He’s earned every accolade that’s come his way, not to mention some of the criticism, and no one can honestly deny the fact that he’s put in his time and given a great deal of to the sport. You don’t accomplish what Silva has on sheer talent alone; it takes considerable dedication and desire to just get into the UFC, but to become the best of the best?
It takes more than we will probably ever know.
So, while he sits back and enjoys some of the more benign comforts of home and family, the rest of us wait and wonder, pondering but a single question: Who’s next?
When considering this question honestly, we must first decide who is being served: Silva as champion, we as fans or the sport as a whole.
And as always, if we want to be fair, the answer is clear: The sport (in this case the middleweight division) must be served, and that means deciding who is the top contender for a title shot.
There are a lot of names floating around, and an argument could be made for any one of them, but out of that fog, only Chris Weidman stands out as a fighter who is not only available but seemingly injury free.
Weidman’s on a hot streak, sitting in the top five after his brutal finish of Mark Munoz, and he is honestly a more dangerous version of Chael Sonnen in the fact that both men have a very similar style, but Weidman is a much harder puncher.
Chris Weidman is one of those fighters who do their best and rise to the moment instead of being dwarfed by it. He’s fought on short notice, and his battering of Mark Munoz (who was honestly the clear choice for a title shot before running into Weidman) was very impressive.
In Silva vs. Weidman we have experience vs. youth, speed vs. strength and stylistically we have a great striker and submission artist vs. a great wrestler with powerful ground-and-pound and underrated submission skills.
But is Weidman hungry enough to do what is necessary?
Granted, Chael Sonnen gave many fighters what they see as the ultimate blueprint on how to defeat Silva: Take him down, keep him down and let the punches fly. However, Sonnen had something that most don’t—the courage of his convictions and smack talk—and that saw him dare to be great.
But during the second round of their rematch, even the self-acclaimed great Chael Sonnen broke under the pressure—deciding to sit against the cage with hardly any defense in mind after trying a risky spinning back fist that saw him fall flat on his backside.
Sonnen could have gotten up, but for some reason he didn’t, and he paid the price.
Now, should Weidman remain healthy and get the call, can he use the same game plan with greater success?
And that’s what makes Weidman the clear choice, at least for this writer: Weidman poses questions that Silva will have to contend with, where it is normally the other way around. Could Silva deal with Weidman’s takedowns and once again find a way to defeat a superior wrestler who punches much harder than most?
Silva fans (of which I am one) will declare that there is no question because Silva defeated Sonnen twice, Henderson once, etc. It’s understandable to think that way, but it’s also not in keeping with realism.
There are only so many kinds of fighters out there, stylistically speaking, and to think that Silva hasn’t seen his toughest moments when facing strong wrestlers is contrary to our experience.
Weidman would rightly be a big underdog in a fight with Silva, because Silva is the best in the sport right now. His detractors can take to the rooftops and shout all they want about how Sonnen was robbed or that Silva is a cheater or coward—whatever they are screaming this week—but the simple fact is that Silva has beaten everyone the UFC has put in front of him since 2006, and there is no one in the organization who can say the same.
And while it’s true that Silva has more than a few advantages over almost anyone he faces, Weidman has advantages over Silva that Sonnen didn’t: Weidman’s good enough to take Silva down as Sonnen did, but Weidman has the power to not only bruise and bloody Silva, but potentially knock him out on the ground, whereas Sonnen could not.
Weidman is also much better at submissions than Sonnen is, and he’s a very confident young man right now, as he should be. It’s doubtful that would change if he were to fight Silva, because all the pressure would be on the champion, not Weidman.
Yes, Weidman would be an underdog, but as Randy Couture has proven on more than one occasion, sometimes being the underdog is a great place to be.