UFC Fight Night Whittaker vs. Till comes to you live from Fight Island in Abu Dhabi tonight, and the card is jam-packed with some of MMA’s biggest superstars. The card is headlined by a Middleweight bout between title contenders Robert Whittaker and Darren Till. But the action doesn’t stop there as several other MMA stars are scheduled to fight, including Shogun Rua, Antonio Rogerio Nogueira, Fabricio Werdum, Alex Gustafsson, Carla Esparza, and Marina Rodriguez. In this article, we will break down the action in the Heavyweight division between Fabricio Werdum and Alexander Gustafsson.
RT b/c IT'S FIGHT DAY! 🏝 We'll see you in a few hours on ESPN / E+
— UFC (@ufc) July 25, 2020
Fabricio Werdum (23-9) vs. Alexander Gustafsson (18-6)
Alexander Gustafsson makes his long-awaited return to the octagon tonight as he squares off against former UFC Heavyweight champion, Fabricio Werdum. Gustafsson was last seen in June of 2019 when he was submitted by Anthony Smith and has fought just five times since his 2015 loss to Daniel Cormier, a fight that was for the UFC Light Heavyweight belt.
— UFC (@ufc) July 24, 2020
For Werdum, he recently fought and lost to Aleksei Oleinik, in May at UFC 249. That was Werdum’s first fight in over two years as he was serving a PED suspension, and looking back, the former UFC Heavyweight champion hasn’t won a fight since 2017.
Gustafsson is a heavy betting favorite, currently laying -335 to win the fight. The fight is expected to end before the final bell as the no go prop bet is a -167 favorite.
Oh, how the mighty have fallen. It wasn’t all that long ago that Fabricio Werdum was sitting atop the combat sports world as he was the undisputed UFC Heavyweight champion. Werdum is a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu world champion and used his grappling skills to beat a who’s who of MMA greats enroot to winning the most coveted prize in MMA, the UFC Heavyweight belt.
Werdum has wins over Fedor Emelianenko, Cain Velasquez, Roy Nelson, Gabriel Gonzaga, Alistair Overeem, and Mark Hunt in his career. But after losing his Heavyweight strap to Stipe Miocic, things have quickly gone downhill for Werdum. Werdum managed to win three out of four fights after losing to Miocic and was closing in on a potential title shot when he tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs and was suspended for two years.
Fabricio Werdum won’t renew UFC contract after Gustafsson fight: ‘The cycle is over’ https://t.co/lHq1yGQQfl
— Bloody Elbow (@BloodyElbow) July 23, 2020
The long layoff was clearly evident in his last fight against Aleksei Oleinik, as he looked out of shape and very slow. He gassed out early and was even soundly out grappled at times by Oleinik, which was shocking. Werdum now finds himself on a two-fight losing streak and on his way out of the UFC, if he can’t find a way to turn things around quickly. So, what does the UFC do to help Werdum get back on track? They match him up with one of the best Light Heavyweights in the world in Alexander Gustafsson.
When Alexander Gustafsson fought Jon Jones at UFC 165 way back in September of 2013, he was riding a six-fight winning streak and was 15-1 in his career. He fought Jones to a razor-sharp decision loss in a fight that most people thought that he deserved to win. Immediately after that fight, it seemed Gustafsson would find a way to quickly get back in the cage against Jones to avenge the loss and get the rematch he certainly deserved.
Alexander Gustafsson weighs 240 pounds for his heavyweight debut tomorrow night pic.twitter.com/xOQfISjXAc
— Ariel Helwani (@arielhelwani) July 24, 2020
But then things turned south for Gustafsson as a string of injuries and losses sent his career into a tailspin. That’s not to say that he has been losing to cans, and he does have several quality wins mixed in with the disappointing losses, but on the night that he stood toe to toe with the MMA GOAT in Jon Jones and fought him to a stalemate, if I would have told you that he would go on to lose four out of his next seven fights, you wouldn’t have believed me.
When he did finally get his rematch with Jones in late 2018, he was no longer the same guy and was knocked out in the third round. Gustafsson has averaged just one fight a year in the last five years, and he is on the wrong side of thirty at this point. If he is ever going to get his hands on UFC gold, he needs to make his run now, as time is running out.
I was embarrassed to watch Fabricio Werdum in his last fight. He has muffin tops and cankles. He looked exhausted on the walk into the cage and was not at all ready to fight. No disrespect to Aleksei Oleinik, he is wily veteran, but if Werdum were still the same guy he was earlier in his career, he would have easily dispatched Oleinik.
The long layoff clearly did not serve Werdum well, and as this is his last fight under contract with the UFC, this is a classic case of Dana White making sure that Werdum leaves on a three-fight losing streak, just in case another promotion wants to pick him up as a free agent. White loves to feed guys to the wolves on their way out, so he can continue to tout that the UFC has the top talent in the world. The last thing Dana ever wants is a guy leaving on top, so sending them out with a bang is his signature move.
And when you look at Gustafsson, he still has plenty of star power, and can still beat some of the best fighters in the world. His recent wins over Glover Teixeira and Jan Błachowicz tells me that this guy can still hang with the best there is in the UFC.
Werdum was brought in to lose, and that is just what he is going to do. But I can’t lay all that wood on Gustafsson, even though I am certain he will win. So, I will take a look at the various prop bets available for this match and see if I can find more value elsewhere.
I don’t think that Werdum is going to get submitted in this fight. He is still a grappling legend that has never been submitted in his MMA career, and Gustafsson won’t be able to stop him on the ground. So, that means either Gustafsson knocks him out or takes him to a decision. Surprisingly enough, I can actually get dog money on both of those prop bets, with a Gustafsson KO win paying +110 and a decision win paying +175.
Gustafsson is a finisher with eleven career knockouts amongst his eighteen career wins. While I don’t think that he has enough one-punch knockout power to stop the much larger man in Werdum, I do think that when Werdum’s gas tank runs out that Alexander will swarm him on the ground and pick up a TKO finish. And that is where I will make my play in this one, on Gustafsson to finish Werdum by KO/TKO at +110!