Rarely in this world are we afforded the chance to have a front row seat to the birth of a star. Fortunately for me, training back home on Long Island, I was afforded this opportunity. 26-year-old blue chip prospect Chris Weidman began his formal BJJ/MMA training just over 2 years ago, and the progress he has made is absolutely astonishing. Chris has stepped in to face Alessio Sakara at UFC on Versus 3 on March 3rd in Louisville, Kentucky. But how did he get to where he is today?
Chris won the New York State High School Wrestling Championship at 189 pounds as a senior at Baldwin High School on Long Island. Still not very highly recruited, he then went to Nassau (County) Community College in Garden City to wrestle, and was a two-time All-American, finishing 3rd in the national championships both years. He then continued his education and wrestling career at Hofstra University (literally a mile away from NCC) and really began to prove his doubters wrong. After redshirting the 2004-2005 season, Chris took to the mat at 197 pounds in 2005-2006. At the 2006 NCAA Div. I Wrestling Championships, Chris went from unseeded to All-American, taking 6th place in the tournament, bouncing 1-seed Wynn Michalak and UFC superstar Ryan Bader in the process. He was injured in his loss to another current MMA fighter and eventual winner of the tournament, Jake Rosholt, and was forced to forfeit his consolation bracket matches, thus only coming in 6th, rather than a potential 3rd place finish. The next year, Chris was once again overlooked by the seeding committee, and was given the 11-seed in the tournament. And once again, he proved he was better than everyone else thought. He made it all the way to the semifinals where, for the second year in a row, he was defeated by eventual champion Joshua Glenn. Already a two-time All-American, Chris won the consolation bracket to finish 3rd in the tournament, ahead of fellow stud prospect Phil Davis, who finished 5th, and Max Askren, the 1-seed and brother of current Bellator WW Champion and former NCAA Champion Ben Askren.
It was at Hofstra that Chris met and became friends with Gabe "Monsta" Toribio, a BJJ purple belt and budding MMA fighter at the time. He encouraged Chris to start training, and he took the bait and hasn't looked back since. In June of 2009, after just under a year of MMA/BJJ training, Chris qualified for the ADCC World Championships, a feat that the likes of Renzo Gracie, BJ Penn, and John Danaher said is unheard of. He qualified by defeating talented grappler James Brasco in the East Coast Trials via Anaconda Choke. He then defeated Daniel Tabera in the first round of the Under 88kg (194 lbs) division to set up a match with BJJ Black Belt and world-ranked submission fighter Andre Galvao. Although he lost, so impressed were the tournament officials with his performance (Galvao's closest match until he lost to #1 ranked BJJ practitioner Braulio Estima in the finals) that he was granted a place in the absolute division. He defeated BJJ black belt Antonie Jaoude in the first round before losing to eventual 3rd place finisher and BJJ wiz Vinny Magalhaes.
Chris came back from his impressive showing at ADCCs to continue his MMA career. Already with a 2-0 record (1 win via sub, 1 win via TKO; both finishes inside of 3 minutes), his next MMA fight would be his biggest - he would be scheduled to fight Uriah Hall for the Ring of Combat Middleweight Championship. Over a year of ring rust played no factor, as Chris would win the strap with another 1st round TKO stoppage. His next fight would be this past December, as he defended his belt with a dominating UD over Valdir Araujo. And now its time for the big show. But how will he fare once inside the octagon?
Chris is a purple belt from Matt and Nick Serra at Serra BJJ on Long Island. He also trains striking and is the head wrestling instructor at Ray Longo's Martial Arts Academy in Garden City. Given his credentials, it is clear to see why his wrestling is the basis for his success. Blessed with heavy hands and a scary knack for submissions, Chris uses his wrestling to take the fight anywhere he sees fit. His defense is phenomenal, with an incredibly quick sprawl for someone his size (Chris cuts about 20-25 pounds to make 185). He also has a borderline unstoppable single-leg, a very solid double-leg, and outstanding greco throws (as evidenced by the first 10 seconds of his MMA debut). His base, while on top, is suffocating. Matt preaches "shoulder pressure" to all of the students at the academy, and I don't think anyone takes that advice to heart more than Chris does. His Jiu-jitsu game is also top notch. I would tend to say that he has more dangerous MMA Jiu-jitsu than pure BJJ, due to his stellar wrestling pedigree. I don't believe he would've fared nearly as well at ADCCs without his wrestling being as top-notch as it is. That being said, this is not somebody you want to roll with if you like your arms. While Chris has mastered most of the BJJ game to date (as I said, belted purple belt in about 1 year of training), its armbars and kimuras that are his most deadly. I have rolled with some great grapplers, but none are quite as imposing as Chris Weidman, on top, in side control. He's stronger than me, more talented than me, and I know it's going to take a Herculean effort on my part to keep my elbow or shoulder joint in tact. The weakest part of his game is striking, but it is in no way weak. His straights are crisp and his hooks are devastating if they connect. Unfortunately, he's just not as fast as the rest of the 185ers in the UFC, including Sakara. However, he does have a very good chin, so as much as I don't see him winning a standup war with Legionarius, I don't see him getting knocked out either.
Prediction for the fight...
Chris always comes in with a good game plan, and not only fights to his strengths, but fights to his opponents weaknesses. I'm sure he'll feel out Sakara on the feet for a little while, but I don't envision him standing very long. Look for Chris to duck under for a takedown sometime mid round one and work some GnP or possibly go for a submission. The ground game WILL work and he'll go back to it in round 2, if the fight gets that far. This wont go to a decision, and if it does, it won't be boring. But, I'll say Chris by armbar in round 2. Below, I've posted some videos of Chris. Enjoy, and if anyone has any questions or feedback about Chris or the post, I'm all ears. Take care.
Chris wrestling at a dual-meet against UPenn in his senior season at Hofstra. Don't know too much about collegiate wrestling or the point system, but I'm pretty sure he dominated.
197 Jack Sullivan (Penn) v. Chris Weidman (Hofstra) (via theschneid13)
Chris qualifying for ADCC 2009 with submission victory over James Brasco. The guys filming the match are friends with Brasco...sorry fellas.
James Brasco vs. Chris Weidman - Finals North American ADCC (via GrapplersQuest)
Chris' MMA debut in February 2009. The video is the 5th installment of a 6-part series by the Fight Nerd on Chris. The other kid wasn't even in the same league.
All-American: The MMA Debut of Chris Weidman ep. 5 (via TheFightNerd)