You know nothing about how the rematch will play out. Then again, you probably know everything.
Normally in the fight game, so called "experts," and the lay fan too, have at least a modicum of insight into how a fight might play out.
In this corner we have a hulking wrestler, and in the opposite corner we have a scintillating striker. Can the wrestler take the striker to the ground enough times to win via judges decision—maybe finish with some ground-and-pound—or will the striker keep things upright long enough to get the knock out?
With the curious case of Chris Weidman vs. Anderson Silva 2, we have just that. Weidman is that hulking wrestler. And Silva is that scintillating striker. But they are so much more than that, too.
Not only with the respective physical tools they possess—and all their intangibles—but with how they ply their trade at such a high level inside the cage. Most importantly, the mental moxy (if you will) they have both wired into themselves somewhere along the way.
Anything can, and just might, happen in their rematch.
In their first fight, which you can view here, Silva trotted out his normal juke-and-jive routine.
The purpose being to taunt his opponent to throw them off their game. Get them to start swinging at him, a guy who cannot be hit, so he can counterstrike his way into their heart and squeeze it until it stops beating. But for those who've been watching Silva 'dance-and-prance' for years, it felt like something more.
Whether it was just Silva being himself plus a little icing on the cake, him disrespecting Weidman because he felt disrespected that so many were picking the challenger in the upset or the "heavy is the head that wears the crown" theory and he was simply looking for a way to lose, Silva took it too far—and for that, he paid dearly.
It cost him his status as champion. But he was more than just a champ. He was the greatest MMA belt holder of all time, having successfully defended it over the course of seven years and 14 foes.
He also gave up having never been knocked out in his record-breaking career. And he was not just knocked out, he was embarrassingly so—getting blasted while in character, that character looking like a jackass to many when Weidman's left hand, clenched tight, landed flush on Silva's face.
Silva's body, unhinged, like all his bones had left his body—like someone pulled the plug on an appliance and it just quit working—unraveling backward to meet the unforgiving Octagon floor. Weidman finished Silva off with some ground-and-pound that had "go f**k yourself" written across his gloves, because, well, he felt Silva had been disrespectful to him during the entire course of the fight.
Weidman don't play that juke-and-jive game, no sir he does not.
In the post-fight speech, Silva gave the impression he was retiring, only to sign on for the rematch a few weeks later. No doubt, Dana White applied the right amount of pressure and flashed the appropriate amount of dollar signs for Silva to run it back at least one more time. One more time translates to what some are calling the biggest and/or most important fight in UFC history.
So yeah, uh, what is going to happen in this rematch? Your guess is as good as mine. There is literally not one thing that will happen before, during or after the fight that should leave anyone surprised.
Be that as it may, the following slides offer some thoughts on what could happen, some of which probably will in fact happen.
Anderson Silva is a performance artist. He has always been a strange songbird. His favorite musical artist is Michael Jackson. Silva is not going to just stop being himself—he is even telling us as much.
Check out this recent video (h/t:MMAJunkie) to hear it straight from the horse's mouth. Of course, Silva could just be talking, and maybe he goes totally straight-laced in the rematch—we never know what we are going to get out of this mercurial character. That said, it is safe to assume he will present some iteration of his "hokey pokey" dance (as I like to call it).
Unless Silva just really does not care about winning his belt back, or wants to throw complete caution to the wind for whatever reason he might have, he is going to need to reign in his in-cage theatrics and present them in a more measured form.
Not all of Silva's "matrix" moves are bad, mind you. He should still showboat—but just enough to gauge distance and not enough to put him in harm's way.
But there are some things he should hit the delete button on.
One of the things—which he did in the first fight—was that he let Weidman hit him free of charge. While most of the punches Weidman landed had no measurable effect, it was the last one, the only one that mattered, when Silva was on wobbly legs and leaning backward, that measured off the Richter scale.
While it may be fun for Silva to show the crowd that he can swallow a few punches—hell, maybe it actually winds him up for later in the fight—he should scrap that from his bag of trickster tricks.
He also needs to tighten up his muay thai and kickboxing and be more aggressive when he does attack.
In the first fight, Silva was swinging his legs around like he was getting extra credit for how high and far he could jut them. While Silva proved he is much more dexterous than just about anyone ever, it simply kept him from taking his stand up seriously.
Tightening up his stand-up game too much could obviously backfire.
Silva needs to do what he needs to do to warm up inside the cage so he can activate his killer instinct for a finishing move at some point. If he is too stiff, beyond muting his savage nature for finishing strikes later on, it would allow the aggressive Weidman to set up his takedowns more easily.
