Is Chris Weidman Really the Biggest Threat to Anderson Silva's Title?

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Is Chris Weidman Really the Biggest Threat to Anderson Silva's Title?
Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Whenever UFC middleweight champion Anderson Silva is scheduled to fight, two conflicting platitudes invariably spring up from within the MMA community.

The first, ridiculous for how many times it has been proven false, is that Silva's upcoming opponent is a nightmare matchup for him and will finally bring an end to his reign.

The second, equally foolish for its blind faith in precedent, is that the champ's next opponent has zero chance of winning, and anyone who disagrees knows nothing about mixed martial arts.

Silva's July 6 bout with Chris Weidman has not escaped these tired tropes in the slightest.

Many have confidently thrown their lot in with the challenger, claiming he will be able to do what so many others claimed previous challengers would do, but didn't. And, of course, most of the time someone tries to so much as say Weidman's name, that person is verbally bombarded with proclamations of Silva's greatness, before they can even get to the M.

So let's not indulge the debate for a change—we'll do that hundreds of times in the coming months anyway.

Instead, let's take a look at the pairing through a different lens—one that examines the match in the greater context of the middleweight division.

Silva stands as the most dominant champion the UFC has ever known, and there isn't a sensible rebuttal for that assertion. Time and time again he has dispatched top-level fighters, many of which seemed to present stylistic difficulties for him.

But Chris Weidman can beat him.

In fact, he has a better chance to beat him than anyone else in the division.

I won't recite Weidman's skill-set, and how that plays to Silva's supposed weaknesses (that's better reserved for a prediction), but I will point out that Weidman has dominated his competition since joining the UFC in a fashion that only Silva can rival at 185.

Does this put the two of them on equal footing?

Of course not, Silva's strength of schedule makes Weidman's look middling. But the comparison brings to light the major counterpoint to Weidman being Silva's biggest threat. 

He's unproven.

It's a fair assessment. Weidman has only nine career fights, and just five in the UFC. It's always easier to know how a fighter will do against a champion after he's taken on a top contender or two.

But ability cannot wholly be measured in tangible results. That is why in team-based organizations like the NFL, NHL, MLB, etc, players are drafted on the upside they have exhibited more so than the numbers they have posted. 

 No-one said LeBron James wouldn't be an elite player in the NBA because he hadn't played NBA All-Stars when he was drafted. And no-one should say Weidman can't hang with the best of the best just because he hasn't done it yet. Because when it comes to talent, he's very much a first overall pick.

Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports
Weidman's potential was demonstrated during his massacre of Mark Munoz

Look at his NCAA wrestling accomplishments. Look at his background in grappling. Look at how much his striking improved between his UFC debut and his most recent fight with Mark Munoz. 

 Just look at every challenge he's been given.

He's succeed every time. And he hasn't been passing with Ds, he's been getting A+s. And you don't need to wonder whether a student who gets A+s in the ninth grade will succeed in the tenth.

Weidman hasn't proven it to everyone yet, but he is better than everyone currently fighting in the UFC middleweight division not named Anderson Silva. But what he has proven is his upside, and when you interpret what that measures out to in future results, it is nothing short of a UFC title.

Whether he obtains that title this summer or somewhere down the road remains to be seen, but once Silva is out of the picture, the division is Weidman's.

Soon enough we'll find out whether it is his already.


 



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