion is hurt. There's also no getting around the fact that Velasquez is cemented as the best heavyweight in the world by a longshot. 

When Werdum leaves Mexico City to fly home to Brazil with his new belt, he should covet it with pride.  Very few fighters actually ever win a major title during a career. He should also look at this as a placeholder.  A silver medal of sorts.

He's the UFC champion. He's the winner of the UFC 180 main event. He's the best active heavyweight on the roster right now.  After the fight, he asked to fight Velasquez next in either Mexico or Brazil and hopefully it comes together sooner rather than later.

Because no matter what, Werdum is still not Cain Velasquez. And until he can face the real champion to unify the belts, that's all he can ever be.