It's hard to imagine the greatest fighter in UFC history entering a fight as an underdog, but that almost seems to be what is happening with Anderson Silva approaching his next bout against Chris Weidman at UFC 162.
For months, Weidman has pounded the drum that he is the fighter best suited to finally snatch Silva's middleweight belt away from him after 10 consecutive title defenses and 16 straight victories inside the Octagon.
Add to that the growing list of fighters, including UFC welterweight champion Georges St-Pierre, who believe that Weidman is a stylistic nightmare for the long reigning champion and will be the first fighter to hand Silva a loss in over seven years.
Some others who are closest to the champion disagree with that assessment.
"Once the Octagon door closes and you've got Anderson Silva standing across the ring from you, it's not the same game anymore," Silva's manager Ed Soares recently said in a pre-fight interview ahead of UFC 162.
Outside of his fights against Chael Sonnen, Silva has only managed to lose a few minutes (statistically) of any fight he's been involved in since he came to the UFC in 2006. It's the Sonnen fights, however, that have many people convinced that Weidman is the kryptonite to Silva's Superman.
Sonnen wrestled Silva to the mat repeatedly during their first fight, punishing the champion with ground-and-pound strikes for the better part of 20 minutes. Sonnen eventually fell in their first fight to a late triangle choke submission courtesy of the champion.
In their rematch, Sonnen again took Silva down at will during the first round, even mounting the Brazilian in a dominant position before the horn sounded to stop the action. Silva did eventually stop the takedown in the second round before finishing Sonnen with strikes.
Weidman is a two-time Division I All-American wrestler, who trains under famed jiu-jitsu instructors like Renzo Gracie, Matt Serra and John Danaher at his home camp in New York. His style appears to be the anti-Anderson Silva method, taking fights to the ground and finishing his opponents on the mat.
"Weidman got good jiu-jitsu and great wrestling," Silva said in the interview. "But he needs to work with his stand-up. Wrestling is not my best strength, and I need to work on my wrestling."
The old days of matching up a pure striker with a pure grappler in MMA are long gone, but that doesn't mean the roots of those elements still can't play a part in a major fight like the one between Silva and Weidman.
It's hard to ignore, however, that despite Silva's apparent lack in wrestling, he's beaten several top grapplers in his career like Demian Maia and Thales Leites as well as highly regarded wrestlers such as Dan Henderson.
The scariest thing about Silva in the cage is the fact that he doesn't need much of an opening to exploit a fighter's mistake and unleash hell on them immediately. One punch, one kick or one knee is all Silva usually needs to put an opponent away, and rarely do they come back asking for seconds.
"Every fighter commits mistakes," Silva said. "I just have to look for the right opportunity to capitalize on his mistakes."
Damon Martin is a featured columnist for Bleacher Report.
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