UFC 168 complete fighter breakdown, Chris Weidman edition

Photo by Esther Lin for MMAFighting.com

MMAmania.com resident fighter analyst Andrew Richardson breaks down the mixed martial arts (MMA) game of UFC 168 headliner and reigning Middleweight champion, Chris Weidman, who will attempt to defend his belt for the first time ever against former 185-pound deity, Anderson Silva, this Saturday night (Dec. 28, 2013) at MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Middleweight strap-hanger, Chris Weidman, looks to solidify his position as the best in the world against former foe, Anderson Silva, this Saturday (Dec. 28, 2013) at MGM Grand Garden Arena is Las Vegas, Nevada.

And seemingly accomplish the impossible ... again.

Not only did the Long Island, N.Y., native defeat perhaps the greatest fighter of all time, he knocked out the phenomenal striker in just his tenth professional mixed martial arts (MMA) bout. At just 29 years old, the sky's the limit for the Serra-Longo Academy-trained product.

Assuming, of course, that he can defeat Silva again. To cement his place as the best Middleweight on the planet, Weidman must duel with the Brazilian once more, otherwise his first win may be written off as a fluke. Does Weidman have what it takes to prove his dominance over "The Spider?"

Let's find out:

Striking

Ray Longo does an excellent job turning wrestlers into proficient boxers, and Weidman is no exception. In fact, he may be the prime example, as Weidman has developed sound striking technique in a fairly short time.

Overall, "The All-American" is a very effective boxer. His job is accurate and commanding, and he can smoothly throw three and four punch combinations that make sense. In particular, his 1-2 and double jab, right hand are very solid, although his cross isn't incredibly powerful.

A testament to Weidman's boxing ability is his comfort in the pocket, where he's more than willing to trade hooks with his opponent. In addition to mixing hooks in with his straight shots, Weidman has a very nice lunging left hook, which is likely his most powerful punch.

Before his UFC career, Weidman took on a talented striker in the Ring of Combat organization. That striker's name was Uriah Hall, and Weidman was the first to prove his defensive flaws. Forcing Hall to be wary of the takedown, Weidman was able to catch him unaware with a looping left hook, which dropped Ultimate Fighter (TUF) competitor en route to a TKO finish.

What separates Weidman from most strikers is intelligence. Not only his own, which manifests itself in his ability to follow a game plan, but his coaches' as well, who are excellent at recognizing the weaknesses of his his opponents. For the most part, his striking is good, not great, but his intelligence allows him to have great moments, which has been especially obvious in his last two fights.

The first hint at Weidman's ability to adjust to individual opponents was his bout with Munoz. After thoroughly dominating Munoz on the mat for the entire first round, "The Filipino Wrecking Machine" was anxious to land some offense of his own. As is his usual style, he threw looping shots and leaned in with his face. Weidman, or possibly his coaches, recognized this and countered with a brutal elbow. This type of counter either wouldn't work or wouldn't land as cleanly against an opponent that kept his head in position, but it was a perfect foil to Munoz's attack.

The fact that it was, to my knowledge, the first and only time Weidman has thrown an elbow like that proves that it was a Munoz-specific strike.

UFC 168 Free Fight: Weidman vs. Munoz (via UFC - Ultimate Fighting Championship)

Against Silva, Weidman did two brilliant things. The first was that he did not throw a single leg kick. Weidman has decent kicks and really likes to go low, but he recognized that Silva is very good at countering his opponent's kicks, and that his set ups weren't enough to disguise them. Instead, he only throw two kicks, a teep and swinging high kick. Both of these kicks were relatively safe and can be effectively thrown from the range Silva was enforcing, making them wise choices.

Finally, Weidman capitalized on Silva's love of leaning backwards with his four punch combination that knocked "The Spider" out cold. Silva mostly avoided the first three punches, including the back fist, of Weidman's combination but ran out of room to lean. Without any room, he tried to roll with the blow. However, he rolled into the punch rather than away, increasing the impact and landing Weidman a knockout victory.

Ignoring all of Silva's showboating, which does serve a purpose, Weidman's intelligent striking is what knocked the Brazilian out.

UFC 168 Free Fight: Weidman vs. Silva I (via UFC - Ultimate Fighting Championship)

Weidman's defense is not particularly bad, but it does show his inexperience. He often decides to cover up and wait for his opponent's combination to end, letting them land free blows, before attacking with his own punches. It's not a good idea in striking to take turns in exchanges; both fighters should be actively seeking to control the flow of exchanges. Another issue for Weidman is that he didn't check a single leg kick against Silva, who landed every low kick he threw. Those leg kicks will diminish Weidman's fighting ability if he doesn't defend them, which will make defeating Silva even more difficult as the fight progresses.

Wrestling

After winning a state championship in high school, Weidman earned All-American status four times, twice at both the Division 1 and NJCAA level. In addition to controlling most of his opponents on the mat, Weidman has yet to be taken down in his UFC career.

Weidman is well-rounded in his takedown attempts. He is capable of blasting through doubles and grinding for them against the fence. Once Weidman shoots, he is very determined, driving until he gets the takedown or is forced to transition to a different attempt. Additionally, Weidman likes to finish his takedowns with a trip or by cutting an angle, which makes them far more difficult to defend.

