Another month, another UFC pay-per-view in the books.
The UFC returned to Mexico City on Saturday night, and this time it had its Mexican-American champion in tow. When the promotion left town, there was a new heavyweight champion: A Brazilian who is fluent in multiple languages, was once cast aside by the UFC and then returned better than ever.
Here’s a look at what we learned, loved and absolutely loathed from UFC 188.
Learned: Altitude Is Not Your Friend
The most important thing we can take away from Saturday’s card is not that Cain Velasquez isn’t as good as we thought he was (he is still fearsomely good) or Fabricio Werdum is the greatest heavyweight of all time (he is not).
It’s that one camp made the smart decision to train at altitude, and that camp enjoyed success because of that decision.
Werdum spent his entire camp in the city he would eventually unify his championship in. Velasquez spent all but two weeks near sea level in San Jose, California.
The results were dramatic. The man known for having the best cardio in the entire sport was winded after the first round and absolutely exhausted in the second, making him easy pickings for Werdum.
If we learned anything from this fight, it’s this: training in the same conditions you’ll be fighting in? Yeah, that’s probably the most important thing you can do—particularly when the place you’ll be fighting is 7,500 feet above sea level.
Loved: Yair Rodriguez, Star in the Making
If Yair Rodriguez is the only talent to emerge from The Ultimate Fighter: Latin America, then it will have been well worth the cost.
Rodriguez, a long, lanky and charismatic man, stepped in the Octagon with Charles Rosa on Saturday and put on a show. He used a wide variety of attacks, and by the middle of the second round, it made you think, “Man, this guy fights a lot like Jon Jones or Anthony Pettis or someone else who uses creative striking to advance their game.”
He is clearly not Jones or Pettis at this point. He has many miles to go before he can be considered even an interesting potential contender.
But what he is right now is an intriguing prospect, and one with enough upside that Reebok snapped up him to an exclusive deal a month before the launch of the official UFC uniform.
It sees potential star power, and that star power is a very big deal for the UFC because the promotion is attempting to solidify Mexico as another strong international base. Velasquez lost on Saturday, but Rodriguez—even in a split-decision win—showed that he might be someone the UFC can attach itself to for years to come.
Loathed: Nate Marquardt‘s Total Lack of Desire to Fight
There was a moment somewhere in the second round in his fight against Kelvin Gastelum when Nate Marquardt—the former Pancrase middleweight champion and one-time UFC middleweight title challenger—gave up the ghost.
Whatever confidence he’d brought into the fight vanished from his face.
Instead of looking like the cool, calm and collected fighter we’ve seen throughout his long career, Marqardt looked like a man who wanted to be doing anything else than what he was supposed to be doing at that moment.
Then he flinched and dropped to his knees before rolling over on his back, and I couldn’t help but think to myself, “This is a man who does not want to fight anymore. The referee should stop this fight.” It was an act of timidity, and Mardquardt was essentially begging for the fight to be stopped.
A few moments later, his trainer Trevor Wittman did what Marquardt could not. His head hanging low, staring at the canvas, Marquardt was silent as Wittman called off the fight.
It was a courageous thing for Wittman, who likely would have done the same thing even if Marquardt hadn’t already essentially given up. That’s what a good corner man does: He watches out for the health and welfare of his fighter. He does not trade in macho verbal nonsense. When his fighter is incapable of continuing and perhaps cannot see it, he does it for him.
And now Wittman should take the next logical step.
If Marquardt insists on continuing his fighting career—and I would be surprised if, after what we saw on Saturday, the 36-year-old does anything of the sort—Wittman needs to halt him in his tracks.
On Saturday, we saw a ghostly shell of a man who was once a very good fighter. Marquardt has nothing left to prove and certainly nothing left to gain. It is time for him to call it a day.
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