UFC 162 Fight Card: Anderson Silva vs. Chris Weidman Early Prediction
Anderson Silva's potential superfights with Jon Jones and Georges St-Pierre will be put on hold.
Instead, the UFC middleweight champion will defend his belt against top 185-pound contender Chris Weidman, who has been vocal about his desire to fight Silva since knocking out Mark Munoz in July.
Now, the question becomes whether Silva can retain his championship and keep the possibility of a superfight with Jones or St-Pierre alive.
Given his incredible run of success inside the Octagon, it's easy to assume Silva will be able to do his thing again, but Weidman presents a lot of problems for the long-reigning middleweight champion and could be the one to bring his winning streak to an end.
Since his near-loss to Chael Sonnen in August 2010, it has been assumed Silva would ultimately be defeated by a high-level wrestler with strong submission defense, and Weidman fits that description well.
During his time at Hofstra University, Weidman became a two-time NCAA All-American wrestler, making him fully capable of testing Silva's takedown defense. Additionally, Weidman has picked up jiu-jitsu quickly under Matt Serra, forcing multiple opponents to tap inside the Octagon and even competing in the ADCC Submission Wrestling World Championships.
Weidman's 72 percent takedown success rate is higher than that of Sonnen, who has taken Silva down repeatedly in the seven rounds he's spent inside the cage with the Brazilian legend.
In one of the few times Sonnen was shut down by the champion, he had his shorts grabbed by Silva, which kept him from dropping his level lower and cutting the corner to finish the takedown.
Now, Silva has stuffed 81 percent of takedowns attempted on him, so it's possible he could have evaded that takedown that led to a knockout win without grabbing Sonnen's shorts, but it's worth noting to show that he'll have trouble staying on his feet against Weidman without utilizing such tactics.
If Silva does force Weidman to stand, though, the challenger will find himself in serious trouble.
While Weidman has made strides in his striking with the help of Ray Longo, Silva has the ability to make seasoned stand-up fighters look like amateurs. The times Weidman has stood with opponents, he was looking at grapplers in Munoz and Demian Maia and not strikers anywhere near the level of Silva.
In fact, Weidman's striking statistics are strikingly similar to Sonnen's, landing 68 percent of his strikes thrown and being hit with 43 percent of strikes thrown at him.
There's a good chance Weidman will find a way to take Silva to the ground at least a couple of times, but it won't be easy for him to finish the fight once he does. Being in a championship fight, that means Weidman could have to start in standing position with Silva up to five times.
Though that wasn't a problem for Sonnen at UFC 117, it's highly unlikely Silva will enter UFC 162 with the same rib problem he had during that first meeting with his archrival.
Who will win?
Until proven otherwise, it's never a good idea to bet against Silva, even when the matchup in front of him appears to be tough stylistically.
Silva has a much longer track record of success against wrestlers than Weidman does against elite strikers. It's not out of the question that the 37-year-old Silva could show up to his fight with Weidman and finally look like a fading legend, but there's no way Weidman is banking on that, and prognosticators shouldn't, either.
As long as Silva isn't taken down immediately in every single round, he should have an opportunity to score a second-round finish like he has in past two fights against Sonnen and Yushin Okami. And that could finally set up a blockbuster with Jones or St-Pierre in late-2013.
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