Though the timing seemed less than ideal, Chris Weidman still pursued his dream of capturing UFC gold in July, refusing to let former pound-for-pound king Anderson Silva beat him before the bell at UFC 162.
With just five UFC fights under his belt—and in the midst of the most tumultuous and trying period of his life—Weidman accepted the challenge to lock horns with the seemingly unstoppable Silva.
Weidman ultimately diffused the intense pressure and silenced his doubters by beating "The Spider" at his own game in just his 10th pro fight. The 29-year-old New Yorker handed the Brazilian his first career knockout and snatched the middleweight belt that Silva had held since 2006.
Now financially stable, healthy and focused solely on Silva, fans can expect a more refined, venomous and well-prepared Weidman at UFC 168 on Dec. 28.
Which fighter will show up more improved for the main event of UFC 168?
"The All-American" not only underwent labrum surgery eight months prior to UFC 162, but he was also dealing with the destruction of his home by Hurricane Sandy. On top of that, Weidman had to make the trek to Las Vegas in July without cornerman and former UFC welterweight champ Matt Serra.
Two months after beating Silva, John Danaher, one of Weidman's jiu-jitsu coaches, colorfully explained to Chuck Mindenhall of MMAFighting.com the severity of The All-American's situation prior to UFC 162.
He was essentially homeless. He was financially completely bankrupt. I remember I had to lend Chris thousands of dollars out of my own pocket just to keep him solvent while he’s preparing to fight Silva. And his life was essentially in chaos.
One day when people know the full story of what happened, I’m not kidding when I say this, it’s like a goddamn Hollywood movie. It’s Rocky Balboa. It’s insane. The guy had nine fights. Bankrupt. Homeless. With a completely broken shoulder.
If Weidman's life was in disarray before UFC 162, the former NCAA Division I All-American wrestler definitely concealed those problems from the Silva camp.
In fact, Weidman baffled many and coolly predicted that he'd not only best the seemingly invincible Silva, but that he'd finish him and then offer him an immediate rematch.
Weidman appears to have brewed a more genuine brand of swagger before his rematch with The Spider. During his pre-fight interview for UFC 168, the Brazilian jiu-jitsu brown belt brashly revealed his game plan for the rematch.
I’m gonna prove it again. I’m telling Anderson Silva my game plan. This is my game plan. I’m gonna walk forward, I’m gonna put pressure on him, I’m gonna cut him off. If he has his hands down, I’m punching him in his face. If he has his hands up and he’s expecting me to punch him in his face, I’m taking him down.
I’m not afraid to get hit. I’m going to be walking forward with my chin down and my teeth gritted, and I don’t care what he throws at me, I’m gonna be there.
Because Silva now must respect Weidman's striking capabilities, the 38-year-old Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt will be more vulnerable to takedowns in the rematch.
Still, Silva has yet to suffer back-to-back setbacks in his illustrious career, and many of his fans contend that the loss to Weidman only happened because of his typical in-fight antics. Those same supporters firmly believe that the rematch will feature a different and more professional version of Silva, one that will offer Weidman no opportunities to repeat his actions from UFC 162.
But Weidman evolved radically from his first pro bout in February 2009 to his UFC debut in March 2011. And with every UFC win since he's become cleaner, more technically sound and more confident.
Akin to Weidman's fellow UFC champs, fans and pundits can anticipate seeing better versions of The All-American unveiled every time he graces the Octagon.