UFC 168: Chris Weidman vs. Anderson Silva Head-to-Toe Breakdown
In July, Chris Weidman ended Anderson Silva's middleweight title reign of nearly seven years. At UFC 166, The Spider will attempt to reclaim his spot atop the 185-pound division.
Weidman was touted as a future champion by jiu-jitsu coach Matt Serra before his UFC career even began. However, not even Serra could have predicted Weidman would be the one to dethrone Silva or that he'd do so with striking.
Unbeaten in his first 16 UFC bouts, Silva was and still is widely considered the greatest striker in UFC history. Nonetheless, Weidman caught the legend with a left hook while being taunted and stole the middleweight crown.
At 38 years old, Silva is now out to prove his first UFC defeat was more fluke than the beginning of the end. Where Silva's career heads now depends on his performance at UFC 168, which will be held at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas on Dec. 28.
As this hugely important 185-pound bout approaches, here is a look at how Weidman and Silva match up in all areas.
Chris Weidman knocked Anderson Silva out cold the first time around, but things could play out much differently at UFC 168 depending on the former champion's approach.
In his original fight with Weidman, Silva was doing more showboating than fighting.
It wasn't the first time The Spider kept his hands low and taunted an adversary, but it was the first time he paid for doing so inside the Octagon. Strategically, Silva often starts slow and baits opponents to find opening for counters he can use later on.
After being knocked out at UFC 162, Silva will finally be forced to truly respect an opponent's striking abilities. Does that mean he won't open up defensively and keep his hands low at times?
No, he almost certainly will.
What Silva won't do, though, is treat Weidman like he doesn't belong in the Octagon with him. If he does, the Brazilian will not be reclaiming his middleweight championship any time soon.
Landing 67 percent of his significant strikes thrown, Silva is the most accurate striker in UFC history. If he throws, he'll land on Weidman. With the greatest middleweight in MMA history, especially when it comes to striking, he usually just needs to show up.
Silva seemingly didn't show up in July, and he was still only touched by 37 percent of Weidman's strike attempts while landing 59 percent of his own attacks. With a little more focus on footwork than swaying to avoid strikes, Silva should avoid being caught on his heels like he was when Weidman blasted him with a left hook to end his long title reign.
Chris Weidman may have finished Anderson Silva with boxing at UFC 162, but his most telling accomplishment in that original meeting may have been an early takedown.
Despite the way the first bout between Weidman and Silva ended, The Spider is going to be tough to beat when standing. If Weidman does plan on having success with his striking again, he'll need to keep Silva thinking about defending takedowns.
Over the past four years, Weidman is the only fighter other than Chael Sonnen to successfully take Silva down. That is impressive considering the Brazilian has also fought the likes of Yushin Okami and Demian Maia over that time period.
Silva's wrestling has been frequently questioned since he nearly lost to Sonnen at UFC 117. However, having shut down 80 percent of takedown attempts against him, the former champion has some of the best defensive wrestling in UFC middleweight history.
Weidman has never once been shut out in the wrestling department, though.
The 29-year-old has scored 14 takedowns in six UFC fights, recording at least one in each of those appearances. If Silva starts slow again, Weidman should have no problem scoring a takedown in the first round.
What he does with that takedown, and whether he can find continued success with his wrestling before Silva warms up, will be a big factor in determining what direction this rematch takes.
Considering how hard Anderson Silva can be to take down and the risks faced should he be allowed to stand again, one can understand why Chael Sonnen was not overly aggressive from the top position in his two meetings with the MMA legend.
Chris Weidman took an entirely different approach on the ground against Silva, though.
After taking the jiu-jitsu black belt down in the first round, Weidman attempted to secure a heel hook and gave up control in the process. It didn't end up hurting him on that occasion, but Weidman needs to be more cautious about giving Silva opportunities to escape this time around.
Submitting Silva is not impossible, as he was forced to tap twice prior to joining the UFC roster. However, with how quickly he rose to the top of the middleweight division, Weidman didn't have many opportunities to prove he's capable of submitting elite 185-pounders.
With that in mind, taking chances on the ground against a feared striker like Silva doesn't seem like an overly beneficial strategy for Weidman. Without the history of lapses in his submission defense that Chael Sonnen has, the champion should focus on control when on top.
That may mean fighting off submissions from Silva's guard, but Weidman will be in less danger doing that than he would be in when standing with the former champion looking to prove he's still the best MMA striker in the world.
Chris Weidman did not show any signs of being overwhelmed by the magnitude of his first fight with Anderson Silva. However, he'll now face a new kind of pressure as he looks to maintain his middleweight championship.
Meanwhile, some pressure may now be off Silva's shoulders.
Obviously, the former champion will be looking to answer critics who feel his age has finally caught up with him. However, that's no sweat compared to the idea of having to prolong the end of the longest title run in UFC history.
More notably, Weidman came out with guns blazing in his first fight with Silva. Conversely, we may not have seen the best version of The Spider in July. Will a more focused Silva completely change the way these fighters match up?
That may be the most important variable heading into this rematch.
It's not too often fighters are considered favorites in rematches with opponents who knocked them out brutally the first time around.
Then again, there's also not usually reason to believe the fighter who lost would perform markedly in the second meeting. In the minds of many, though, that is the case with Anderson Silva, who didn't appear to give his all back in July. Vegas Insider has Silva as a -125 favorite, while Weidman is a +105 underdog.
Is it highly unlikely Chris Weidman comes out and runs through a 38-year-old Silva even quicker than he did five months ago?
Not at all.
One way or another, Weidman is probably going to be the future of the middleweight division. Still, at UFC 168, Silva is equally capable of showing he still has enough left in the tank to stand atop the 185-pound class for a little bit longer.
Silva defeats Weidman by (T)KO in the second round.
Statistics via UFC.com.