By Chris Huntemann, Columnist
With all apologies to the defunct World Championship Wrestling, UFC 188 will be where the big boys
play Saturday night. The UFC’s heavyweight division will finally crown an undisputed top dog when
reigning champion Cain Velasquez faces interim champion Fabricio Werdum.
Velasquez returns to the Octagon after nearly two years of nursing various injuries. Will he deliver
another dominant performance in front of his brethren in Mexico City? Or will Werdum make
Velasquez’s return to his native land a sad reunion? Check out who I think wins that fight and others on
the main card.
Tecia “The Tiny Tornado” Torres (5-0) vs. Angela “Overkill” Hill (2-0) (Women’s Strawweight – 115 lbs.)
Torres is another fighter of Mexican descent performing in her ancestral home, as she takes on her
fellow “The Ultimate Fighter” alum Hill. Both women are coming off unanimous decision victories in
their last fights, and coincidentally those were both at TUF 20 finale last year. Torres pummeled Angela
Magana while Hill overwhelmed Emily Kagan.
A win over Hill – particularly by knockout or submission – should move Torres into the mix for a title
shot. Hill was impressive in her UFC debut against Kagan, but Torres is battle-tested after previously
besting some of the most talented fighters in her division – including Felice Herrig, Rose Namajunas and
Paige VanZant. I think the more seasoned Torres shows Hill she still has some work to do in what could
be a sneakily entertaining fight.
Winner: Torres by unanimous decision
Yair “El Pantera” Rodriguez (5-1) vs. Charles “Boston Strong” Rosa (10-1) (Featherweight – 145 lbs.)
Rodriguez competed on the first season of “The Ultimate Fighter: Latin America” and his initial foray into
the UFC has been a successful one, as he is undefeated under the promotion’s banner. Rosa split his first
two fights in the UFC, losing to Dennis Siver but besting Sean Soriano. The majority of Rosa’s victories
come way of submission, and I think he will do the same here to Rodriguez.
Winner: Rosa by submission
Kelvin Gastelum (11-1) vs. Nate “The Great” Marquardt (36-14-2) (Middleweight – 185 lbs.)
Gastelum makes his return to middleweight after a run at welterweight that ended badly, as he came in
overweight for his last fight against Tyron Woodley and lost a split decision. Meanwhile, Marquardt
looked absolutely lifeless in a loss to Brad Tavares at UFC 182 in January. Tavares went on to be knocked
out in his next fight in under a minute.
Competing in 52 professional fights appears to be catching up to Marquardt, as well as Father Time. He’s
on the wrong side of 35 and while fighters like Dan Henderson and Randy Couture compete or
competed well into their 40s, Marquardt is not on their level. Gastelum will redeem himself with a
performance that gets him back on track and should send Marquardt into retirement.
Winner: Gastelum by unanimous decision
Gilbert “El Niño” Melendez (22-4) vs. Eddie Alvarez (25-4) (Lightweight – 155 lbs.)
Fight fans have been clamoring for this matchup since Melendez and Alvarez were winning titles in
Strikeforce and Bellator, respectively. This bout will likely receive Fight of the Night honors, as both guys
love to stand in the middle of the cage and trade blows. Melendez’s previous performance to that effect
was a Fight of the Year candidate in 2013 against Diego Sanchez.
Alvarez’s UFC debut was a unanimous decision loss to current no. 1 contender Donald Cerrone last year.
However, Alvarez made Cerrone earn every point of that victory by lasting all three rounds with
“Cowboy.” Melendez has alternated wins and losses in UFC, although he’s faced top-flight competition
in Benson Henderson, Sanchez and Anthony Pettis.
This is the type of fight that makes new mixed martial arts fans and reminds existing ones why they love
the sport. I expect a fun, exciting brawl with neither man giving an inch. At the end, I expect “El Niño” to
leave the cage bloody, bruised and victorious.
Winner: Melendez by unanimous decision
Cain Velasquez (13-1) vs. Fabricio “Vai Cavalo” Werdum (19-5-1) (Heavyweight Title – 225 lbs.)
I expect another tough, physical affair here between two of the toughest men in all of the UFC. Werdum
has beaten a who’s who of MMA heavyweights, including Roy Nelson, Mark Hunt, Antonio Rodrigo
Nogueira and the legendary Fedor Emelianenko. When Velasquez is healthy, he looks virtually
unbeatable and mows through every fighter in his path.
I don’t expect ring rust to be a factor for Velasquez. Missing almost two years due to injury is a big deal,
but Velasquez is known for his cardio and conditioning. Plus, his striking is vastly superior to Werdum.
I’m sure Werdum will try to take Velasquez down and use his excellent jiu-jitsu, but Velasquez will have
other plans. He will push forward, unleash a barrage of strikes and re-establish himself as the Baddest
Winner: Velasquez by TKO
Chris Huntemann writes about mixed martial arts in the state of Maryland. He also shares his thoughts on the UFC, Bellator, and World Series of Fighting. Check out his blog, or follow him on Twitter: @mmamaryland.