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For the first time in a while, UFC middleweight champion, Anderson "The Spider" Silva (33-4) is facing a challenger with a legitimate shot a beating him. Chris "All-American" Weidman (9-0) is a respected and well-rounded fighter set to challenge the legend at UFC 162 in Las Vegas on Saturday.
Weidman talks about his monumental clash with arguably the greatest MMA fighter in history:
That bout alone is enough to make the event worth a look, but the card will also feature other potentially exciting fights. Here is the information you need to watch the event, the full fight card with predictions and analysis for some of the most compelling matchups.
(An asterisk in the prediction section indicates deeper analysis is written below the fight card.)
The Crippler Has Another Good Performance Left in Him
Without a doubt, Chris Leben has seen his best days come and go, but sometimes an aging fighter can catch a break by being matched with an opponent who doesn’t highlight his deficiencies.
We saw it when Wanderlei Silva knocked out Brian Stann at UFC on Fuel TV 8 in March. We’ll see it again when Leben defeats Andrew Craig on Saturday. The Crippler probably won’t stop Craig, but the the former still has formidable power that will set up his underrated ground game in this fight.
Leben discusses his training and upcoming opponent:
Craig has never really been extremely impressive, despite his shiny 8-1 record. He would probably have at least one more loss were it not for Rafael Natal’s carelessness in their bout in July 2012. Natal was outfighting Craig until he lost focus and was stopped with a head kick.
Leben is too experienced to fall victim to a lack of focus, and Craig can’t expose Leben’s diminished speed. Leben will win a decision.
Tim Kennedy Won't Be Intimidated by Gracie Mystique
Two Strikeforce veterans will make their UFC debuts in this intriguing battle.
Roger Gracie is perhaps the most physically gifted of the Gracie family. At 6'4" he has excellent height for the middleweight division, but his submission-dominant style won't be effective against Kennedy.
The latter is an accomplished submissions artist in his own right. More than half of his 15 professional wins have come via submission, including his most recent victory, over Trevor Smith.
Gracie hasn't displayed the ability to strike on the same level as Kennedy. In fact, in Gracie's lone professional loss, Mohammed Lawal knocked him out with a vicious overhand right.
Kennedy's power isn't as explosive as Lawal's, but he should have the quickness advantage in stand-up exchanges. Kennedy will likely capture rounds with his work in these situations and hold his own if the fight goes to the ground.
Frankie "The Answer" Edgar Will Stop His Losing Streak
Believe it or not, the great Frankie Edgar has lost three straight fights. That sounds a lot worse than it actually is considering the level of competition he's faced. Throughout his eventual Hall of Fame career, Edgar has proven that to beat him, you must be elite.
Take a look at the combined record and accomplishments of the men who can say they got the best of The Answer:
Benson Henderson, Jose Aldo and Gray Maynard are the only men to defeat Edgar.
Charles Oliveira is a talented young fighter, but he isn't ready to join this prestigious list. He proved his vulnerability against a solid striker in his recent loss to Cub Swanson. Edgar's quickness and work rate will overwhelm Oliveira in the stand-up game.
The young Brazilian may have a better shot taking the fight to the ground, but Edgar will stave off those attempts to earn a unanimous-decision victory.
The Spider Will Catch Another in His Web
Which fight has the best chance to produce KO of the Night?
Silva fans should be concerned, but not too worried. It's true, Weidman is the type of fighter who could give Silva a serious challenge. He has the physicality that Chael Sonnen possesses as a grappler, but he's a more coordinated athlete, which makes him a better striker.
That said, he can't beat Silva if he doesn't smother him from the beginning of the fight. As good as Weidman can be as a striker (he stopped Mark Munoz and Uriah Hall in his career), he would be playing into Silva's hands if he attempts to stand and strike with him.
If he's successful taking the legend to the mat, he must still be wary of allowing himself to fall victim to Silva's formidable submission skills.
There are a ton of things for Weidman to consider in this fight, and he's never been on a stage this big. Silva has been fighting these types of fights for years. He's headlined every UFC event he's been in for the last three years.
Silva's time to give way to a young lion may be coming, but it won't happen on Saturday night. Look for Weidman to try to prove himself the superior striker and for Silva to remind him how dangerous his knees can be.
The spider will retain his title with a KO victory.
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