Tonight: Anderson Silva vs Chris Weidman


Two-thousand six feels like an eternity ago. I was two years removed from graduating from PSJA North High School. UFC had just caught fire the previous year on Spike TV, due to its “The Ultimate Fighter” programming. The faces of the sport to American fans were current Hall of Famers like Chuck Liddell and Randy Couture. Matt Hughes got a rub from Royce Gracie that year, defeating the NHB pioneer via ground and pound in his most successful PPV main event to date.

The man who would be deemed by many as the GOAT (Greatest of all time) would make his debut at UFC Ultimate Fight Night 5 (June 2006).

The Spike TV fight broadcasts were littered with TUF players and journeymen of the era. One of UFC’s early stars was bad-boy Chris Leben. Who can ever forget, tuning in to TUF, and watching him urinate on Jason Thacker’s bed?

After a feud with Josh Koscheck and Bobby Southworth, Leben turned babyface (good guy). In the first TUF Finale, Leben defeated Thacker but used his post-fight interview to apologized for his urinating misadventures.

After Thacker, Leben collected wins against Patrick Cote, Edwin Dewees, Jorge Rivera, and Luigi Fioravanti on the Spike TV Fight Night broadcasts. His opponent for the fifth installment was Anderson Silva.

After a stint in PRIDE, Silva headed to Cage Rage [he had fought there once before] to defeat Rivera, Curtis Stout and Tony Fryklund (with an iconic elbow). Within that period, he suffered a DQ [grounded kick] loss to Yushin Okami.

Leben wasn’t impressed.

This video shows what Leben thought of Silva.

It also shows what Silva thought of Leben.

Four months later, Silva destroyed Rich Franklin at UFC 64 (October 2006). He’s been UFC middleweight champion ever since. In his current UFC run, he’s gone on to defeat Travis Lutter, Nate Marquardt, Franklin [in a rematch], Dan Henderson, James Irvin [at light-heavyweight], Patrick Cote, Thales Leites, Forrest Griffin [at light-heavyweight], Demian Maia, Chael Sonnen, Vitor Belfort, Okami [in a rematch], Sonnen [in a rematch], and Stephan Bonnar [at light-heavyweight].

His best UFC wins, in my eyes, are against Henderson, Sonnen, Okami and Belfort. The wins over Marquardt and Franklin are on the tier that follows those. His best pre-UFC wins are against Hayato “Mach” Sakurai (holder of the “best welterweight ever” claim before Hughes and GSP), Carlos Newton and Jeremy Horn. Is he the greatest MMA fighter of all time? I still think a case can be made for Georges St-Pierre. If you value finishes and style, it’s all Silva. If you see it in terms of divisional depthness and quality of opponents, it’s probably the dinosaur lover. But I think it’s safe to say that these two are the best, rational choices at this point in time.

Chris Weidman is an excellent challenger. Despite his inexperience and lack of long-term resume, he seems to be far more skilled than a lot of fighters that Silva has dispatched of. His UFC on FOX (January 2012) bout with Demian Maia, a bore and disappointment of a fight, should be viewed in the context that Weidman took that contest on 11-days notice. The weight-cut was a difficult one and it showed. Yet he still managed to decisively beat Maia.

His best win to date was against Mark Muñoz at UFC on Fuel TV (July 2012). The following statements tell the story: Out-wrestling, out-grappling, and one-highlight reel elbow. Also, a referee stoppage that was far too late. It looked worse than a gang beatdown in the Valley.

He’s a fast learner and full of potential. Also, he’s surrounded himself with a great team of coaches and instructors. He’s earned his shot at Anderson Silva; no other middleweight deserved this fight tonight.

Weidman can exploit some of Silva’s issues; follow in Sonnen’s gameplan. He’s got youth on his side. But Silva’s killer instinct is legendary. If Weidman makes one-mistake in there, it will be one too many. Silva can and will capitalize on it. I have a feeling we might see something like Hughes-GSP I: competitive until a highlight reel finish. But I think Weidman will last longer than GSP did in his first title fight; probably until the third round.

I see Silva reaching October and celebrating his seventh year as UFC middleweight champion. But all is not lost for Weidman. He can use tonight’s fight as a growing experience. He might not be champion tonight but he will be in the future.

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