The future is bright for middleweight contender Chris Weidman. In addition to becoming one of the top title threats in the 185-pound division with his recent knockout win over Mark Munoz, Weidman will be competing against fellow rising stars Rory MacDonald, Joseph Benavidez and John Dodson for a one-year sponsorship deal with Edge Shave Gel.
Over the coming weeks, fans will be given the opportunity to vote on which of the four up-and-coming contenders should become the newest face of Team Edge. Last year, Chad Mendes—ahem—edged out Brian Stann, Phil Davis and Michael McDonald to earn the Edge sponsorship.
Already considered to be one of the most deserving title challengers in the middleweight division, Weidman has a great chance of following in Mendes' footsteps. Let's take a look at what gives Weidman a competitive edge over his competition.
At Hofstra University, Chris Weidman became a two-time All-American wrestler. In large part, Weidman's already successful career in MMA has been a product of his top-notch collegiate wrestling experience.
Weidman has not been taken down in five UFC appearances, which is very impressive having faced skilled grapplers like Mark Munoz and Demian Maia. The middleweight's offensive wrestling has been equally impressive, having scored 13 takedowns in less than 10 cumulative rounds inside the Octagon.
If Weidman is able to dethrone Anderson Silva from atop the 185-pound division, his wrestling will be the key. Silva's most challenging opponents during his current title reign have been wrestlers willing to push forward and take control of the fight's pace.
Chris Weidman did not have to travel far to become the well-rounded fighter he is today. The New York native was able to remain close to home by joining Serra-Longo Fight Team, where he quickly grasped jiu-jitsu concepts from former UFC champion Matt Serra and has continued to improve his striking technique under the tutelage of Ray Longo.
Work with the Serra-Longo Fight Team has already paid dividends for Weidman, who has submitted two opponents at the UFC level and is coming off of a spectacular stepping elbow knockout against Mark Munoz that showed he has filled any remaining holes in his game.
There are plenty of excellent MMA gyms around the world, but the Serra-Longo Fight Team was a perfect fit for an aspiring New York fighter like Weidman. The 28-year-old has already become the face of the gym, which is now beginning to produce much more high-level talent.
At 28 years old, Chris Weidman is still progressing, which is a scary thought for UFC middleweights.
Heading into his bout with Mark Munoz, many still questioned Weidman's striking ability. When Weidman blasted Munoz with a fight-ending elbow in the second round, those questions were answered. However, that does not mean the All-American wrestling is done improving his stand-up game.
Weidman's jiu-jitsu has come along even more quickly than his striking. Three years ago, the purple belt qualified for the ADCC Submission Wrestling World Championship and was only eliminated from the tournament upon meeting Andre Galvao, who has won multiple world championships in jiu-jitsu.
If Weidman continues to develop at his current pace, he could go down as one of the more well-rounded fighters to ever compete in MMA.
The elbow Chris Weidman landed on Mark Munoz was more meaningful than simply showing his striking had improved from previous appearances. It displayed Weidman's ability to study other fighters and continue to incorporate new weapons into his arsenal.
Following his knockout win against Munoz, Weidman credited light heavyweight champion Jon Jones for his inspiration to attempt the stepping elbow in a fight. Jones recently used the technique with great results in a title fight against Rashad Evans, so Weidman decided to work the elbow into his training for a bout with an opponent in Munoz who posed similar threats as Evans.
Now that he has showed he can learn from innovators like Jones, it wouldn't be surprising to see Weidman unleash some rarely used attacks of his own on future opponents.
There is a fine line between confidence and cockiness. Right now, Chris Weidman exudes confidence, which will help in greatly in a potential matchup with middleweight titleholder Anderson Silva.
It could be said Chael Sonnen was overconfident heading into his recent rematch with Silva. Having taken the champion down so easily in the past, Sonnen may not have mentally prepared himself for the possibility of having to stand with Silva at UFC 148.
Should Weidman get his chance at dethroning Silva, which he requested following his win over Mark Munoz in the UFC on Fuel TV 4 main event, he will come at the title shot with a much different psychological approach than Sonnen.
Weidman is not one to talk trash when preparing for fights, but that hardly means he doesn't believe in his own ability. Otherwise, the soft-spoken contender would not have used his most recent post-fight interview to implore the UFC brass to name him Silva's next challenger. Weidman believes he take Silva's spot atop the middleweight division, and he really hasn't given anyone reason to question that claim.