When they face off again at UFC 168, Chris Weidman is going to prove he is the legitimate middleweight champion, regardless of the bizarre circumstances surrounding his previous win over Anderson Silva.
Back in July, Silva entered UFC 162 as the heavy favorite to defend his middleweight belt. The Spider had won his last 17 fights, had been middleweight champion since 2006 and had defended that title 10 times; both the win and defense streaks were UFC records.
On the other hand, All-American Weidman was undefeated in his mixed martial arts career, albeit in only nine bouts. The expectation was that he, like all the other hungry challengers, would succumb to Silva's combination of striking ability and mind games and fall.
Then this happened:
A little over a minute into the second round (and a little over 20 minutes into the above video), Silva got cocky.
Weidman, who prefers grappling to stand-up fighting, could not get his opponent on the ground, so the Spider tried to bait him into a mistake. But Silva focused too much on goading and didn't respect his opponent's punch, giving Weidman the opportunity to land a devastating punch to his chin.
The champ's head bucked back, he fell and Weidman kept raining punches on him. It was over in just a few seconds, and All-American was the new champ by a most unlikely knockout.
So let's just assume that Weidman's not going to win that easily this time. The mockery is part of Silva's strategy, but it does not necessitate he underestimate his foe. After hitting the mat the first time, he's not going to do that again.
Silva was able to keep his challenger off the ground in part because that was his sole focus. He wanted to get leverage and stand Weidman up, and the Spider succeeded at that. Now Silva has to trust his stand-up offensive to keep Weidman reeling so that All-American can't drop down and attack his legs.
But that newfound respect from Silva also works in Weidman's favor.
After showing he doesn't have to wrestle to win, Weidman will be more likely to have an opportunity to fight in his preferred style. Silva's kicks are too quick for Weidman to counter and take him down that way, but if he can land a couple good blows he can create an opening for himself to take Silva down.
If he can dictate the style of the fight, Weidman has a real chance to submit Silva. In 10 career matches, he has submitted his opponent three times, while three of Silva's five losses have come by submission. For seven years, Silva was too dominant to be beaten that way, but Weidman has the talent to pull it off.
Even at 38 years old, Silva is one of the best pound-for-pound fighters in the world and a formidable challenger for the middleweight title. But Weidman, while not the martial artist Silva is, can counter his opponent's strength and fight back with his own.
It won't be as electrifying or as shocking as the first win, and it will likely come down to decision, but as long as Weidman still has the belt in the end, he'll take it.
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