Silva need to strike the right balance between silly and stiff in the rematch. The first fight saw him basically dancing and acting like a court jester, broken up by a single leg kick or jab. So it was an extreme of silly and stiff, if you will.
The key in the rematch is to be measured, surgical and then go for the finish when it is there. He will need to come at Weidman with combinations, while showing a little more respect for Weidman's striking, and of course avoid the takedowns as he is able to.
Even though Weidman won the fight via his striking, he does not want the rematch to be contested mostly on its feet. Especially if Silva takes his striking seriously this time around.
While Weidman is certainly a competent striker, his bread and butter (where he is dominant) is in the wrestling department. And while Silva is better at stopping the takedown than most give him credit for, Weidman is not the average opponent Silva has faced when it comes to wrestling (a better version of Chael Sonnen people like to say).
Many thought Silva vs. Weidman 1 would play out similarly to Silva's first fight with Sonnen. Sonnen took Silva down ad nauseam—from the opening bell through Round 5, Silva could not stop Sonnen from putting him on his back.
Of course, we know that Sonnen is not the best at defending the submission, and with just two minutes left in their mostly on-sided war at UFC 117, Silva "The Spider" was able to wrap his legs around Sonnen's neck and force a finish.
Weidman has better submission defense—at least as far as we have seen so far—and he also has better ground-and-pound, something else Sonnen lacked in terms of ability to finish a fight.
The obvious reason ground-and-pound is important is because it allows you to finish your opponent while you are on top of him. But beyond that, it allows you to tire your opponent out so either you can more easily finish him when the fight returns to a standing position or can soften your opponent up and more easily set up an advantageous position to pull off a fight-ending submission.
Weidman, of course, is pretty deft with submissions. He nearly submitted Silva in the first fight with a kneebar when the fight was on the ground and they were tangled up, scrambling for dominant position.
In theory, the more takedowns Weidman can pull of, and the more time the fight is contested on the ground, the better this fight will go for Weidman. It is not unrealistic to predict that Weidman could finish this fight by ground-and-pound or submission. He cannot get completely reckless, as Silva is a legitimate black belt, and if Weidman finds himself in the precarious position, he could be the one getting submitted.
In the first round of their first fight, Weidman was able to take Silva down easily, which led to the ground skirmish—a clash that Weidman won. It is worth noting now that in the second round, Silva shucked off Weidman's opening takedown attempt, which normally would be a death sentence for a Silva opponent (think Silva vs. Sonnen rematch at UFC 147).
But Silva continued trying to play cat and mouse with Weidman—versus looking to finish the fight—and we all know what came from that. If Silva takes the rematch more seriously, and Weidman cannot stick more than one takedown, it very well could spell the end for the All-American champ.
The last two slides set the stage for this one.
We are going to say that Silva does in fact take his striking seriously, and at some point, late first round or early second, begins to mark up Weidman's face—and body—with a combination of punches and kicks—and maybe some knees and elbows.
Some may say that is is disrespectful to Weidman to suggest that Silva taking his striking more seriously will effect the outcome. That Weidman is simply the better fighter from head-to-toe and he will win no matter what Silva does. For those that think that, fair enough. We will all find out soon.
But let's not forget who Anderson Silva is and what he can bring with his striking. He has dropped his opponents to the Octagon canvas floor a record 17 times, resulting in 11 total knockouts (also a record).
It's not like Weidman was a magician on his feet, completely befuddling the then-champ with some sort of advanced striking offense and/or defense.
In fact, the then-challenger often followed Silva around, at times leaving his hands down and completely exposing himself. At times, it felt like Silva would slice right through Weidman...but alas, that did not happen.
Credit Weidman for that if you want. Maybe Weidman had a small facial tick, or tilted his left shoulder in a clandestine way that really did throw Silva off his game and caused him to short-circuit and eventually spiral out of control.
By all accounts, Weidman did nothing special on his feet—other than knock Silva out cold, of course.
If he did something right, it was that he did not freak out in reaction to Silva's hyperbolic movements; he mostly, for all intents and purposes, kept his composure and stayed in his range (he did have a few of his own exaggerated moments though).
This time around, with Silva more focused, he will start to damage Weidman. And then the instincts of Weidman will kick in and he will go to his wrestling. Whether or not he can consistently land takedowns, as we have referenced already, is likely the biggest key to which way this fight falls.
