In the most anticipated rematch in MMA history, Chris Weidman will defend his UFC middleweight title against Anderson Silva at UFC 168 on Saturday night. While most gave Weidman a snowball's chance of winning in Las Vegas the first time they fought, we've seen both things happen and have come to accept that anything is possible.
Silva, a challenger for the first time since 2006, lost his gold by clowning around and getting caught. There's no telling how he'll react to that in the rematch.
Leave no doubt.
Here are five things to watch for on Saturday night.
It's not a secret that Weidman is a capable grappler. He's a wrestling standout who took to jiu-jitsu enthusiastically and got real good, real fast. Some even think that his MMA game is better than Silva's in that the American has a more developed approach to working strikes and submission attempts together in a free-flowing style.
Fans saw little of that in the first fight, but Weidman was utterly dominant. He pounded on Silva from guard, half guard and side control, and he was more than willing to attack with submissions.
His ground game could play an even bigger role in the rematch.
It's almost impossible to predict anything about this fight, which is an odd place to be considering that the two men have been in the Octagon together before. That said, if any bet is worth taking, it's that Anderson Silva is going to play around at some point in the rematch.
It may be brief, punctuated by an eruption of violence or end up with him getting clipped again, but it's going to happen.
Silva became the greatest of all time by embracing the hands-down, movement-heavy approach to striking, and he spent a long time swimming with it before it sunk him. He has repeatedly said that he went overboard against Weidman the first time, but he doesn't need to abandon it completely.
He will play those games again in the second bout.
One of the most appealing parts of this matchup is that the two men—although different in almost every element of MMA—are the same in one important way: They aren't afraid to take risks.
It's nothing to see Weidman plunge on a leg or a standing guillotine if he thinks he can get it, and it's nothing to see Silva with his hands down and his back against the fence in a calculated risk to pre-emptively defend a takedown.
These two guys understand that victory at the highest level is unattainable without great risk, and they'll both put that mentality into practice at a moment's notice.
Expect both to take risks at UFC 168.
In a weird way, Weidman's victory over Silva has been almost overshadowed by the way it happened. And by "almost," I mean "utterly and completely."
Considering that he dusted the greatest fighter in the history of the sport in spectacular fashion—beating him at his own game no less—that has to pose something of an issue for the proud Long Islander. Weidman is a highly competitive and motivated warrior who wants people to see that he's no fluke.
It's hard to say how that attitude could affect him, assuming it even exists in the first place, but it's something to keep an eye on. He didn't appreciate the lack of respect that Silva showed for his stand-up the first time, but he tempered his emotions perfectly on his way to a win.
Whether or not he can do that again, with a larger emotional storm brewing, should be interesting to watch.
Anderson Silva is 38 years old, and regardless of the outcome in his Weidman rematch, he'll have nothing left to prove when it's over.
If he wins, he will vanquish the only man to beat him in the UFC, leveling the score and proving that his July mishap was nothing more than that.
If he loses, he will show that there is a new guard in the 185-pound class and that he can't beat the man with the belt.
Either way, what's left? Rematches? Knocking off up-and-comers just for something to do? Fighting friends like Lyoto Machida or Ronaldo "Jacare" Souza just to keep Dana White happy?
It's hard to say for sure, but UFC 168 may be the last time that the world sees Silva in the Octagon, regardless of the outcome. If it is, take solace in knowing that you got to see the best martial artist since Bruce Lee in his prime, and he's going home for a well-earned rest.