Chris Weidman is set to defend his UFC middleweight title against Lyoto Machida later this year at UFC 175. It will be the first time he is in a title bout against someone other than Anderson Silva.
Weidman had a quick rise to the top and is undefeated at 11-0. His rise has been similar to Jon Jones'.
Jones burst onto the scene in the UFC and quickly ran his way through the light heavyweight division. Save for a questionable disqualification loss to Matt Hamill, Jones is unblemished.
Both had a quick run to their titles, and they have been dominant. The question remains: Is Weidman ready to make a Jones-esque run as champion?
First, we need to look at Jones' title run.
|Jon Jones' Title Wins|
|Opponent||Method of Victory||Event|
|Shogun Rua||TKO (Round 3)||UFC 128|
|Rampage Jackson||Submission (Round 4)||UFC 135|
|Lyoto Machida||Submission (Round 2)||UFC 140|
|Rashad Evans||Decision||UFC 145|
|Vitor Belfort||Submission (Round 4)||UFC 152|
|Chael Sonnen||TKO (Round 1)||UFC 159|
|Alexander Gustafsson||Decision||UFC 165|
|Glover Teixeira||Decision||UFC 175|
He defeated Mauricio “Shogun” Rua to win the belt in dominating fashion, and followed that up with three straight wins over the division's top contender: Quinton “Rampage” Jackson, Lyoto Machida and Rashad Evans.
Thanks to injuries and promotional decisions, Jones then faced top-tier middleweights in light heavyweight title fights before returning to take on top contenders Alexander Gustafsson and Glover Teixeira.
The middleweight division is now comparable, which gives Weidman that chance. He has already defeated Anderson Silva twice, and legitimate contenders Machida, Belfort, Jacare Souza and Luke Rockhold wait in the wings.
Weidman has a great wrestling pedigree that he can rely on when times get tough, and he has expanded on that by adding in brilliant submission grappling and improved striking. Similar to Jones.
When looking at the upcoming matchups for Weidman, it is easy to tell that he has a much tougher road to replicate the same type of title defense streak that Jones has amassed. Jones' unique frame & abilities made him a significant favorite in every title fight. Weidman will not get the same respect.
The odds will be much closer in bouts with the middleweight elites.
|UFC Middleweight Rankings|
|1||Anderson Silva||33-6||Defeated by Chris Weidman (TKO), UFC 168|
|2||Vitor Belfort||24-10||Defeated Dan Henderson (KO), UFC Fight Night 32|
|3||Lyoto Machida||21-4||Defeated Gegard Mousasi (Decision), UFC Fight Night 36|
|4||Jacare Souza||20-3 (1 NC)||Defeated Francis Carmont (Decision), UFC Fight Night 36|
|5||Luke Rockhold||12-2||Defeated Tim Boetsch (Submission), UFC 172|
|6||Tim Kennedy||18-4||Defeated Michael Bisping (Decision), TUF: Nations Finale|
|7||Mark Munoz||13-4||Defeated by Lyoto Machida (KO), UFC Fight Night 30|
|8||Michael Bisping||24-6||Defeated by Tim Kennedy (Decision), TUF: Nations Finale|
|9||Francis Carmont||22-8||Defeated by Jacare Souza (Decision), UFC Fight Night 36|
|10||Gegard Mousasi||34-4-2||Defeated by Lyoto Machida (Decision), UFC Fight Night 36|
His next title defense, against Machida, may be the toughest of the bunch. He will face another well-rounded fighter with a unique style that is hard to combat.
After Machida, Weidman has to game-plan against the rest of the division. The threats are still very real, but they become easier to avoid.
Weidman has not been in much trouble inside the Octagon, and we have many of the same questions we had about Jones. How will he hold up in a war such as Jones-Gustafsson? Will the other middleweights be able to dethrone the champion in that type of battle?
Weidman may very well be on his way to the same type of run Jones is on, and if he is able to do just that he could eclipse Silva as the greatest middleweight to date. His level of competition will be more consistently higher than that of both Silva and Jones should the division keep developing the way it has over the past 12 months.
It is possible, but in this unpredictable sport it is tough to see how Weidman is able to keep hold of the gold for that period of time against the steep level of competition.