Silva has reigned over the UFC's middleweight division for nearly a decade. Take a moment and let that sink in.
This kind of consistency is impossible to expect of any champion in any sport, much less one of the most unpredictable sports in the world. The things Silva has been able to accomplish aren't normal, which makes it easy for fans to become a bit detached from reality at times. History has taught us that no one is invincible, and eventually, Father Time makes a fool of us all.
There is a beginning and an end to everything.
Silva came into the UFC as a talented, hungry contender with a burning desire to achieve things that others believed to be impossible. Throughout his career, he has always joked that his greatest opponent would ultimately be his "clone."
At UFC 162, Silva will face a past reflection of himself in Weidman, a talented and hungry contender with a burning desire to achieve the impossible.
The Beginning – February 2009
The paths of Weidman and Silva have been intertwined for a long time. During an appearance on The Fight Network's "5 Rounds" segment, Weidman admitted that he had been studying and sizing Silva up since he started fighting professionally in February 2009:
"Since I got into the sport, three-and-a-half or four years ago, he was the champion, and I decided to go to 185, and right away I'd tell people I was fighting at 185, and people would be like 'Is that Anderson Silva's weight class?' I'd be like, 'Yeah,' and they're like, 'Better choose a new weight class buddy.'
That just fueled me, since then till now. Even then I knew I could beat him. I just knew that I was a bad matchup for him. I just knew I had the potential to beat him, and I had that mindset four years ago, and it's even stronger now."
Many would have you believe the myriad of hype surrounding Weidman began overnight, but in reality, he was a highly touted prospect well before his professional debut.
During his wrestling tenure at Hofstra University, he was a two-time NCAA Division I All-American, who posted significant victories over current UFC light heavyweight contenders Phil Davis and Ryan Bader. He trains under former UFC welterweight champ Matt Serra and legendary striking coach Ray Longo.
TheFightNerd.com even put together an exclusive documentary highlighting Weidman's professional MMA debut against Reubem Lopes.
The backdrop for the scene is set in Atlantic City, New Jersey at Ring of Combat 23. Several "Weidman" chants can be heard echoing throughout the arena as the 25-year-old rookie makes his way to the cage with his own theme song blaring in the background.
The confidence Weidman exudes in his professional debut is unparalleled. Immediately after touching gloves with his opponent, he executes a beautiful body lock throw that lands him in side control, where he eventually finishes the fight with a kimura inside the first round.
While most newcomers would take a little time to celebrate their first victory, Weidman was back in the gym sparring and preparing for his next fight. In the documentary, it's eerie hearing Weidman talk about leaving everything in "God's hands" and his hopes and dreams of one day being a UFC champion.
To think, he would be challenging Silva for the UFC title four years from that moment:
"I think I have a good chance of doing good, if everything works out. It's in God's hands, and the pressure is off me. I'm just training as hard as I possibly can and if this is in God's plans for me to do really well, then yes, I think I definitely will...It'll be my pleasure to display [my skills] and do really good, like become a UFC champion, that would be awesome."
Wowing Even in Defeat at ADCC - September 2009
Weidman was featured on Sherdog's "Prospect Watch" after winning his second professional bout and qualifying for a spot in the 2009 Abu Dhabi Submission Wrestling World Championships (ADCC).
ADCC is widely considered as the Super Bowl of grappling, which typically features the best grapplers from all over the world.
With only eight months of formal Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu training, Weidman qualified for the 2009 event in Barcelona, Spain after submitting James Brasco, the ADCC East Coast trial winner and a former BJJ World Champion in the brown belt division.
In an interview with Sherdog.com, Weidman once again alluded to the fact that the UFC title was his long-term goal and participating in the ADCC tournament would offer a measuring stick of his progression as a fighter:
"I'm real excited. I get to go out and display everything I've been working on. It's a big opportunity. I'm going to be on the stage with big UFC stars and will see where I fit in, with grappling at least. I really want to see where I'm at competitively. I've wrestled my whole life. I want to see where I stand with the top guys in the world.
