The mixed martial arts world witnessed Fabricio Werdum defeat Cain Velasquez on Saturday at UFC 188 in Mexico City to become the undisputed UFC heavyweight champion. That world naturally includes other top members of the UFC heavyweight division, many of whom had their futures radically adjusted - and arguably improved - with Werdum as the new heavyweight king.
One such man is Alistair Overeem, who just happens to be the last man to defeat Werdum, a bout that took place in Strikeforce roughly four years ago. The Dutch heavyweight saw what happened to Velasquez and while he has criticisms of his preparation, he's also quick to acknowledge the Brazilian's growth.
"First of all, big kudos to Werdum," Overeem told Ariel Helwani on Monday's The MMA Hour. "He's made great development as a MMA fighter. He's always been tricky, he's always been persistent with his black belt and jiu-jitsu skills. But now, he truly is a stand-up warrior and he is an all-around MMA master. He's shown great stuff and the heavyweight division is entirely wide open now."
Overeem was able to defeat Werdum by unanimous decision at Strikeforce: Overeem vs. Werdum in June of 2011. It was an unusual fight with not a lot of action. It was also one where Werdum was reluctant to exchange with Overeem on the feet. Overeem believes Werdum has changed since then, but he's also quick to note the context for Cain and why that mattered so greatly.
"I fought Werdum and had an excellent performance, but I also thought after that Cain did not have a good performance. Usually, cardio is Cain's weapon. It looked like the high altitude was bothering him. Of course, the ring rust. He didn't fight in two years. So, it was a little bit something you could expect.
"Werdum is coming off a win streak, he's fighting every couple of months," Overeem continued. "Cain did not fight in two years and I don't think it's clever thing to not understand the high altitude thing. Wrestlers in the U.S., they know about that stuff, so maybe they underestimated it. I don't know."
Overeem argued that consistency is key. All of the talk of Werdum's guard or striking or clinch is well and good, but there's just something to be said for activity. Because Velasquez lacked that, it was hard to expect an optimal performance from him.
"If you haven't fought for two years and as a heavyweight champion as Cain was, there's a tremendous amount of pressure on you. Especially, the last fight didn't happen and then now it has to happen. I think that was a factor, too, to be honest.
"It's two years not being in the Octagon, not dealing with the media, not dealing with the tests," Overeem explained. "You're a champion, but you need to get in there. As one of my old coaches said, you need to fight as much as possible because that's where you grow, that's where you maintain sharpness. That's what they didn't do."
Still, even if one granted Velasquez looked less than himself, there's also no denying Werdum's abilities. Overeem is the first to concede whoever that was he faced in 2011 is not the exactly same guy.
"He's the same guy, but he's definitely evolved. I've evolved, too," Overeem noted. "And to answer your next question if I think I can beat him, yes, I do think I can beat him. I have been following his progress throughout the years and I can say that I am very hungry to fight him. I definitely do see weaknesses with him. He's a great athlete, he's doing great at the moment, but he has weaknesses and I feel I am the guy that can expose those."
Notably, though, Overeem isn't exactly calling out Werdum. As he explained it, his job is to fight and he's happy to fight whoever is next. That said, if the offer came along to face the current champion, he'd jump at the opportunity.
"It's like this, I'm not the UFC. I'm not a matchmaker," he said. "I'm the last guy who beat Werdum and I'm going to leave it up to the UFC to decide what they want to do next, but if the phone rings, I will be available. That's that."
The only thing Overeem knows for certain is that in addition to already having beaten Werdum, he's the guy to do it again. He knows how to do it and proved it once. And based on what he observed on Saturday, doing it a second time is more than doable.
"Yeah, definitely," Overeem responded when asked if Werdum has shortcomings that can be exploited. "I see several things."