MMAjunkie Radio cohost and MMAjunkie contributor Dan Tom provides an in-depth breakdown of all of UFC Fight Night 121’s main-card bouts.
UFC Fight Night 121 takes place Sunday (but airs live on Saturday in North America due to the time difference) at Qudos Bank Arena in Sydney. It airs on FS1 following early prelims on UFC Fight Pass.Fabricio Werdum (21-7-1 MMA, 10-4 UFC)
- Height: 6’4″ Age: 40 Weight: 242 lbs. Reach: 77″
- Last fight: Submission win over Walt Harris (Oct. 7, 2017)
- Camp: Kings MMA (California)
- Stance/striking style: Orthodox / Muay Thai
- Risk management: Fair
+ Former UFC heavyweight champion
+ Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt
+ 6 KO victories
+ 11 submission wins
+ 10 first-round finishes
+ KO power
+ Dynamic attack arsenal
+ Deceptively effective showman
^ Baits/taunts opposition into game
+ Dangerous from Thai plum
+/- Aggressive in exchanges
^ Counter availabilities
+ Superb submission and ground game
+ Excellent sweeps and scrambles
+ Thrives and capitalizes in chaos
- Height: 6’3″ Age: 32 Weight: 243 lbs. Reach: 78″
- Last fight: Decision win over Andrei Arlovski (June 6, 2017)
- Camp: Jackson-Wink MMA (New Mexico)
- Stance/striking style: Orthodox / Kickboxing
- Risk management: Fair
+ Multiple heavyweight MMA titles
+ Brazilian jiu-jitsu brown belt
+ 7 KO victories
+ 6 submission wins
+ 9 first-round finishes
+ KO power
+ Improved striking combinations
^ Good economy of movement
+ Accurate kicks and knees
^ Works well off of lead leg
+ Strong inside of the clinch
^ Sneaky elbows and solid defense
+ Underrated wrestling ability
^ Well-timed takedowns
+ Excellent transitional grappler
^ Floats, rides, finds way to back
Coming off of an impromptu matchup against Walt Harris last month, Werdum, the former champion, will step in for Mark Hunt and attempt to take out another young gun.
Seeking to stop the Brazilian is Tybura, a Polish prospect who is riding a three-fight winning streak, most recently defeating another former champ in Andrei Arlovski.
Despite being criticized early on for his lack of striking presence, Tybura has steadily developed a kickboxing game since coming into the UFC.
Actively prodding with a jab, Tybura will casually add in his right hand, variating between casting punches or hammerfists. Like many Eastern European and Russian kickboxers, Tybura typically punctuates combinations with kicks off of his lead leg.
When using strikes to mask his clinch entries, Tybura has shown a good sense about where potential danger may be coming from, as he now does a better job of moving his head appropriately with his punches. And considering that the Pole has spent this training camp stateside at Jackson-Wink MMA, I can only imagine that his game has continued to grow.
But regardless of Tybura’s potential growth, his counterpart – though a grappling champion – may be his stiffest striking test to date.
Under the care of Rafael Cordeiro, Werdum has steadily parlayed his sporadic showmanship into more of a pressure-fighting process. Putting together his punches more fluidly, the Brazilian will finish his combinations with hard kicks or knees in the clinch.
However, when not throwing in combination, he has a tendency to throw his kicks naked and without setup, as Werdum has been dropped in four of his last nine outings due to right hands finding their mark. That said, many of the former champion’s falls may have been arguable flops given that he is known for his in-cage baits and showmanship.
Akin to a basketball player trying to draw an offensive foul, Werdum will deceptively roll with punches as he relinquishes to his back. Although this may not win Werdum favor with the fans and judges, there is a method to his madness.
Presenting the ambush known as his guard game, Werdum offers up a unique predicament to all who approach.
As we’ve seen time-and-time-again, the Brazilian can submit world champions here – but more importantly, he creates situations to sweep and scramble his way topside, often utilizing deep-half and X-guard variations to escape out the back door.
If Werdum’s opposition decides not to pursue him into deep waters, then they inherently let him off the hook if he is in fact hurt, or give him a breather to recover at the very least. This tactic has stifled the best of killer instincts and has allowed the former champion back into many of fights.
Nevertheless, Werdum cannot get too comfortable in his comfort zone, as Tybura is no novice.
An accomplished brown belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu, Tybura has translated his grappling game seamlessly into MMA. Doing his best work when on top, the Pole utilizes positioning fundamentals and shoulder pressure to help persuade opposition into giving their back.
Once Tybura can establish some form of mount, he will quickly get to work with strikes to help set up his submission efforts. And though this type of route is highly unlikely against a competitor the caliber of Werdum, Tybura still has the skills to perhaps strategically score points on top, making any potential grappling stanzas even more compelling.
If neither man is successful in getting to the mat on their terms, then crucial parts of this contest will take place in the clinch.
Inside of close quarters, Tybura offers slick elbows off of forearm frames and a solid awareness of hip positioning and underhooks. Still, I side with Werdum in this space, as the Brazilian has developed a devastating Thai clinch since his second run with the promotion.
Currently, the oddsmakers and public have Werdum pegged as the clear favorite to win. But as recent UFC cards have proven, 3-1 odds in a heavyweight matchup can be a tricky and treacherous thing.
Even though Werdum is the better on-paper fighter who has a higher finishing potential both standing and on the floor, I could easily see a scenario where Tybura catches him at the end of a combination. The problem – in my opinion – is that Tybura ultimately allows for too much of the fight’s flow to be decided by his opponent.
For this reason, Tybura can be subject to making fights closer than they arguably should, as he often finds himself stuck against the fence and or short on initiative (and possibly gas). Should Tybura allow for Werdum to establish his pressure and presence, then I see the former champion steadily picking apart the Pole on the feet, and eventually finding his finish on the floor.Official pick: Werdum inside the distance Official outcome: To be determined 1 2 3 4 5 6 …7
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