My short-term goal is to win my next fight and get into the bigger promotions and bigger money fights. My goal long-term is to become a UFC champion."
Weidman never made it far in the ADCC tournament, but he still managed to steal headlines after a near upset win over renowned BJJ star André Galvão. It was an inspiring performance that often gets overlooked in the media. Galvão, a multiple world champion and two-time ADCC gold medalist, needed two overtimes to defeat Weidman by points.
As Sherdog journalist Jordan Breen put it in his follow-up of the event, Weidman "wows, even in defeat":
"For such a novice fighter to be so aggressive and technical in a pure grappling competition against one of the world's best speaks volumes to what a great MMA middleweight Chris Weidman may become."
Wins ROC Title, Snubs Bellator Deal – September 2010
Weidman returned to MMA a year later and captured the Ring of Combat middleweight title from current UFC fighter Uriah Hall. Both Weidman and Hall came into the bout with plenty of hype and undefeated records, but in the end, it was Weidman's superior wrestling and ground-and-pound that helped him earn his first MMA title.
During a scouting report, BloodyElbow.com's Leland Roling called Weidman "one of the most highly-touted blue chip middleweight prospects ever."
The win over Hall opened doors to other opportunities for him, including a contract offer from Bellator Fighting Championships.
Bellator took the opportunity to pounce on Weidman before he was whisked away by the UFC or Strikeforce. In an interview with the New York Post, Weidman admitted that he was excited about signing with Bellator. He even planned a night out with his family in Roslyn, New York at the Bryant & Cooper Steakhouse to celebrate his first signing with a major promotion.
In a strange twist of fate, the deal fell through just minutes before Weidman put pen to paper. After perusing the contract for a final time, Weidman's uncle, a well-respected lawyer, found a clause in the document that could potentially keep Weidman locked into the contract longer than expected.
Weidman told the New York Post he was devastated after the deal went sour:
"I felt like I was betrayed by them. They never told me that. It was a little sneaky...I was so upset. I was so let down. I was excited to go to Bellator."
Signs with UFC and Makes Mainstream Debut – March 2011
An optimist believes that everything happens in life for a reason. When one door closes, another door opens revealing the path you should have taken all along.
A week after turning down Bellator's offer, Weidman received a phone call from the UFC offering him an opportunity to step in as a late replacement opponent for Alessio Sakara at UFC on Versus 3.
As fate would have it, Maiquel Falcao and original replacement Rafael Natal both pulled out of the fight due to injuries, which opened the door for Weidman to receive an opportunity of a lifetime. The bout would be featured on the main card of a televised event against a highly-respected UFC middleweight on a three-fight win streak.
Some initial concern was warranted about the bout being taken on two-and-half weeks' notice, but there was no stopping Weidman, who instantly saw all of his dreams transform into reality.
In his UFC debut, Weidman shunned the "UFC jitters" by dominating Sakara in a lopsided unanimous decision.
Rolling the Dice Against Demian Maia – January 2012
Looking back, Weidman's journey from MMA prospect to top UFC contender seems like a blur. There were never any elongated gaps between fights. Weidman took every fight the UFC offered him regardless of the date or opponent.
After picking up UFC wins over Jesse Bongfeldt and Tom Lawlor, Weidman stepped in on 10 days' notice for an injured Michael Bisping and defeated former UFC title contender Demian Maia. It certainly wasn't one of Weidman's best performances, as he appeared fatigued early in the bout.
After the bout, Weidman revealed that he had to drop around 32 pounds in 10 days just to make weight.
Most trainers and fighters would consider it a cruel joke to even consider taking a bout against a fighter of Maia's caliber with only 10 days to prepare, but the optimist in Weidman saw only opportunity where others saw failure.
In an interview with TheGarv.com, Weidman chalked his lackluster performance up to the weight cut and vowed he could beat anyone with a full training camp, including Silva:
"I took the fight on 10 days' notice. I wasn't in the best of shape to face a top-5 guy in the world to begin with, let alone cut the 32 pounds. I'm ready to fight one of the contenders and hopefully get closer to that belt. I think with a full camp I'd finish [Anderson Silva]."
