Challenging the champion of any division for the title is never an easy task. But in reigning champ Fabricio Werdum, No. 1 contender Stipe Miocic goes up against arguably the greatest heavyweight to ever step foot in the Octagon.
Miocic meets Werdum on enemy territory Saturday night in Curitiba, Brazil for the UFC heavyweight title at Arena Atletico Paranaense in the main event of UFC 198 on Pay-Per-View.
With submission wins against former champ Cain Velasquez, fourth-degree Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt Minotauro Nogueira and Fedor Emeliananko, Werdum has cemented himself as the greatest submission fighter the division has ever known.
But against Velasquez -- who went toe-to-toe with standup savant Junior Dos Santos three times, winning the final two matchups in dominant fashion -- Werdum showed his improved striking arsenal which ultimately led to the submission finish. Werdum landed 96 significant strikes and, early in the third round, the efficiency of those blows were evident.
The champion is well rounded and he feels that his skills on the feet and on the ground will be too much for Miocic to handle.
“Stipe Miocic, I think he’s nervous when he goes to the ground,” Werdum said. “This is no good for him. When I go on the ground I finish him. I have hard kicks, good takedowns and good jiu-jitsu. I want to finish him in the first round for sure with a submission or knock him out.”
It’s hard to argue with the results when it comes to Werdum. He’s lost only once since 2008 and has won six straight.
But Miocic is no slouch. The Cleveland native has won five of his last six and has two consecutive KO victories. The challenger feels he’s proved throughout his UFC run that he deserves to be mentioned among the top fighters. He has been dreaming of becoming the UFC champion since he started in the organization.
Miocic, who holds a three-inch reach advantage over the champion, feels his pressure and power will overcome Werdum’s improved standup.
“He’s good on the ground definitely,” Miocic said. “He’s got a black belt in jiu-jitsu and he uses it well. But it’s hard to do jiu-jitsu when you’re getting punched in the face.”
The main event clash between Miocic and Werdum is as big as it gets inside the Octagon. The best in the world takes on arguably his toughest challenger and it all goes down live on Pay-Per-View Saturday night.
Werdum is planning to add to his legendary resume at UFC 198.
“Stipe is a good fighter but I’m the champion and I just want to stay the champion for a long time,” he said. “I just go there and beat him. It’s a hard fight but May 14, I keep my belt.”
Matt Parrino is a digital producer and writer for UFC.com. Follow him on Twitter at @MattParrinoUFC