In the second round of the first fight, Silva took his "taunting" to another level, and then Weidman shockingly knocked him out. Expect neither of those extremes in the rematch. Silva's taunting, less spastic, and you can bet the farm Weidman is not knocking him out again (or is he?!).
So, let us look to the first round to give us a better sample size of what the rematch might look like.
In the first three minutes, Weidman took Silva to the ground, unleashed some effective ground-and-pound, gave up top control to go for a submission that looked legit for awhile, only to see Silva escape and have the fight return to its feet.
In the final two minutes, Silva actually showed some flashes of good striking; it is vintage Silva for him to feel his opponent out before going for the kill. That is how the second half of Round 1 was shaping up, and you had the feeling Silva was going to finish Weidman in the second frame. Especially after he stuffed Weidman's first and only takedown attempt.
Keys For Weidman:
Get the takedown, of course. He would be smart not to go for such a dramatic move like he did when going for the submission attempt. Instead, he should stay in top control and continue grounding and pounding Silva. He wants to tire Silva out as much as possible in the first round so it will be easier to set up his takedown attempts in Rounds 2 through 5 (assuming it goes that long).
By grounding and pounding—versus going for submission attempts—it also increases the chances of Silva not being able to escape and get the fight to its feet or getting a submission attempt of his own. Weidman needs to think "rinse, wash and repeat" with his game plan—like Sonnen vs. Silva in their first fight—and look to wear the Brazilian down with a steady diet of takedowns and measured but aggressive ground-and-pound. His game plan should be for a decision win, but if he breaks Silva physically and/or mentally, he can go for the kill when it is there.
Keys For Silva:
Do what only he knows. Tap into his chi energy, the kind that only he has. Start out slow and measured. Feel Weidman out. Avoid the takedown. If he cannot avoid it, let him have it, and it should work off his back smartly. Throw strikes from his back and go for a submission if it is there. Do not expend too much energy, though.
Work to get the fight back to its feet as he can. If the first round ends with Silva on his back, he needs to be ready and reset for Round 2. Be more aggressive in defending the takedown and get more aggressive with striking. Look for the finish when it is there. If Weidman gets a takedown again, keep your cool, like in the first fight with Sonnen. At some point, he will have an opening for a strike finish or sub attempt. Wait for it and then pounce.
The first two rounds of this rematch will likely be a combination of Weidman landing takedowns and dishing out some ground-and-pound with Silva mixing in some effective striking. He will land enough strikes to break Weidman down more than Weidman will break Silva down via the ground-and-pound.
Weidman will start to tire and it will be harder for him to land his takedowns. That translates into more time where the fight is contested standing, which will eventually give Silva the opening he needs to land a barrage of strikes or some game-changing knee or elbow.
It is tempting to pick Silva to finish Weidman in the second round, like he could have done (in theory) in their first fight had he taken things more seriously, but let's give Silva the TKO in the third or fourth, because hopefully we will see an even better version of Weidman the second time around.
Weidman will land enough takedowns to drag the fight into deeper waters, but unfortunately for him, he won't be able to finish Silva—unless he can clamp on stealth submission—and so dragging the match into deeper waters will ultimately allow Silva to beat up Weidman enough to eventually set up a finish.
This prediction is fully predicated on the belief that Silva will be on top of his game both physically and mentally. If he is simply not into fighting anymore, and took this rematch because he was coerced by the UFC and/or simply wanted one more pay day, then of course Weidman will win again and march forward into a fight with a testosterone-enhanced, via TRT "therapy," Vitor Belfort.
Official prediction (and hoping for an all-out back-and-forth war): Silva, TKO, Rd. 4
The only question that remains resides on the next slide...
Anderson Silva is a riddle wrapped in a mystery inside an enigma. So, we really do not know what he will do.
If he beats Weidman and recaptures his belt, it would make sense for him to fight on. But nothing with Silva makes sense. And we just saw fellow great Georges St-Pierre vacate his welterweight belt, so there is that.
If he loses to Weidman, it would make much more sense for him to hang up his gloves. But maybe he decides to fight on and take "interesting" fights at middleweight, drop to welterweight just because or move up to light heavyweight now that his training partner Lyoto Machida has dropped down to middleweight.
All bets are off with Silva. All we do know is that, win or lose, retire or no retire, Silva will go down as the greatest mixed martial artist of all time—at least until someone bigger and better, be it Chris Weidman or Jon Jones—surpasses the beautiful violence that Silva left in his wake.