Commentary

Werdum's tactics fall flat in the end

Originally Published: June 19, 2011
By Brett Okamoto | ESPN.com

DALLAS -- The judges may or may not have scored Saturday's heavyweight fight between Alistair Overeem and Fabricio Werdum correctly.

But, for once, no one can really blame them if they got it wrong.

In what was maybe the most anticipated fight of the Strikeforce Grand Prix quarterfinals, Werdum failed to advance to the next stage perhaps due more to his body language during the fight than his inability to defeat his opponent.

Obviously wary of Overeem's power, Werdum looked to get the fight to the ground by any means necessary. Those means included pulling guard, playing dead and making inviting gestures toward Overeem while lying on his back.

The strategy made for a slow fight and a disappointing return to the United States for Overeem, who ended up taking a unanimous decision.

"I expected him to make more of a fight out of it," Overeem said. "Lying on his back all the time took pace away from the fight. It's hard to fight somebody who doesn't want to fight."

Overeem (35-11) added there were multiple times in which he clearly felt Werdum was faking injury to try to bring him in.

"Yeah," he answered, when asked on the matter. "Two times [I felt he faked]. His knee was hurting; that was a little weird. Then I put pressure on to try and finish him and he reacted immediately, so I knew he was faking it."

What was lost on Werdum (14-5-1) as he turned to those tactics, and likely lost on the judges as well, was that he did quite well when he just fought. He actually outstruck Overeem 69-48 overall and had him visibly fatigued late in the fight.

It's not the first time a grappler has resorted to methods other than a standard double-leg takedown to lure a more-talented striker to the floor. In some ways, what Werdum tried against Overeem could be seen as downright sly, if not brilliant strategy.

[+] EnlargeAlistair Overeem vs Fabricio Werdum
Ric Fogel for ESPN.comAlistair Overeem, left, wasn't about to fall for any of Fabricio Werdum's tricks.

But at some point there has to be a line and Werdum clearly crossed it Saturday. His demeanor suggested to judges he was losing the fight, even during times he probably wasn't.

He was slow getting up after purposefully falling down. He smiled as he invited an unwilling Overeem into his guard.

It disgusted many of the fans inside American Airlines Center -- enough so, that many filed out of the arena before the decision was read. It prompted Strikeforce light heavyweight champion Dan Henderson to comment via Twitter.

"What a bummer for Strikeforce," Henderson wrote, during the fight. "Werdum is embarrassing all of us. I guess his 15 are up."

Keener eyes among the mixed martial arts community started to question the decision not long after the fight ended, noting Werdum's edge in striking suggests he actually won the fight.

But considering the way he acted throughout, Werdum basically made it impossible for judges to score in his favor. When he rewatches the performance at some point, he'll likely see that.

"He did that with Fedor, tricked him into going to the ground," said Strikeforce heavyweight Daniel Cormier. "I guess he thought he'd do the same thing [against Overeem].

"He's got to live with the decision. He has to live with people saying what they will. I thought he was doing well standing. When he watches the fight, he'll probably think he should have stayed standing because he had Alistair hurt. It was a missed opportunity."

Brett Okamoto covers MMA for ESPN.com. Follow him on Twitter at bokamotoESPN.

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