Chris Weidman: What Might 2014 Have in Store for Him?

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Chris Weidman: What Might 2014 Have in Store for Him?
Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Spor

UFC middleweight linchpin Chris Weidman deservedly smiled and rejoiced following his second win over former pound-for-pound king Anderson Silva at UFC 168 on Saturday night.

After all, "The All-American" had just silenced the drones of critics that doubted him in the months leading up to the rematch, and it seemed only right for him to wear a grin even after the gruesome and career-changing injury Silva suffered in the process.

Sporting the same blue Bad Boy trunks he wore during his win at UFC 162, Weidman looked genuinely relieved in the aftermath of his second win over Silva, a victory he garnered under strange and tragic circumstances.

Silva went down in gut-wrenching fashion after breaking his leg on an unsuccessful low-kick attempt he threw roughly 75 seconds into Round 2.

And just like that, with one freakish injury, Weidman seemingly halted the reign of "The Spider," the man who won 16 straight UFC bouts between 2006 and 2012, 11 of which were title fights.

As for the champ, UFC president Dana White announced in early November via Twitter that surging top contender Vitor Belfort would tangle with the winner of the Silva-Weidman rematch at some point in 2014.

 

Belfort's a handful, even for the champ

Jason da Silva-USA TODAY Sports

The fans who believed Belfort got his last crack at UFC gold against Jon Jones in 2012 were truly off the mark.

Since that setback, "The Phenom"—some say only with the aid of testosterone replacement therapyhas scored three straight TKO/KOs off high kicks, all three of which came in main-event bouts against top-10 foes.

Weidman admitted on UFC 168's post-fight show on Fox Sports 1 (as transcribed by Fighters.com) that because of Belfort's extraordinary aggressiveness and explosiveness, the 36-year-old Brazilian poses different challenges than Silva did.

I think he’s a stud. He’s a big, strong guy, very experienced. (But compared to Silva) they are two completely different guys. One guys is rangy, technical, very slick. Belfort is more of a powerhouse guy who will come in and bring the heat. He will try to overwhelm me with power and speed. I am ready to get in there right away. I might have a meniscus tear, so I will get that (checked out) and maybe have two or three weeks off and go from there.

Belfort first TKO'd Michael Bisping (No. 5 middleweight) with a high kick and punches at UFC on FX 7. He then KO'd Luke Rockhold (No. 6 middlweight) with a spinning heel kick at UFC on FX 8 before serving Dan Henderson (No. 7 light heavyweight) at UFC Fight Night 32 with a high kick.

Belfort can match his explosive striking chops with an equally venomous ground game, and because he's a multidimensional threat, Weidman must again tweak his game in order to systematically break down his style.

In order to properly prepare for The Phenom, The All-American must become proficient in controlling and closing the distance, and he must grow accustomed to doing so against extraordinarily explosive athletes like Belfort.

Matt Serra, Weidman's Brazilian jiu-jitsu coach and a former UFC welterweight champ, also acknowledged Belfort's tools and current momentum, but ultimately said the champ can handle the challenge.

"Vitor possesses different problems than Anderson," Serra said during an interview with Fox Sports 1. "He's been on fire lately, but I think Chris has the techniques to shut him down and take him out."

Aside from Belfort, there are no clear-cut future title contenders at middleweight

With the exception of Belfort, no other fighter in the UFC's top-five rankings could say they deserve a shot at Weidman in the near future.

The top-ranked middleweight at the moment, Silva, will clearly need a number of months to heal up from his broken left leg. Plus, he's dropped two straight fights to Weidman.

Another fighter, Bisping, will need another four months to mend his detached retina. Even though he's coming off a win over Alan Belcher at UFC 159, he needs another notable victory before he can ask for a title shot.

Jason Silva-USA TODAY Sports

The UFC's third-ranked 185-pounder, Ronaldo "Jacare" Souza, will lock horns with the eighth-ranked Francis Carmont at UFC Fight Night 36 in February. The winner of that fight could logically demand a title crack.

On the same card, fourth-ranked middleweight and former light heavyweight champ Lyoto Machida will square off with former Strikeforce champ and ninth-ranked light heavyweight Gegard Mousasi. Like the winner of the Souza-Carmont bout, the Machida-Mousasi winner will have leverage when it comes to challenging for the 185-pound strap in 2014.

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