Weidman's most utilized takedown is undoubtedly the single leg, which he frequently finishes by running the pipe. Before shooting, Weidman does a very nice job closing the distance with a quick punch or two. As his opponent raises his defense, Weidman drops down and begins the single leg.

Perhaps even better than his shots is Weidman's powerful clinch game. Excellent at controlling his opponent's posture from both the over-under and double underhooks position, Weidman is able to trip and toss his opponent easily. From the clinch, Weidman excels at getting his hips behind his opponents, which makes throws much easier. He also really likes attempting the lateral drop, a risky but versatile throw.

The most deadly position in Weidman's arsenal is his front head lock, which will be extensively covered in the jiu-jitsu section. However, he also uses the front head lock to control and takedown his opponent, either using it to snap his foe down or transition to a level drop. If he fails to take down his opponent off of the front head lock, Weidman will land knees to the head or shoulders, depending on whether his opponent is grounded or not.

Weidman's positional control is very good, largely thanks to his ability to transition between different positions while controlling his opponent's head and neck. Since his opponent cannot stand without the risk of a choke, it discourages him from even attempting a stand up. From the top, Weidman generally looks to land small shots while he tries to pass guard.

Against Silva, Weidman did a much better job incorporating his ground and pound into his passing attempts. After trying to throw Silva's legs aside or cut through, Weidman would posture up and drop heavy punches, before once again trying to get around "The Spider's" guard. He never successfully passed, but he did do substantial damage from the top in the first round.

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu

There are very few fighters who deserve the title of prodigy, but at least in regards to jiu-jitsu, Weidman is one of them. Though he has yet to earn his black belt, Weidman has one of the best grappling games in the UFC. He's so talented that he managed to compete at the Abu Dhabi Combat Club (ADCC), the pinnacle of no-gi BJJ, in 2009 after just one year of training.

Weidman's plan when the fight hits the mat is no secret: he wants a choke. The New Yorker is very aggressive with his front chokes and transitions between them beautifully, which is truly the key to effective jiu-jitsu. He often begins with the high-elbow guillotine, the move he finished Jesse Bongfeldt with, and then switches to the d'arce choke. The many variations of the guillotine and d'arce work brilliantly in MMA, as they can be used from the top or bottom, and the fighter does not have to give up top position to finish.

Almost every fighter in the UFC uses underhooks to stand up. Weidman recognizes this and allows his opponent to get the underhook, but does not let him stand up. As his opponent gets the underhook, Weidman swims his arm through his foe's arm pit, around their head, then grabs his own tricep. If he can lock in this grip, the fight is over, as Weidman can quickly put his opponent to sleep. To finish, Weidman can either lay flat and put all of his weight onto his opponent's head/neck, or sit out on his hip and hook a leg over his opponent.

The d'arce choke is very underutilized, as it is a great way to keep opponents grounded. Trying to stand up against Weidman is very risky, since he's always one grip away from ending the fight. Weidman has used the d'arce repeatedly in his UFC career, both to finish Tom Lawlor and control Mark Munoz.

Another great thing about front chokes is that they don't have to be locked in perfectly to be useful. Even if it's impossible to finish the choke, it can be used to sweep or roll his opponent. Weidman repeatedly forced Munoz into terrible positions, such as the mount, by threatening with chokes and making Munoz retreat into a dangerous spot.

Outside of his chokes, Weidman has showed a few other moves. For example, against Munoz he attempted to attack with a kimura from the north-south position, a technique he used to win his pro debut.

More recently, fight fans got to see Weidman's leg lock game for the first time. From the half guard, Weidman jumped on Silva's leg. At first, it looked like Weidman was going for a twisting foot lock, but he instead went after the knee bar. He had the correct position for a split second, but Silva turned his leg, allowing Weidman to switch to an inside heel hook position. Again, Silva was momentarily in a very dangerous position, but there was enough space for Silva to roll out.

Another key to Weidman's grappling is his impressive guard passing ability. Weidman often controls his opponent's foot with one hand before jumping over, making it difficult for his opponent to tie his legs up. Weidman also likes to immediately hop over his opponent's guard after his single leg takedown, a technique Jake Shields has mastered.

Best Chance For Success

Weidman needs to remember what has made him so successful: His grappling. He's proven that he can safely stand with Silva for an extended period of time, but he was taking a fair amount of damage before the knockout, whereas he was in complete control during the grappling.

It's just not worth it to seek out another knockout.

In the first fight, Weidman sacrificed top position for a submission attempt. It didn't work out for him, allowing Silva to return to his feet. That said, I think that's exactly what Weidman should do. If he feels he has an opportunity to finish Silva, he absolutely should take it. Fighting is all about calculated risk and Weidman's grappling advantage makes aggressive submission chaining a worthwhile endeavor.

Assuming the fight stays standing, which it did for the majority of the first bout, leg kicks will be a big factor. Weidman did an excellent job not throwing leg kicks, which is a smart decision, considering Silva's habit of brutally countering them and Weidman's weak defense when throwing them. However, he also allowed Silva to land leg kicks at will. He should do one of three things every single time Silva tries to kick him in the leg: check, catch or counter.

Can Weidman defend his title or will Silva reclaim his throne?

For a closer look and "Complete Fighter Breakdown" of Weidman be sure to click here.

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