The most dangerous 185-pounder in mixed martial arts (MMA) history will put his title on the line tomorrow night (Sat., July 6, 2013) as UFC Middleweight Champion Anderson Silva defends his belt against undefeated Chris Weidman in the main event of UFC 162 in Las Vegas, Nevada.
"The Spider" has never lost in his 16 fight UFC career. Weidman has never lost, period. Someone's 'O' has got to go. So how can either man pull it off?
Record: 33-4 overall, 16-0 in the UFC
Key Losses: none
How he got here: Oh boy, where do we even start? Anderson Silva got his start in the Chute Box camp, working his way over to Pride where he started strong, but actually got submitted a pair of times including one of the most amazing finishes in the history of the sport against Ryo Chonan.
Undeterred, Silva signed up with the UK's Cage Rage promotion where he leveled everyone in his path, becoming champion in his first bout and defending his title three times in impressive fashion. After a disqualification loss to Yushin Okami at Rumble on the Rock, Silva signed on with the UFC and began his historic run.
He massacred Chris Leben in his debut and was immediately granted a title shot against Rich Franklin, who he destroyed with knees to the body and face in the first round to become UFC middleweight champion.
He's never looked back since. Silva has defended his title a UFC record 10 times and his current run in the promotion some of the most amazing performances in the history of the sport like his front kick of Vitor Belfort or his embarrassment of former light heavyweight champion Forrest Griffin.
Only Chael Sonnen has made him look vulnerable, although Silva still pulled off a miracle submission at the end of the fifth round. After defeating the likes of Vitor Belfort and Yushin Okami, Silva again silenced his critics by stopping Sonnen a second time last summer and he did not let the mouthy ex-realtor make it past the second round.
When UFC 153 began falling apart due to injuries, "The Spider" stepped up and filled in for the main event against Bonnar, knocking the veteran into retirement in the first round despite his opponent testing positive for steroids. Now, he's ready to defend his title once more, this time against a hungry unbeaten challenger.
How he gets it done: For Silva, it's all about agility. He defends strikes and takedowns much differently than us mere mortals. It's almost like he's got a higher understanding of stand-up where his reflexes are so good he can see everything coming well before it happens and can get out of the way. How he's still managing to pull this off at 38 years old is beyond me.
"The Spider" has pinpoint accuracy and he'll need every last ounce of it against Weidman, who will be looking to take him down early and often. Footwork is going to be incredibly important because he doesn't want to give "The All-American" easy opportunities. If Silva can stay on the outside and get some early work in with his straight punches, it will be much more difficult for Weidman to get inside and try to put him on the canvas.
If Weidman takes him down, Silva can't just work off his back and look for the submission. If he sees an opening, sure, but if not, then he needs to immediately try to get back to his feet whether it's with a sweep or cagewalking. Anything is better than being forced to carry Weidman's weight for an extended period of time, particularly due to this being a five round fight.
Timing is important. If Silva can catch Weidman on the way in, or just catch him in general if he sees an opening, he needs to pounce. He doesn't want a repeat of the first Chael Sonnen fight.
Record: 9-0 overall, 5-0 in the UFC
Key Losses: none.
How he got here: Weidman made his mark in the collegiate wrestling scene, becoming a two-time NCAA division I All-American while competing at Hofstra University. After graduating, he transitioned to mixed martial arts which included some heavy work in Brazilian jiu-jitsu.
Weidman was a natural, qualifying for the ADCC after just one year of training and his MMA career got off to an equally hot start. After crushing his first two opponents inside the first round, he was given a Ring of Combat title shot in just his fifth pro fight against Uriah Hall. Instead of being intimidated, Weidman smashed Hall via TKO just three minutes into his fight.
By his fifth fight, Weidman had already earned an invite into the UFC, taking a bout on short notice as an injury replacement against 11-fight UFC veteran Alessio Sakara. Weidman dominated the Italian, winning a convincing three round decision.
The promotion wisely allowed him to progress at his own pace, and Weidman delivered with a first round standing guillotine choke finish of Jesse Bongfeldt at UFC 131. He would follow that victory up with his most convincing win to date a first round technical D'Arce choke submission against veteran Tom Lawlor which barely lasted two minutes.
When Michael Bisping got moved to the Chael Sonnen fight, Weidman gladly stepped up to fill the vacancy left behind and take on Demian Maia.and while the fight ended up being a snoozefest, he still was victorious and gained major brownie points from the MMA community for stepping up.
In his most recent performance, Weidman completely dismantled Mark Munoz, scoring a brutal second round knockout. Afterwards he sat out with a shoulder injury, but the cards fell his way as each top contender dropped the ball and when he was healthy, the title shot fell right into his lap.
We'll see if he can make the most of it tomorrow night.
How he gets it done: First thing's first, Weidman has to take some deep breaths and remain calm, channel some of his wrestling nerves from when he was competing in the national tournaments. He got some practice in against a former title challenger and even headlined his last fight, but this is the freaking main event of a pay-per-view and he's facing the greatest fighter in MMA history for the belt.
Obviously Weidman's best chance at victory is to utilize his wrestling against Silva, similar to what Chael Sonnen was able to accomplish, but he has to keep it up for the entire fight without making a defensive lapse. Weidman was an All-American in college and is still plenty young enough to have that level of explosion needed to get inside and try to put the Brazilian down.
In the stand-up, he's got to be careful as he's still developing in this area and Silva is the greatest striker of all time. The only thing that will give him a chance on the feet is the potential fear of a takedown, which is what Sonnen used the first time around when he clipped the champ. I honestly believe he should try to stand for just brief periods before eventually shooting in. Takedowns are his friend and are his best and likely only method to victory.
Who will come out on top at UFC 162? Tell us your predictions in the comments below!