From the very beginning, Chris Weidman vs. Lyoto Machida was a legacy-making fight. Weidman had the chance to cement himself, beyond any doubt, as the greatest middleweight in MMA. Machida, meanwhile, had the opportunity to establish himself as the UFC's third two-division champion, behind only MMA legends BJ Penn and Randy Couture, and stake a claim as one of MMA's all-time greats.
For three rounds, the fight wasn't even remotely competitive. Weidman took The Dragon down with little effort, tossed him around, landed big punches and seemed impervious to the former champ's charms. While bigger, stronger, more experienced fighters like Rashad Evans, Couture and Dan Henderson had all been lured into Machida's web, Weidman demonstrated a remarkably smart, tight game that had him, if you can believe it, dictating the pace of the fight.
Machida would muster up a bit of offense down the stretch, taking Round 4 in convincing fashion and keeping things interesting in the fifth. Ultimately, however, this was an amazing performance by Weidman.
Had my doubts about Weidman heading into tonight. Those doubts have been put to rest.— Trent Reinsmith (@TrentReinsmith) July 6, 2014
Naturally, when it comes to a fighter as divisive as Weidman, some personal introspection needs to come into play.
Yours truly was never one of the Weidman haters. He was a great talent, and the sky was the limit for him right from the get-go. His wins over Anderson Silva weren't quite as definitive as they could have been (through no fault of his own, of course), but anybody who claimed he wasn't the rightful middleweight champion was just being foolish.
The issue with me was simply doubt.
Was his wrestling really good enough to contend with Machida, who made many a light heavyweight look downright foolish? Would he be able to get around Machida's amazing footwork and close the distance for his shots? Could he even touch Machida standing up, with such a huge gap between them on paper in the striking department?
Like a true great, Weidman answered each of those questions with an emphatic yes. It doesn't matter whom he is fighting, what they have done or how they seem to match up.
Weidman can outwrestle them, outstrike them and beat them all. Badly.
So what did we learn from Weidman vs. Machida?
Chris Weidman is the greatest middleweight mixed martial artist in the world, and if he keeps showing up as good as he was Saturday, there isn't a single fighter at 185 pounds who can challenge him. So watch out, Vitor Belfort, Gegard Mousasi and Luke Rockhold, the odds are against you.