If anyone knows just how good Chris Weidman is, it's Lyoto Machida.
The former light heavyweight champion went toe-to-toe with the current middleweight champion for 25 minutes and came up on the losing end. Weidman, whose pedigree is that of a wrestler, got the better of Machida in all aspects of the striking game.
Machida was apparently so impressed with Weidman's offensive, he thinks the champ can stand and trade with one of the scariest strikers on the planet in Vitor Belfort.
When asked if Weidman should focus on landing takedowns, he told Guilherme Cruz of MMAFighting the following:
I don’t think so. Weidman is ready to fight anywhere. If he has to stand, he will. Vitor can obviously land a punch and end this, that’s what makes this sport so captivating, but I think he will be ready to fight him there.
It looks like Vitor Belfort caught wind of what Machida said, and he thinks the notion of Weidman standing with him is a foolish one. In an interview with the Brazilian language AGFight (translated by Bloody Elbow), Belfort had the following to say:
He will fight standing against me only if he's crazy. I'm ready to have a third world title at a third different weight class. I see a lot of openings from him and I'm studying this game since last year. I'm not focusing in his strengths but in his weaknesses and we saw that he has a lot.
Weidman has turned into one of the most complete mixed martial artists in the sport.
It is not crazy to believe that Weidman could very well be better than Belfort in every aspect. Our very own Clinton Bullock posed the question in his latest article: Does Belfort Have More Than a Puncher's Chance Against Weidman?
He got the better of the greatest counterstriker of all time in Anderson Silva twice. He outstruck one of the most elusive strikers the sport has ever seen in Machida. Now he faces one of the most lethal strikers in Belfort, whose combination of rapid-fire hands and ruthless kicks have taken out some of the best in the division over the last year-and-a-half.
Machida went on to add, "I think Vitor has a better chance in the first round and the first half of the second round because of his characteristics, but after that, I think Weidman’s chances are better than Vitor’s."
For Belfort this will be the first fight in years he has competed in without the use of testosterone replacement therapy. The state of Nevada recently banned the use of TRT. It is easy to speculate that Belfort won't be the same for his Dec. 6 fight with Weidman.
The aforementioned Cruz posted a "before and after" photo of Belfort recently on Twitter. Judge for yourself as to whether or not Belfort appears any different in size and stature.
So should Weidman stand with Belfort?
While the risk-averse strategy would be for him to fight conservatively on his feet, let Belfort tire, take him down and submit him, Weidman seems to have the swagger of a fighter—much like Jon Jones—who enjoys beating his opponents at their own game.
With an impressive win over Belfort at UFC 181, Weidman can not only help close out the TRT era (as argued by Jeremy Botter), but he can also solidify himself as one of the best young champs the sport has seen.