UFC 147 preview: Werdum vs. Russow

Fabricio Werdum (15-5) vs. Mike Russow (15-1)

In a heavyweight tilt, one of the world’s elite submission players in Werdum meets the hard-nosed American grinder Russow.

Werdum, 34, is probably most recognized for his submission win over the legendary Fedor Emelianenko in June 2010 that finally ended the Russian great’s winning streak. However, Werdum has been a heavyweight contender for years, earning wins over Alistair Overeem, Aleksander Emelianenko, Gabriel Gonzaga, Brandon Vera, Mike Kyle and Antonio Silva along the way.

The Brazilian submission ace reinvented himself after his knockout loss to current heavyweight king Junior dos Santos at UFC 90, which prompted his release from the UFC. Working alongside Rafael Cordeiro, Werdum has transformed into a potent striker with dangerous muay thai, adding a muay thai black belt to go along with his black belts in Brazilian jiu-jitsu and judo.

In his UFC return this past February, the two-time ADCC submission grappling gold medalist obliterated durable contender Roy Nelson with a vicious striking game, earning a one-sided unanimous decision.

A consensus top heavyweight, many critics are questioning the UFC’s decision to match the Brazilian Kings MMA product against Russow. But Werdum is unlikely to make a grave error by looking past one of the toughest fighters in the division.

Russow, 35, is unbeaten in four Octagon appearances, highlighted by stoppages of Todd Duffee and Jon Madsen. The Team DeathClutch member is a former NCAA Division I wrestler who shares time on the mats with undefeated Bellator heavyweight champion Cole Konrad.

There is only one blemish on Russow’s record — a February 2007 submission loss against Sergei Kharitonov at Pride 33.

With a strong wrestling background, Russow comes forward pursuing takedowns and he’s usually successful. Russow can also take major damage, which Duffee found out the hard way after a brutal come-from-behind knockout in the third round of their UFC 114 bout.

Russow has successfully employed his strategy as of late, but Werdum represents a major leap in competition.

The Brazilian should have his way however the fight plays out, as he will have a significant advantage with technical striking and will waste no time submitting Russow if the action spills to the mat. Russow can always land a devastating overhand right, but Werdum will be dishing out a heavy barrage of kicks, knees and punches. Instinctively, Russow will likely try to take his foe down, which could be his biggest error as Werdum will comfortably pull guard and lock in a fight-ending submission.

Verdict: Werdum via submission, Round 1