A Star is Born – June 2012
The victory over Maia setup the climatic point of Weidman's career, a main event bout against top middleweight contender Mark Muñoz at UFC on Fuel 4. Every budding MMA star has that one fight that stands as a coming of age ceremony. It's the bout where a good athlete becomes a superstar.
Muñoz, who was widely considered as one of the premier grapplers at 185 pounds, was easily outclassed in the wrestling department by Weidman. After a stellar grappling display in the early portion of the bout, Weidman knocked Muñoz out in spectacular fashion with a well-timed elbow to the face.
There were plenty of jaws attached to the floor after witnessing Weidman's incredible performance. A Twitter frenzy immediately followed with pro fighters congratulating Weidman and calling for a title shot against Silva.
In a way, Chael Sonnen's post-fight reaction can be viewed as the first domino that tipped the hype in Weidman's favor. Having lost to Muñoz during his college wrestling days, Sonnen was well aware of the grappling prowess of "The Filipino Wrecking Machine."
During the UFC on Fuel 4 post-fight show, via BJPenn.com, an obviously stunned Sonnen called Weidman the "best middleweight in the UFC." Weidman joined the post-fight crew soon after and officially called out Silva for the first time in his MMA career:
"I'm a good matchup for [Anderson Silva]. I can take him down and submit him. Every time I've had a full training camp I've finished my opponent dating back from my first MMA fight. So give me a full training camp against Anderson Silva, and I'm not pretty confident I'll just go in there and get the W, but I'll get a finish over one of the best fighters of all time."
Silva Camp Not Interested - July 2012
Unfortunately, Silva wasn't nearly as interested in fighting Weidman.
During an episode of Fuel TV's "UFC Tonight," it was reported that Silva was only seeking fights that would generate a massive pay-per-view gate. His camp just felt like Weidman wasn't the right opponent to achieve that particular goal.
The options at middleweight were fairly limited for the Silva camp as far as marquee fights were concerned. While some chalked this report up to Silva ducking Weidman, others believed he was merely waiting around for a possible super fight with UFC welterweight champ Georges St-Pierre.
Moving On - September 2012
During a Q&A session with fans at UFC 150, Weidman admitted that he believed Silva was hesitant to take the fight due to a tough style matchup against a relatively unknown opponent.
He was a little upset at the bout not coming to fruition, but his disappointment was quickly quelled after it was announced he would be taking on middleweight contender Tim Boetsch at UFC 155.
Boetsch was riding a four-fight win streak with back-to-back wins over top-10 middleweights Yushin Okami and Hector Lombard.
Shoulder Injury, Withdraws from UFC 155 - November 2012
Weidman faced yet another major setback on his road toward a UFC title shot, and this time, it had nothing to do with Anderson Silva.
The top middleweight contender suffered a shoulder injury during training for his bout with Boetsch. After visiting with doctors, it was determined that Weidman had a torn labrum, and he would have to withdraw from his UFC 155 bout.
In speaking with Newsday, Weidman announced that he would undergo shoulder surgery, which would keep him sidelined for three to six months.
Silva Continues to Snub Title Fight, Frustration Grows for Weidman - January 2013
With the Boetsch fight off the table, Weidman once again began directing his attention toward the middleweight champ.
Silva's lack of interest in the fight infuriated Weidman, who began accusing him of ducking. A distinct change can clearly be seen in Weidman as the time passes. Instead of politely asking for a title shot, he becomes more bold in his opinion that Silva is doing everything possible to avoid the fight.
In response to Weidman's accusations, Silva's manager, Ed Soares, broke down to Cage Fanatic the real reason the Silva camp wasn't interested in taking the fight:
"I think Chris Weidman, not to take anything away from who he is as a fighter, I think he's a phenomenal fighter but I think I would like to see Anderson fight someone that's a little bit more recognized.
