The matchup is one of great importance. It pits an aging star against an up-and-coming one. It has implications for possible future superfights. And, of course, it will play a major role in shaping the landscape of the middleweight division.
While no other UFC 162 matchup is on par with the main event for relevance in any sense, Silva vs. Weidman is not the only bout that will influence the direction of the 185-pound class. All told, there are four meaningful middleweight pairings, the results of which will define champions, challengers and fringe competitors moving forward.
Here we will take a look at each middleweight contest scheduled for UFC 162 and assess what it means to the division and to the UFC as a whole.
Anderson Silva vs. Chris Weidman
Anytime two fighters compete for a UFC title, the divisional implications are rather obvious. The same can be said for anytime Silva, often regarded as the greatest mixed martial artist of all time, competes.
But there is more to the UFC 162 main event than a title or legacy on the line. The fight represents a potential succession of middleweight kings.
Weidman has been dubbed the middleweight heir-apparent. Even amongst those already counting on another Silva blowout at UFC 162, there are many who foresee UFC gold in the challenger's future.
In a sense, UFC 162 marks a critical moment for Weidman as well as the entire middleweight class. Either he takes down Silva and begins what could be a long and decisive reign, or he learns one final lesson before he is indeed ready to ascend the throne.
Silva vs. Weidman could be a tipping point for the middleweight division as well as the UFC as an organization. The promotion could see its most accomplished employee fall for the first time under its banner, while a replacement rises from his ashes on site.
Or, Silva could just send Weidman packing, in which case we're probably looking at the demise of the last novel contender for the middleweight crown. At least for the rest of the year.
However, another fresh challenger could emerge on Saturday night.
Roger Gracie vs. Tim Kennedy
Gracie vs. Kennedy could supply some fresh blood to the middleweight title scene. Both are Strikeforce imports of moderate renown who could propel themselves forward with a win at UFC 162.
Whatever the result, the career trajectories of each combatant will be well-defined this Saturday. The victor will move to the division's upper crust, where he will have the opportunity to be a part of some meaningful bouts over the next 12 months. The loser will have a lot of damage control to work out.
Regardless of who fills what role, the introduction of Gracie and Kennedy represents a boon in talent at middleweight, and both guys carry personas that could make them future stars.
Mark Munoz vs. Tim Boetsch
Both Munoz and Boetsch have been saddled with the "overrated" label in the recent past and are coming off losses. That means we are likely to see one drop out of relevancy at 185, at least for a time.
On the other hand, an impressive win could be enough to reassert either guy back into the title picture. The victor would still have work to do, but a big knockout or crafty submission would certainly go a long way.
Andrew Craig vs. Chris Leben
You're probably thinking this one isn't that important to the middleweight landscape. And you're right—the result won't make much of an impact.
It's a chance for Leben, a longtime fan favorite, to stay relevant, though. It's also an opportunity for Craig to get back some of the momentum he lost when he ran into Ronny Markes.
There's probably no need to prescribe any more meaning to this one than that.
The Bottom Line
With four middleweight contests of varying consequence, UFC 162 is something of a crossroads for the 185-pound division.
The outcome will determine who the champ is, who the contenders are and who clings to relevancy. The impact of the event will ripple through many levels of the class and both shape the Top 10 and inform a handful of meaningful fights—including superfights and title fights—in the near future.
With the right combination of winners, the division's direction could more or less stay the course with an added contender from the Gracie vs. Kennedy fight. But should the chips fall another way, this could be a pivotal moment for the UFC.