Fabricio Werdum took care of business as expected Saturday in Mexico City by defeating Mark Hunt to become the interim UFC Heavyweight champion at UFC 180, but it didn't happen the way most would have expected.
After a shaky first round that saw him hurt by a few hard shots from Hunt, Werdum picked the perfect spot to land an immaculate flying knee to Hunt's face.
The shot sent the Super Samoan to the mat. Werdum pounced and pounded out the fallen Australian. Referee Herb Dean called an end to the fight in the second round.
Hunt seemed to be dictating the pace and walking Werdum down, but the Brazilian set a trap and sprung on his opponent to claim the win and the interim title.
Vai Cavalo entered the fight as a heavy favorite, according to Odds Shark, and he made good on that advanced billing by getting past the Super Samoan to keep an eventual meeting with Cain Velasquez alive.
Werdum was initially supposed to take on Velasquez at UFC 180, but a knee injury knocked him out, per Marc Raimondi of FoxSports.com. Even without his headline opponent in the fold, the 37-year-old Brazilian star made the most of his revised matchup.
"I'm definitely a little disappointed and this will take a little bit from the fight, because Cain has such a big following there and support," Werdum said. "It's disappointing Cain won't be there, but it's still a historic, great event."
While the fight likely ended up being a bit easier for Werdum than it would have been with Velasquez standing across from him, the main event change definitely impacted the star power of UFC 180 significantly.
The company did its best to sell Werdum vs. Hunt as a marquee bout, but Bleacher Report's Jeremy Botter wasn't buying it:
Although the fight may have been somewhat lacking in terms of drawing power, both Werdum and Hunt increased interest by being vocal in the media during the weeks leading up to their clash.
Hunt was especially boisterous despite entering UFC 180 with a pedestrian record of 10-8-1. Even as a substantial underdog, he announced his intention to stop his accomplished opponent, according to Guilherme Cruz of MMAFighting.com:
Werdum was undeterred by the trash talk, though, and he made it clear that he had an all-business mentality regardless of his opponent, per UFC's official Twitter account:
After defeating Hunt, Werdum now has five straight wins to his credit. An eventual clash with Velasquez seems inevitable, but the former champion has an uphill climb as he works his way back from a ruptured MCL.
That means Werdum may have to fight again before getting a crack at Velasquez, but that is most definitely the fight that MMA fans are waiting for.
As for Hunt, this may have marked the last big opportunity of the 40-year-old heavyweight's career. He was unable to take full advantage of it, which means a precipitous fall down the card is likely.
Werdum and Hunt did everything they could to salvage UFC 180 by putting on a good show, but the predictable result prevented the event from living up to expectations.
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