Some detractors have labelled Chris Weidman as "overhyped" and "just another wrestler." This is simply untrue. Carefully analyzing all five of his UFC fights reveals multiple reasons why his skill set is broader than that.
For starters, Weidman has good defensive habits. All of his UFC fights show a good ability to cover up against punches and stay relaxed after being tagged. This is better than the more common alternative. Many fighters retreat in a panicked scramble after being tagged. This often leads to their opponent trapping them against the fence and finishing them off.
Contrary to what the critics maintain, Weidman has a personalized brand of wrestling that is actually quite different from what is typically seen in mixed martial arts. Against Mark Munoz, his takedowns started out with attacking one leg before switching to both. Against Jesse Bongfeldt, he used an unusual throw from the body lock.
A typical wrestler would stick to only the standard double leg. This unexpected style might explain how he managed to put on a one-sided clinic against a wrestler of Munoz's credentials. Two other features of Weidman's wrestling factored into his success over Munoz. He was willing to deliberately let go of some holds, even when he wasn't in danger of losing dominant position, to go for other options.
His top control seamlessly blended wrestling with the threat of jiu-jitsu chokes. In short, he is much more than the generic wrestler who just tries to keep his weight on his opponent, maintain the same position and not pressure too much with submissions.
In addition, Weidman's skill set includes good pacing. His takedowns against Munoz occurred at the beginning of each round.
With the exception of the Demian Maia fight, where he got a few takedowns but wasn't quite as aggressive as he usually is, he generally engages very actively instead of pacing back-and-forth tentatively and trading jabs. This might not seem like much but it's actually quite important.
Attacking right off the bat is one reason why Chael Sonnen was so effective against Anderson Silva. Engaging actively, given that it isn't a reckless bum rush (which isn't a problem with Weidman), is usually safer than being hesitant.
All too often, neither fighter wants to close the distance. Both men spend entire rounds throwing punches that aren't really close to landing. Eventually, one fighter has a lapse of concentration and gets knocked out when his opponent unexpectedly rushes him.
Lastly, we have no idea what Weidman's full potential is. He had bone spurs in his elbows for the past two years. How good will he be now that he's received surgery? He was a late replacement for injured fighters in two of his five UFC fights.
How good would he have been if he had enjoyed a proper training camp instead of less than two weeks to prepare? It's probably not a coincidence that those two happen to be his only UFC fights that have gone to decision.
He performed well at the 2009 ADCC Submission Wrestling World Championship after only one year of formal jiu-jitsu training. His sense of distance also improved dramatically in one year. He went from letting himself be in range for a big head kick from Bongfeldt to landing a perfectly timed elbow on Munoz.
He's clearly a very fast learner. What is he going to surprise us with in his next outing? Given that his reach rivals Silva's, I'm going to guess that he's been working on his boxing.
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