In 20 years of watching MMA, Anderson "The Spider" Silva is the best I've ever seen. The only fighters who are proportionately in his category are Fedor Emelianenko and Royce Gracie—though Jon Jones is fast approaching this status.
Even with such a high level of admiration for Silva, I wasn't shocked that Chris Weidman beat him at UFC 162. I was, however, surprised at the way it happened.
Weidman is a young, well-rounded fighter with very good power and excellent wrestling. A clean win that symbolized a changing of the guard was what most who favored Weidman expected.
Instead, we got a muddled result after Silva got himself clocked while clowning in the Octagon. Silva is 38 years old; could it just be time for the next champion to begin his reign?
Thanks to the odd and abrupt ending to the first fight, there is a legitimate question as to whether we saw a changing of the guard or if Silva just served a serious wake-up call.
It was the latter.
As strong as Weidman is, Silva is still good enough on the ground to survive his assault. Most importantly, a plugged in Silva can and will out-strike Weidman. The All-American's time is coming, but he'll have to wait a little while longer before he enjoys a lengthy reign as UFC middleweight champion.
Silva will win the rematch.
That's my take, but it seems the predictions are all over the place when writers and fighters have been polled.
Miguel Barragan of MMA Convert wrote:
"Without the utter disrespect for Weidman’s power and accuracy Silva showed in their first bout, I would go as far as to put my money where my mouth is and place a bet on Silva to win the rematch."
Silva was landing and making Weidman miss early in the fight. The champion did win the first round with aggressive wrestling, but Silva will likely be more prepared for that attack in the rematch. He's shown the ability to add wrinkles to his game over the years.
Seeing something new from The Spider on Saturday shouldn't surprise anyone.
Brett Okamoto of ESPN is the only one of four polled writers on the site who tabbed Silva as his pick in the rematch.
In the video below, six of the 10 current UFC fighters who were asked picked Silva to win. To a man—and one woman—all cited Silva coming in more serious and focused for the rematch.
In addition to the four fighters who picked Weidman in the video above and three ESPN analysts, there are two other fighters who strongly believe Weidman will win on Saturday night.
While breaking down the fight for MMA Junkie/USA Today Sports, UFC bantamweight champion Dominick Cruz says he likes Weidman because of his well-rounded attack but also because he's not intimidated by The Spider.
Former welterweight champion, Matt Serra echoed Cruz's sentiments. He took it even further when he said this to Sherdog's Beatdown radio show:
"Chris is going to be the champ for a while, I believe. I believe he’s going to win this rematch and I believe he’s going to do it in brutal fashion.”
There is no doubt Weidman has the tools to give Silva another defeat, but this time he won't be able to catch The Spider with his hands down.
If he gets him, he'll have earned it, and there will be no questions asked.
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