It took about a year of campaigning—most of it fell on deaf ears—but Chris Weidman got what he wanted in the end.
Because he’s won nine straight to start his career and has plenty of hype behind him, and the fact that literally every other guy who was ahead of him in the pecking order got beaten right out of contention in the past year, he’ll get a chance at Anderson Silva this summer.
Well buddy, this might be the ultimate in being careful what you wish for, because you just might get it.
Weidman is a tough out for anyone, what with his high level wrestling and exceptional ground game. He’s also shown sound standup skills that routinely have new wrinkles added each time he enters the cage.
But he’s not Anderson Silva.
Furthermore, he’s going to have to do something pretty serious at UFC 162 to prove he’s even in The Spider’s league. It’s pretty rarefied where the best fighter of all-time is perched these days.
Silva’s accolades are plentiful and analyzed to the point of exhaustion. He’s never lost in the UFC, rarely been challenged and has a serious shot at leaving the sport as an undefeated world champion when he decides to hang it up for good.
He was 8-0 in the UFC before Weidman’s career had even started, and he’s 8-0 since in the time that Weidman has been active. Weidman, for his part, is 9-0 in that time but against lesser competition.
Who ya got?
So before everyone starts talking about how the 28-year-old Matt Serra protégé is the guy to finally beat Silva, and how he’s a horrible matchup for the champion, it might be time to pump the brakes.
The same thing was said about Chael Sonnen, and Silva beat him. Twice.
Dan Henderson was thought to have the wrestling-based approach and heavy hands that would give Silva fits. It didn’t.
People thought Vitor Belfort would be too fast and powerful for the champion. Look at every UFC highlight reel for the rest of time to see how right they were about that one.
The bottom line is that every time a new guy emerges who is going to go out and show Anderson Silva how this MMA thing is done in the modern era, he gets badly hurt. You simply cannot say that anyone is a bad matchup for Silva anymore, because he’s repeatedly beaten every “bad matchup” he’s ever been in there with.
Is Weidman a reasonable stylistic foil for him? Probably yes, given that he can score takedowns and has enough of a jiu-jitsu pedigree to stay out of trouble when he does.
But is his stand-up really going to keep him conscious long enough to implement such a strategy?
There’s a big gap between knocking out Mark Munoz, outboxing jiu-jitsu champion Demian Maia and going out there trying to hang with the scariest striker MMA has ever produced.
Make no mistake, Weidman deserves respect. He’s a talented guy just coming into his athletic prime, and he’s got as good a claim as anyone to become "The Guy" after Silva is done plying his trade.
But what he does with this chance that he’s begged for honestly has less to do with him and more to do with what the champion when they enter the cage together.
Based on history, that’s not great news for Chris Weidman.