Chris Weidman vs. Lyoto Machida: Full Head-to-Toe Breakdown
As one of the best weekends of the year, there's no better way to cap off celebrating our nation's independence than to sit down with some friends and family and watch two of the best middleweights in the world go to war.
In a fight that will pin an undefeated champion against arguably the best counter striker this sport has ever seen, Chris Weidman will finally get a chance to showcase his skills in a title fight not opposite Anderson Silva.
Instead, The All-American will try to defeat Brazilian jigsaw puzzle Lyoto Machida any way possible.
That's much easier said than done, but Weidman certainly encompasses the well-rounded game to once again prove he's the best 185-pound fighter on the planet.
Here's a full head-to-toe breakdown gauging the advantages of each man as they set to lock horns on July 5.
Weidman is no slouch on his feet.
From shifty elbows to timely combinations and blocks, he's becoming one heck of a striker.
However, as one of the hardest men ever to figure out on the feet, no man can match the unpredictability and intelligence of Machida.
His ability to lunge in with aggression after his opponent has attacked is second to none. It has fueled The Dragon in the past and remains a key component to the trickiest puzzle in all of MMA.
Mix in his quickness, discipline, masked patience and overall footwork, and it's easy to see how any fighter, including the champ, would have trouble handling Machida's versatile wizardry.
Naturally one of the biggest middleweights around, Weidman is able to knock out any man that threatens his divisional reign.
However, as a former light heavyweight phenom who finished the likes of Rashad Evans, Randy Couture and Ryan Bader, Machida is unlike any other middleweight Weidman has faced.
He's not bigger than most guys, but with a mix of technique and surprise, the 36-year-old Brazilian always pounces at the most opportune time.
That said, he has been finished by strikes. Weidman has not. What's more, the champ drove his left fist through Anderson Silva's rubber chin.
It's going to be interesting to see how active Machida gets if he finds himself trailing on the scorecards in the later rounds, but until he connects and actually puts Weidman to sleep, we're left to believe both men have equal power.
Grabbing a hold of an opponent and muscling them to the ground is Weidman's undying forte.
He's at his absolute best when he's able to secure a takedown, utilize wonderful transitions and implement some diabolical ground-and-pound.
For this title defense opposite a shifty striker in Machida, not much should change.
Weidman should force The Dragon to breathe fire off his back, creating an uncomfortable atmosphere for one of the slickest and most confident contenders around.
The only problem for Weidman is getting a guy who has only been taken down five times since 2010 to the ground.
MAJOR ADVANTAGE: WEIDMAN
With one of the most underrated submission games in all of MMA, Weidman is not the guy you want to test on the ground.
Machida certainly commands his own grappling capabilities based on his Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt, but the guy hasn't won by submission since 2007.
That's a long time. It's not something that's going to be broken against a strong wrestler and evolving specialist like Weidman.
Jon Jones remains the only fighter to ever finish Machida by submission. However, if Weidman can drag the Brazilian into unfamiliar territory, land significant strikes and force him to give him his back or arm, he could become the second.
Not that Weidman doesn't have a knack for pulling off the impossible—look at what he's done—but Machida has befuddled so many fighters in the past that it's hard to ignore his potential dominance.
That doesn't mean Machida is going to win or should even be considered the favorite entering Saturday's championship showdown, but would anybody be surprised if he's able to outpoint Weidman and remain on his feet for three of the five allotted rounds?
That's exactly why Machida wins when it comes to pulling off the unforgettable. He's vastly more experienced, has defeated all different kinds of top-level fighters and at times has looked like the most dominant force in the sport.
However, considering the physicality and athletic prowess of Weidman, Machida is going to need every ounce of effort and opportunistic takeover to defeat the champ.
MINOR ADVANTAGE: MACHIDA
As dangerous as Machida can be, it just isn't Weidman's time to relinquish his hard-earned middleweight title.
Sure, Machida could catch the champ muscling in for a takedown or letting his hands go, but Weidman is too powerful and too athletic to be finished by a 36-year-old counterpuncher.
He's also cornered by some of the smartest coaches in the sport today in Matt Serra and Ray Longo.
If Weidman was able to game-plan for Anderson Silva's rangy striking, he should be able to somewhat defuse Machida's smoke-and-mirror offensive output.
Weidman should take his time in the early going to gauge Machida's timing, but once he establishes his range, the middleweight king should drag his opponent into deep water.
Whether it's against the cage, off his back or in the clinch, The Dragon is going to find it hard to feast so long as Weidman isn't openly exchanging.
VERDICT: WEIDMAN VIA TKO IN ROUND 3
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