When Chris Weidman defeated Anderson Silva to become UFC middleweight champion, most fans were stunned. It was a shocking upset for many to say the least.
But now that we have some distance, it seems that most are wondering if it is permanent.
It’s always a tense moment for fans when it looks like there is going to be a moment of transition; a passing of the torch.
It was that way when Aaron Pryor defeated Alexis Arguello, when Randy Couture defeated Tito Ortiz, when Jermain Taylor defeated Bernard Hopkins and so on.
When a challenger takes the title by force, the first question that comes to mind is usually simple and predictable.
Can he keep the belt like his predecessor?
True ownership of a title is not usually accepted by the fans until the new champion has at least one title defense. Many times the sport of MMA has seen a champion dethroned only to see the new champion toppled in his next fight.
Georges St-Pierre defeated Matt Hughes, only to lose the belt to Matt Serra in his first fight as champion.
And it was the same with Carlos Newton, Ricco Rodriguez, Forrest Griffin, Rashad Evans and more.
Now, everyone is wondering if it will be the same for Chris Weidman. After all, his first title defense is going to be against the best MMA fighter in UFC history.
In examining the question, it broadens a bit. We all know who we are picking to win, but what result would be best for the UFC?
Silva has been a long-standing champion, the longest in UFC history. That kind of name recognition has been very good for the sport and the company.
People are attracted to things that seem constant. They like relying upon a standard, and Silva was a standard of excellence.
He was a champion they could depend on to defend the belt and look incredible doing it; when he wanted to.
Now that he’s been dethroned, people are unsure of what is next. A great many eyes are going to tune in to the rematch to see what happens when the dust settles.
Will it be a return to the status quo with Silva reclaiming the title? Or will they see Weidman cement his position as the new Sheriff on I-185?
In the past, a changing of the guard has been either a blessing or a curse. Gone is the feeling of stability that comes with a long-reigning champion, yet a new sense of wonder is established as well.
To be honest, if Weidman puts Silva down again, it opens up many new possibilities; men like Michael Bisping, Chael Sonnen and others suddenly seem to have a viable shot at winning the belt, which makes for some true drama.
If Silva conquers Weidman, well, a fight against Bisping seems like just another title defense for “The Spider.” And we’ve already seen him best Sonnen twice.
To be brutally honest, both outcomes are good for the sport. If forced to choose between the stability (and artistry) of Silva or the excitement that comes with a new champion and new drama, either hand is a winner.
But there is a third outcome that is desperately needed, no matter who wins the rematch; that of a great fight.
In their last bout, it looked like it was equal parts Silva clowning around and Weidman being a damn good fighter. Personally I favor the latter, but my perspective alone is good for nothing.
It’s what happens in the eyes of the masses that matters, and a great many believe Silva simply shot himself in the foot.
In the rematch, what the sport really needs is for Silva to come out filled with deadly purpose and energy due to the moment. He needs to come out and fight like a true challenger; hungry for something he’s never had.
For Weidman, he needs to go out there with the pure intent to prove to the world that last time was no fluke. He needs to make a statement that leaves no doubt, and that means he needs to try and crush Silva, annihilate him every second of every round.
If both men do this, then no matter who wins, we will have an honest result on a night when more eyes than ever are apt to be watching.
And for a company that proudly wears the label “As real as it gets,” nothing less than a real fight with real bad intentions will do.