Anderson Silva at the UFC 162 Pre-Fight Press Conference
At UFC 162 on July 6, 38-year-old Anderson Silva will make an attempt to extend his unprecedented title defense streak to 11 consecutive fights. Awe-inspiring in its own right, that record could potentially be one of many that he prolongs if he achieves victory.
That is, of course, unless Chris Weidman delivers on his promises and halts the middleweight juggernaut dead in his tracks.
Undefeated in his own right, Weidman—in spite of his relative inexperience—has the tenacity, determination and wrestling pedigree to potentially frustrate "The Spider."
The Silva-Weidman matchup for the UFC middleweight crown may be at the forefront of what this fight card offers but it's certainly not the only noteworthy consideration. Namely, several other fighters are set to make a concerted effort to recover from recent defeats.
Let's examine the matchups that feature fighters willing to throw all their chips on the table at UFC 162.
Well-known for his infamous spinning wheel kick knockout at UFC Rio: Aldo vs Mendes, Edson Barboza (11-1-0) has a certain predisposition towards flamboyant kicks. Terry Etim certainly felt the brunt of his creative juices at the very instant that Barboza's spinning heel slammed into his temple—Etim's lifeless body crashed to the canvas as Barboza's overall worth soared to new heights.
Unfazed by the Brazilian's lavish striking, WEC veteran Jamie Varner squared off against Barboza immediately after that highlight-reel KO had left much of the division with a sense of worry.
Varner closed the distance immediately after the opening bell and rarely gave Barboza adequate room with which to initiate his kicks. The end result would be worth Varner's effort—after a spinning kick that had earned him a 2012 World MMA award, Barboza lost via a first-round KO.
The buzz around his name faded as fast as it had initially set in.
At UFC on FX 7, he'd manage to take a step forward from the Varner loss by successfully stopping Lucas Martins with a counter-punch followed by a series of relentless ground strikes as Martins folded to the canvas.
At UFC 162, Barboza will face off against fellow Brazilian, Rafaello Oliveira (15-5-0). Both men will be fueled by recent victories—neither will want to experience a loss on such a prominent fight card.
But if he can manage to combine his blistering kicks with tactical punches, Barboza may be able to stop Oliveira in a manner dominant enough to return him to the limelight and relegate any memory of the Varner loss to the history books.
After three consecutive losses, Dave Herman (21-5-0) is in dire need of a UFC victory.
To add insult to injury, his recent string of defeats couldn't be more glaring—Stefan Struve knocked him senseless with an uppercut, Roy Nelson folded him an overhand right and Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira administered a healthy dose of Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.
There are defeats, and then there are defeats.
At UFC 162, Herman will attempt to add another digit to his win column when he battles Gabriel Gonzaga (14-7-0)—a fighter with a shaky UFC history of his own. Gonzaga, though coming off a defeat to Travis Browne, is a wily UFC veteran and will likely aim to use Herman as a stepping stone to regaining his former heavyweight contender status.
Herman has to accept the reality of his situation—it's quite literally all or nothing. If he fails to have his hand raised at UFC 162, he'll be confronted with the harsh reality of walking papers.
It's one thing to be part of the revered Gracie lineage, it's an entirely different matter to harness the raw potential within that name and craft an identity as one of the world's premiere grapplers.
But that's just what Roger Gracie (6-1-0) has done—he's a multi-BJJ champion and holds the unique distinction of being the only competitor to ever submit all eight of his opponents on the path to ADCC glory.
Unwilling to settle for mere grappling-based combat, Gracie transitioned to mixed martial arts in late 2006 with most of his experience taking place for Zuffa-acquired Strikeforce. During his tenure for the organization, three of his four victories (predictably) came by way of submission.
At UFC 162, he'll make his long-awaited transition to the UFC when he confronts former Strikeforce front-runner, Tim Kennedy (15-4-0).
It'll be no easy task—Kennedy presents an interesting mix of cage experience and top-notch submission defense. In nearly 20 career fights, the American has yet to lose via submission.
If Gracie can take the fight to the mat—and do it with haste—he may be able to capitalize on his wealth of grappling savvy and submit Kennedy to cement his role in the UFC.
Little-known fact: The last time Frankie Edgar (14-4-1) fought in a non-title fight was December 5th 2009—on that evening, he stopped Matt Veach with a second-round submission and initiated a series of back-and-forth championship matches.
Between then and now, he cultivated a persona as MMA's own Rocky Balboa—seven consecutive fights that either featured title opportunities or title defenses.
That's quite a long time to continuously face such premiere opponents. He certainly racked up some considerable mileage.
He managed to win and defend the Lightweight Championship, but—in that extended interim—he demonstrated that, perhaps, Benson Henderson and Jose Aldo are two champions he might never dethrone.
In a sport where you're only as good as your last fight, Edgar needs to confirm that he can, at the very least, be victorious in a bout with no gold on the line. His opponent, Charles Oliveira (16-3-0), has a predisposition to taking fights to the ground—all four of his UFC victories have come by way of stoppage.
If Edgar can manage to keep the fight standing and purely outstrike Oliveira, he may be able to regain his UFC footing and begin a new ascent towards title contention.
When at his very finest, Anderson SIlva (33-4-0) seems to operate on a different plane of existence.
His aura is perceived by adoring fans but truly felt and respected by opponents and peers. It seems as though he fights with a sense of calm and composure that is borderline unsettling—top-tier contenders walk away knowing their vulnerabilities were forcibly exposed for the world to see.
Silva is the UFC's great equalizer—an ultimate test of combat skill, strength and determination. He presents his unrivaled 16-0 UFC record in a forthright manner; opponents are welcome to come and test his might.
At UFC 162, Chris Weidman (9-0) plans on stepping inside the Octagon fully prepared to risk both himself and his undefeated record at the altar of the mighty Brazilian kingpin. He presents strong wrestling, charisma, confidence and the support of many peers—Dana White recently commented that "all the pros are picking him to beat Silva."
Perhaps the aspiring middleweight is much too young for a task so immense. Perhaps Silva will eviscerate him with ease en route to his 11th consecutive title defense.
Or perhaps, far more interestingly, Weidman may continue where Chael Sonnen had previously failed. In a sport where four-ounce gloves mediate the difference between consciousness and unconsciousness, crazier things have happened.
Silva will seek to prolong his record title defenses and Weidman, much to the contrary, plans on being the foil that ends his tyranny.