I mean I don't think Anderson has anything to gain from that fight other than beating a super tough, unknown guy. He's a phenomenal talent and no disrespect to his fighting abilities, but we would like to fight somebody with a little more recognition and maybe Weidman is maybe a fight or two away."
Soares' comments provided little comfort to Weidman's title hopes. The Silva camp wasn't budging in their stance of only seeking big money fights, and despite being a talented contender, Weidman clearly wasn't a marquee name.
During an interview with MMA WEIGH-IN, Weidman stated that he was giving up on the Silva bout for now and focusing on other opponents. A grudge match with Michael Bisping appeared to be the next bout on his agenda.
Silva Finally Agrees to Fight, Weidman Receives Title Shot - March 2013
Good things come to those who wait.
After months of campaigning for a title shot, Weidman revealed to Newsday Silva had finally agreed to the bout at UFC 162 on July Fourth weekend. Silva never showed interest in fighting Weidman, but he also never actually turned down the fight either. The fight was accepted almost immediately when it was offered to him by the UFC.
It didn't take long before the bout caught fire in the public eye. Fans began pouring out their opinions on whether or not Weidman even deserved the title shot. It wasn't until St-Pierre announced his shocking prediction for the fight that a multitude of other fighters and MMA experts began lining up in support of Weidman's chances.
In an interview with Sportsnet, St-Pierre predicted Weidman wouldn't only beat Silva, but he believed the young contender would find a way to finish the fight:
"I've seen [Chris Weidman] in training, and I believe he's going to beat Anderson Silva. I believe he's a bad matchup for Anderson Silva, he's very bad. Not only is he going to beat him, but I believe he's going to finish Anderson Silva."
Judgment Day - July 2013
Stylistically, Weidman is the most dangerous opponent Silva has ever faced in the middleweight division.
When looking back, it's stunning to think that this bout was once considered unmarketable. The UFC owes a big thanks to fighters like St-Pierre who have come forward in support of Weidman's chances against arguably the greatest fighter in MMA history.
Since St-Pierre's testimony, the floodgates have opened with Weidman supporters.
Former UFC lightweight champ Frankie Edgar opted to roll the dice on Weidman during a live chat on UFC.com:
"Gotta go with the East Coast boy Weidman. He's the whole package."
"I think Weidman has an outstanding chance of beating Anderson and becoming the champion... This upset is going to happen and everyone is going to be shocked because they never saw it coming. He's got the best style to beat Anderson of anyone Anderson's faced in the UFC."
In a "Fighter's Predictions" segment, Newsday caught up with UFC stars Daniel Cormier, Dominick Cruz, Johny Hendricks, Michael Bisping and Gray Maynard to get their thoughts on the middleweight title bout:
Cormier – "I think Anderson's takedown defense has improved over the years, but Chris is such a good wrestler he will get the job done. I pick Weidman by decision."
Cruz – "Anderson usually waits in his guard for a chance to escape or counter, but Chris hits hard enough and is active enough to force Anderson to try to get back up fast. That's where I see Weidman winning the fight, in the scramble as Anderson tries to get back up."
Hendricks – "I think Weidman has the style and skills to win this fight and I pick him to win a decision."
Bisping – "With Weidman, I think he's got a hell of a shot at becoming the new champion. Anderson is the greatest of all time, but, believe me, Weidman has a very bad style for him."
Maynard – "Weidman is the only guy I can point to in the division and go 'This guy can do it, this guy can beat Anderson.'"
Weidman is definitely a sexy pick in this fight, but Silva will still enter the Octagon on Saturday night as a heavy favorite. It would be ludicrous to gloss over all of Silva's accomplishments in favor of the "next big thing."
With that said, the overall confidence the MMA community has in Weidman should get fans excited. Does anyone really want to sit through another Silva vs. Stephan Bonnar buildup?
Silva is undoubtedly the best fighter in the world, and Weidman has emerged from the shadows as his ultimate test. This is the kind of fight that could completely reshape the face of the UFC forever.
Win or lose, the entire world will know who Chris Weidman is after UFC 162.
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