It wasn't enough for Weidman to win the title while remaining undefeated; he had to enter a second bout with Anderson Silva as the underdog champ.
Weidman is still undefeated and can finally emerge from Silva's shadow into the spotlight. On Saturday night, he meets one of the sport's most dangerous strikers in Machida, a man on a mission to become just the third fighter in history to win a title in two different weight classes.
When the two step into the Octagon as the headline act for UFC's Fourth of July festivities, two rather contrasting styles will give fans all they can handle to finish off the night. That goes ditto for the fighters, who will have to strictly adhere to specific strategies to win.
|Chris Weidman||Lyoto Machida|
|74 in||Height||73 in|
|185 lbs||Weight||185 lbs|
Chris Weidman: Shrink the Octagon, Take it to the Mat
At first glance, Weidman is going to struggle with Machida's style. Weidman is extremely mobile in the cage and vicious in close, but we are talking about a champ who has spent his time preparing for two bouts with a fighter like Silva.
Weidman is arguably at his best on the ground, so that's the obvious strategy for the champ. He's never been knocked down or out, and his superior stature is obvious from the jump, as journalist Josh Gross notes:
UFC champ Chris Weidman also looks to be in excellent shape. Weidman weighs 185. He's slightly bigger than Machida. Will show more tomorrow.— Josh Gross (@yay_yee) July 4, 2014
To be fair, Weidman has shown off some improved striking in his last two fights, but it's still not good enough to do away with what works against someone who specializes in that approach.
That someone is a 36-year-old Brazilian who expertly picks and chooses his spots like Silva, sans the ego, and has struck down the likes of Rashad Evans and Randy Couture. Weidman has never encountered such a fighter, so a cautious approach rather than a straight charge ahead is a must to survive.
"Stylistically, (Machida) is going to be the same as he was at 205. Going down might make him feel a little quicker, a little stronger and maybe give him more confidence. I'm expecting a very confident Lyoto Machida, but I'm going to break his will," Weidman said, per Fox Sports' Damon Martin.
Confidence is great, but again, Weidman can't go charging around recklessly, or he'll get dropped. His best bet is to slowly attempt to pin Machida before going for the takedown. Once on the ground, the fluidity of his movements, brutality of his ground-and-pound and downright effectiveness of his submissions will make it rather easy to finish off his opponent.
Lyoto Machida: Keep at a Distance
Patience. Patience. Patience.
A savvy veteran who has danced with many elite fighters, Machida understands that his approach for a victory on Saturday night will most certainly not be a crowd-pleaser.
He enters knowing that if this thing goes to the mat, there is a 95 percent chance it'll be over early. But it's also quite apparent that Weidman is a bit of an unknown, meaning if the champ leaves himself vulnerable going for a takedown or simply drops his hands, we don't really know how his chin will react to a strike.
In fact, those strikes that slip through as Weidman advances are inevitable, so Machida has to keep that cat-and-mouse pursuit going as long as possible to pepper the champ with his legendary strikes.
Or not, as his striking coach Rafael Cordeiro makes it sound like Machida will be the aggressor, as captured by Yahoo Sports' Elias Cepeda:
Machida has developed a reputation for being a patient and sometimes cautious fighter but his coach says that "The Dragon" will go for the kill against Weidman Saturday night. "If Chris thinks he’s going there with that little hand and that he’ll simply take him down and lay and pray, he’s dead wrong," he predicted.
If Machida is lucky, that's his coach trying to make his upcoming strategy harder to discern. The Dragon may have more experience by a wide margin, but charging in on the attack is not a good way to approach Weidman, given the potential for a takedown.
As a former champ who has tangled with the best in the business and has been considered as such at one point, Machida has the recipe for a title triumph on Saturday night, should he stick to the plan.