In the days leading up to his UFC debut, the talk surrounding Chris Weidman was mostly piteous and sympathetic. Taking a fight with MMA veteran Alessio Sakara on only two weeks' notice, Weidman seemed like nothing more then a sacrificial lamb being led to the slaughter.
MMA writers wondered if Weidman's handlers, Matt Serra and Ray Longo, had rushed the talented prospect into the big leagues too quickly. Coming into his nationally televised debut with only four fights to his credit, Weidman was seen as a big underdog to the hard-hitting Sakara.
Through it all, Serra and Longo smiled, like they had a secret. Tonight, we know what that secret is.
Chris Weidman is the real deal.
What a fight. As I write this, the UFC on Versus 3 telecast has not yet ended; yet I feel confident that Weidman vs. Sakara will be named "Fight of the Night."* It was a tooth and nail struggle from bell to bell and truly a credit to either man.
But Weidman was the more impressive—and not just in victory. You'd expect a Division I All-American wrestler who trains BJJ under Matt Serra to be a monster on the mat and Weidman certainly didn't disappoint in that department.
His control (with the exception of a really nice Sakara sweep) and guard passing were incredible, as was his ability to land strikes from the top. He cut Sakara open with an elbow from guard in what ended up being a turning point in the fight. Whenever Weidman was on top, he passed guard like butter and turned Sakara's face into a slasher movie.
That was expected; after all, Sakara isn't exactly a wizard off his back. What was most impressive about Weidman's debut was his ability in the standup. Sakara is a handful standing and he hits harder than a porno-induced aneurysm hits Bret Michaels (what, too soon?)
But Weidman held his own. There were some hairy moments, no doubt, with Weidman looking on wobbly legs or lunging out with winging hooks that missed by a quarter mile—but those adjustments will come in time.
Remember that this was only Weidman's fifth pro fight. I dare you to find another four-fight rookie who could hang in the fire with Alessio Sakara standing up and come out on top.
He displayed good heart and gameness, not to mention outstanding cardio for a guy stepping in on only two weeks notice. He showed good fight IQ and ability to put his diverse skills together. His transitions from striking to takedown attempts has shades of GSP, Rashad Evans and others who integrated their striking and wrestling so well.
In short, Weidman has all the tools, except a good nickname. "American?" Really? Perhaps Weidman mistook "nickname" to mean "nationality."
*Boy was I wrong. How was I to know Diego Sanchez would get run over by a stampede of Danish bison and come out the victor?