Chris Weidman vaulted into the UFC champions club by twice squashing The Spider. At UFC 175, we will see if he's up for slaying The Dragon.
For the first time since July 2012, The All-American will be fighting someone not named Anderson Silva. And with that comes the opportunity to expand his legacy beyond "the guy that dethroned the king."
Of course, the game plan for Weidman isn't going to change to much. When he looks across the cage on Saturday night, he'll be seeing Lyoto Machida—the closest thing MMA has to an Anderson Silva clone.
A win against the former light heavyweight champion would certainly silence any critics clinging to the notion that Weidman's last two wins were flukes. Since moving down to middleweight, Machida has looked like the man that once wore UFC gold around his waist.
Here's a look last-minute look at the odds for the fight, via OddsShark, followed by a brief breakdown and prediction for the bout.
|Chris Weidman||-190 (10-19)|
|Lyoto Machida||+175 (7-4)|
The most obvious point from a stylistic aspect regarding this fight is the fact that Weidman is a wrestler by trade, and Machida is among the most dangerous strikers in the UFC.
But that alone doesn't tell the whole story.
Yes, if Weidman has his druthers this fight will wind up on the mat. That's exactly where he took Silva in the first round in both of his fights against the legend. However, what people often forget when looking back on the second bout is that Weidman also got to the fight on the ground by knocking The Spider down in the clinch.
As Jack Slack of Fightland noted at the time, the punch was well-defended by Silva. But Weidman's power is an underrated part of his game:
Silva's hands were up, and the clinch looked good, but Weidman can hit.— Jack Slack (@JackSlackMMA) December 29, 2013
So while it's easy to say that Weidman needs to get the fight to the ground, the real key will be closing the distance.
For Machida, he's going to look to do the exact opposite. As much power as Weidman has, his striking is still fairly rudimentary. That isn't to say he isn't dangerous, just that Machida's striking is much more refined.
It may not be the most fan-friendly style of fighting, but Machida's best route of victory is going to maintaining as much distance as possible and using his sniper like accuracy to outpoint Weidman on the feet.
With 54 percent striking accuracy over the course of his career, The Dragon is the much more efficient fighter in the stand-up department.
The final key to this bout could be cardio. While Weidman has earned the championship. We've never seen him fight in championship rounds. However, his most lackluster performance was a three-round affair with Demian Maia.
Machida—on the other hand—has gone five rounds twice in his career. Both resulted in victories as he outpointed Shogun Rua and Gegard Mousasi in main events.
All things considered, this figures to be an excellent bout. Weidman has proved that he won't be intimidated against any opponent, so Machida is really going to have to earn it if he wants to take Weidman's belt.
Many will point out that Machida's speed advantage could be the X-factor. There's no denying his blitzkrieg style makes him a tough out for anyone.
However, it's hard to imagine that Machida is going to be able to keep up a cat-and-mouse game with the champion for five rounds. Eventually, Weidman is going to be able to take the fight to the mat or trap Machida against the cage.
Once Weidman gets the fight where he wants it to go, he's a proven finisher. Be it submissions or with his strikes, he's the kind of aggressive fighter that knows how to capitalize on opportunities.
Weidman via 3rd-Round TKO.
All statistics via FightMetric unless otherwise noted.