The way some fans and media talk about Anderson Silva these days—forever it seems actually—you would think that when Chris Weidman enters the cage against him at UFC 162, he’s putting himself at as much risk as Nik Wallenda did two weeks ago tightrope walking over the Grand Canyon.
They speak of any fighter taking a bout with Silva as a cautionary tale and embellish every one of his victories as if it were a chapter from a Brothers Grimm story.
During last week’s UFC 162 conference call, a reporter asked Weidman if he hired a mental coach for his upcoming fight against Silva.
While it is quite common for major-sport athletes to hire sport psychologists to help with their mental approach to their sport, this question seemed to imply that Weidman would need extreme mental preparation because he’s facing Silva, i.e., risking his life.
Maybe someone should’ve asked Weidman—who by the way, owns a degree in psychology—if he feels better now that his father will be with him, because it will be dark when he walks out to the Octagon; or if he has informed his wife and children he may not return from Vegas alive. That’s how silly the question was and how ridiculous the overall conversation has become in regards to Silva.
Last time I checked, Weidman won’t be fighting Jason Voorhes on July 6, and when he gets in the cage in Las Vegas this weekend, Silva won’t be wielding a machete either. He’ll be fitted with the same four-ounce gloves that Weidman will be wearing.
Yes, Silva is arguably the most dangerous striker the sport as ever seen. Dangerous, as in an opponent can lose or get knocked out by him, not carted off in an ambulance or have last rites read to them. To quote Tony Burton’s character Duke from the movie Rocky IV, “He’s not a machine, he’s a man.”
Silva has found himself in compromising positions before, been on the receiving end of strikes—some of which have knocked him down—and has fell victim to takedowns. Although we have seen some sublime performances from him, flawless he is not.
Credit must be given to his 16-fight win streak. It’s remarkable and unequivocally the best title run in UFC history. While he has beaten all his opponents, there is quite a bit of revisionist history that forgets that he didn’t defeat all of his opponents in 30 seconds flat and that not all of them were exactly top-tier competition.
Yes, Silva has displayed a high level of skill. That can’t be argued against, but some of his fights were over before they ever began. Forrest Griffin and Yushin Okami gave up when they faced the champion, and both Thales Leites and Demian Maia stayed away from Silva like he was the third rail on the subway tracks. That’s called intimidation. They made it easy for Silva—by getting psyched out and not trying to the best of their abilities.
Aside from his other attributes, Weidman has confidence—a necessary ingredient that many others were missing when facing the champion. Not many fighters have openly asked to fight Silva. Weidman wants the challenge, and possesses a skill set strongly suited to match up well against the areas where we have seen Silva most vulnerable.
While many experts feel that the long layoff will be a deterrent for the challenger, the flip side is that he has had a year to solely focus on dethroning the UFC middleweight king.
Silva has had a year to prepare as well, unless you count the TKO victory over Stephan Bonnar in October as being more than the equivalent of a sparring session. He will be ready, is considered the favorite and has a considerable edge in experience. However, that doesn’t mean Weidman can’t win even if he only has five fights in the UFC. After all, Silva fought for the title in just his second fight for the promotion.
Look at the line for the fight. Silva is a -240 favorite (according to Bovada). That is a particularly low line, especially for a Silva fight. Perhaps the oddsmakers are no longer subscribing to the perpetuating myth of how Silva can’t be beaten.
Weidman isn't—and neither are several of his peers. He knows that he's not facing something super natural or fighting Neo from The Matrix. He’s heading to UFC 162 to fight a man who happens to be the 185-pound champion, not a machine.
Michael Stets is a Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report.