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Junior dos Santos wasn’t surprised by UFC 198, because Fabricio Werdum is ‘not a striker’

Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

For many in the fight game, UFC 198 can be summed up with one burning question: what happened to Fabricio Werdum?

The now-former UFC heavyweight champion suffered a thunderous defeat at the hands of Stipe Miocic on Saturday, forfeiting his UFC title courtesy of a one-punch knockout from Miocic just minutes into the opening round.

The finishing sequence itself was bizarre, as Werdum rushed Miocic with sloppy lunging punches that left the Brazilian defenseless. Miocic countered with a short right hand off his back foot, and just like that the fight was over.

Former UFC champion Junior dos Santos is still the only man in the heavyweight division to hold wins over both Werdum and Miocic, and he was one of the few to not be surprised by how things went down at UFC 198.

"[Werdum] looked the same," dos Santos said Monday on The MMA Hour. "He looked the same. He's not a striker. He's not a striker. He can't strike with a specialist like Miocic. If you try to remember, he was getting beaten against Mark Hunt very bad. He lost the first round and he was losing the second round, then he threw a very hard knee and he won the fight, but he was losing.

"Against (Cain) Velasquez he did pretty well, he did way better. He got better with his stand-up skills, but it's not the same. When you fight with a specialist, a striking specialist as Miocic is, in my mind he should've tried to take him down and use his jiu-jitsu. When he got caught, knocked out, he was walking forward with no (defense). Something very strange."

Werdum has always been a savant on the jiu-jitsu mats, however his improved striking game under Kings MMA head trainer Rafael Cordeiro has been one of the catalysts to his rise as UFC champion, which is why his lapse into recklessness at UFC 198 was so startling.

Some observers have questioned whether the pressure to perform for the estimated crowd of 45,000 at the Arena da Baixada lulled Werdum into making a mistake, but dos Santos dismissed that idea, noting that Werdum looked "happy and relaxed" before the fight. Instead, dos Santos pointed to a sequence that occurred just seconds before the knockout, in which Werdum ate the exact same counter right while rushing inside, as proof that it was only a matter of time before Werdum ran into trouble.

"He got [hit] with the same thing. He got [hit] once before he got knocked out," dos Santos said. "He got [hit] once with a straight right that Miocic threw against him, and he kept going. Like, he kept walking towards Miocic without thinking about it. He was doing something dangerous and that's very strange. But as I used to say, as a striker, he's a good jiu-jitsu guy."

The changing of the guard from Werdum to Miocic served once again as a testament to the volatility of the UFC heavyweight division. Throughout its near two decades of existence, the UFC heavyweight belt has never been defended more than twice. Even dos Santos, who held the title for over a year, successfully defended it only once.

Miocic vowed on Saturday that he will be the man to finally break that curse -- however Werdum made the same promise before UFC 198, and that didn't turn out as the Brazilian planned.

"This is a very dangerous division," dos Santos said. "Even when you have favorites, it doesn't mean that guy is going to win. As soon as you get punched, things change, so it's a very hard division. But in my mind, I gave all the advantage to Miocic before the fight. I was waiting for Werdum to come with a different strategy, trying to take him down, to get closer, not allow Miocic to move and use his boxing skills. But, it didn't happen.

"The way I see it, Miocic was just better than him."

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