Following his dominant win over Roy Nelson, Fabricio Werdum will look to take one step closer to a heavyweight title shot with a victory against Mike Russow at UFC 147, which will take place in Werdum's home country of Brazil.
Russow, meanwhile, has won 11 straight fights and will attempt to use a win over the highly-ranked Werdum to springboard himself toward the top of the heavyweight division. However, after a less-than-spectacular showing in victory over John-Olav Einemo in his most recent fight, Russow will need to show serious improvement in order to pick up a win against Werdum.
As we ready for this fight that could shake up the heavyweight rankings, let's take a look at what key areas Werdum and Russow have advantages over each other.
While he's mostly known for his jiu-jistu, Fabricio Werdum has quietly become a very well-rounded fighter. In his recent return to the Octagon, Werdum battered the heavy-handed Roy Nelson for three rounds and came away with a lopsided decision win.
The Brazilian heavyweight also possesses some finishing power in his hands. During his career, Werdum has knocked out former top heavyweight contender Gabriel Gonzaga twice and put Brandon Vera away with punches.
Before rejoining the UFC, Werdum even performed fairly well on his feet against former K-1 World Grand Prix champion Alistair Overeem. When he wasn't attempting to pull guard, Werdum landed some solid shots on Overeem, who was then the Strikeforce heavyweight titleholder.
Also more respected for his ground game, Mike Russow's most significant knockout victory of his career came against former UFC fighter Todd Duffee, who was dominating Russow before getting caught with a straight right with less than three minutes left in the bout.
With a four-inch reach advantage over Russow, Werdum has the length to win this fight from the outside and the knees from the clinch to hurt his opponent on the inside. While both fighters will likely want to go to the ground at some point, Werdum should have the edge if this matchup remains standing.
Mike Russow has scored nine takedowns in his past two fights, but those takedowns came against the likes of released UFC fighters Jon Madsen and John-Olav Einemo. Against Werdum, Russow will have much more difficulty gaining the top position from which he likes to work.
According to FightMetric.com, Werdum has not been taken down since a January 2008 win over Gabriel Gonzaga. Even if Russow is successful in going to the ground with Werdum, he'll have to deal with the Brazilian's tricky guard and years of high level grappling experience.
Werdum twice earned gold at the ADCC Submission Wrestling World Championships and won medals at the event a total of six times. An argument could be made that Werdum is the most skilled heavyweight in the world when it comes to fighting on the ground.
With eight submission wins in his career, Mike Russow has forced just as many opponents to tap as Fabricio Werdum. However, Werdum has submitted much tougher competition and is a more experienced jiu-jitsu practitioner than Russow.
In June 2010, Werdum became the first fighter to pick up a legitimate win over Fedor Emelianenko by catching the all-time great in a triangle choke-armbar combination. In addition to his win over Emelianenko, Werdum has submitted Mike Kyle, Alexander Emelianenko, Alistair Overeem and more.
Conversely, Russow's most impressive submission probably came against Clay Guida's older brother, Jason Guida. Russow also has a submission loss to Sergei Kharitonov, who has underrated jiu-jitsu but is nowhere near Werdum's skill level on the ground.
On Saturday, Fabricio Werdum will be competing against Mike Russow in his home country of Brazil. That added support from the fans will compound the edge Werdum already has over Russow in that he has been competing against high-level opponents for years, whereas Russow is only now looking to put himself in a position where he will face off against the best on a consistent basis.
As is the case with many grappler-versus-grappler matchups, there is a good chance this fight will actually stay standing for a good period of time. If that is the case, Werdum's reach could become a significant factor in the outcome of the fight.
Heading into this bout, it would seem Fabricio Werdum has the edge over Mike Russow in just about every area. For that reason, it is hard to imagine a scenario where Werdum would lose this fight.
Should Russow find a way to successfully take Werdum down, he will have his hands full in defending submissions and riding out a decision win. Russow mounted very little offense from the top position in his most recent fight against John-Olav Einemo, who Werdum also defeated while competing under the Pride banner.
Against Sergei Kharitonov, Russow was unable to last until the end of the first round on the ground. If Russow finds himself on his back against Werdum, there is a good chance he will be forced to tap before long.
In the event that neither fighter is able to secure a takedown, Werdum should be able to use his reach and experience to out-strike Russow for three rounds and avoid the same fate as Todd Duffee. Russow does have a fairly solid chin, having never been knocked out, so he would probably be able to take a stand-up fight with Werdum to the scorecards before being handed his first loss in more than five years.
Werdum defeats Russow by submission (triangle choke-armbar) in the first round.