Coming into his eleventh title defense tonight (Sat., July 6, 2013) at UFC 162, which takes place at MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada, Anderson Silva has set the standard for all mixed martial arts (MMA) fighters to follow as the sport's eminent force.
At 38, the Brazilian has shown scant evidence of cracks in his armor, to boot, and his last two outings were impressive showings. Taking on Chris Weidman, however, the 185-pound champion tangles with a challenger possessed of the blend of wrestling and top-game prowess that’s been his one perceptible weakness in a storied career.
Indeed, Weidman’s rare blend of wrestling and jiu-jitsu savvy offer a realistic possibility of Silva’s one chink being exploited. That’s assuming, of course, that Weidman can pitch a near-perfect game and score a string of takedowns without getting his head handed to him.
And that’s the bitch about fighting "The Spider." Opponents tend to run out of chances to play with a grenade.
Thus far in his career, Weidman’s never really been hit or thrown into a gut-check style firefight. Against Silva, that’s certain to change.
Check out a complete breakdown of the UFC 162 main event between Anderson Silva vs. Chris Weidman below:
How Silva comes out against opponents goes a long way toward influencing public perception. When he’s got his swagger on, and goes after people, he fights with a blend of technical brilliance and disdainful superiority. It’s rare that you can see a world-class fighter plant himself against cage against a Stephan Bonnar, drop his hands and dare Yushin Okami to step in and hit him, and get away with it.
Yet Silva does and punishes people who challenge him with, as Mike Tyson so eloquently put it, "their primitive skills."
When Silva’s bored, say, as he was against Demian Maia, Thales Leites and Patrick Cote, fans get rightfully irritated. It’s like paying for tickets to see an artist that simply doesn’t bring his "A" game. However, Weidman’s style figures to make that a non-issue.
He’ll look for takedowns and to press the action. In doing this, it’s key that he close the gap on Silva responding to his strikes, which is how Travis Lutter, Dan Henderson and Chael Sonnen nailed takedowns. It’s also key that Weidman work with an eye toward keeping the referee out of the fight and not initiating a stand up – which is unlikely as the fight’s in Las Vegas, which hopefully means Herb Dean, who allows grapplers to work.
However, a key element if Weidman keeping an eye on Silva’s tricky guard game and submissions, trying to pile up points and work, while keeping another eye on the clock to pace himself. He hasn’t gone five rounds. And while we’ll dismiss his cardio-sapped sleepwalk against Maia, which he took on short notice after losing a huge amount of weight, it’s still a big test to go that long against someone like Silva.
On the feet, this isn’t even close.
Silva’s Silva, and Weidman is merely another strong Middleweight who would be honored to hold the pads for one of Brazilian’s workouts. Silva also has one of the best chins in the history of the sport, and the only time I can even remotely remember him showing any expression getting nailed was against Sonnen, who pounded him silly on a night where Silva had bad ribs, and ended up winning by submission anyways.
If Silva wants to lay back and see what Weidman’s strategy is for closing the gap, that’s not necessarily a bad one, as he can blow off a round or two and still close the show strong to turn things around. And while people tend to gravitate toward the Sonnen fights as evidence of Silva’s weak wrestling, don’t forget that’s he’s incredibly dangerous in tie-ups, especially on the cage, where he’ll whip you into a Thai clinch and uncork knees from devastating angles.
Weidman has to be careful of all this, as well as the medley of standing attacks he’ll have to deal with from range. It’s a tall assignment, but one that can be whittled down to size with well-timed takedowns to pull Silva into his element.
On paper, Weidman definitely could be the guy to end Silva’s magnificent run. He definitely should hit some takedowns in this fight, as Silva’s respect for his wrestling will allow for one or two early.
But, as the fight progresses, it’s going to be harder and harder for Weidman to be effective as Silva’s mix of snapping punches, blinding counters and the ability to brutally exploit the smallest of openings takes their toll.
The worst thing you can do is piss Silva off by hitting him really hard, because it seems to wake him up and realize there’s apparently someone nearby trying to harm him, at which point he does something terrifying and inevitably damaging.
Weidman will score a few takedowns in the first two rounds, piling up some points with moderate ground-and-pound, but Silva will remain calm, gauging and calculating openings on the feet between restarts and rounds. In the third, he’ll strike with a devastating blow – it could be a flying knee, a fancy kick, or whatever the hell he decides to pull out of his Jedi bag of tricks – and send the message that once again, this is not the night where he gets beat.
Silva will show enough ground vulnerability and standup potency for fans to push for a mega-fight showdown with Jon Jones, scoring a third-round knockout of Weidman in an exciting fight.
Silva via knockout
Remember that MMAmania.com will provide LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the UFC 162 pay-per-view (PPV) main card action, which is slated to start promptly at 10 p.m. ET. Up-to-the-minute updates and fight-by-fight coverage will begin to flow earlier than that, however, around 7 p.m. ET with the "Prelims" bouts on Facebook and FX.
Jason Probst can be reached at twitter.com/jasonprobst