UFC middleweight champion Chris Weidman is undefeated at 11-0; his last two fights finish victories over the man many feel is the best fighter to ever step into an MMA cage in Anderson Silva. But despite those illustrious accomplishments, the world’s No. 5-ranked pound-for-pound fighter still has an unfortunate air of doubt surrounding his wins over the once dominant “Spider.”

At UFC 162 last July, Weidman shocked the world when he knocked out a clowning Silva with a well-placed left hook in the second round. It was a great showing by Weidman, who was all about business as Silva danced and taunted his way around the Octagon.

Sure, he had done that many times before scoring an unbelievable knockout, but this time was different. The former champion wasn’t doing much damage or counterstriking; he was simply joking around.

And Weidman made him pay, yet Silva literally danced into blow that signaled the end of his reign like he was a zombie extra in Michael Jackson’s “Thriller.”

Many cried fluke, and the rematch was promptly scheduled to take place at UFC 168 last December. Of course the bout has now gone to infamy after Silva gruesomely broke his left leg throwing a leg kick in the second round. The taunting was gone and Silva was noticeably more serious, but he didn’t have much for Weidman after getting rocked and taken down in the first round. Still, the injury leaves a lasting cloud of uncertainty to Weidman’s title reign.

He’ll look to put that theory to bed when he faces off with former UFC light heavyweight champion Lyoto “The Dragon” Machida in the main event of July 5’s UFC 175 from the Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas, Nevada. Machida has looked more than impressive since cutting down to middleweight, knocking out former training partner Mark Munoz with a first round headkick and UFC Fight Night 30 before outclassing former Strikeforce and DREAM champion Gegard Mousasi in the main event of February’s UFC Fight Night 36.

“The Dragon” feels more at home now, telling FOX Sports that he’s now fighting opponents that are actually his size:

“I feel like I’m fighting more guys who are actually my weight. I definitely feel faster in this weight class. I’m going up against guys the same size as me now. Before I was fighting guys much heavier.”

Many believe that “The Dragon’s” speed and power will give Weidman fits this Fourth of July weekend, and many believe that the champ’s run will not be legitimized if he doesn’t win at UFC 175. However, Machida is not one of those people:

“There’s no doubt he’s the champion. He’s the best there is in the weight class right now. He won those fights. You can’t take away those merits.”

You can’t take away those wins and he is the legitimate champ. However, it couldn’t have been in much more anticlimactic fashion, and there are a ton of fans that probably think Weidman needs to beat Machida to prove he truly deserves the belt.

He shouldn’t have to, because all Weidman has done is systematically break down his opponents’ strength with his phenomenal All-American level wrestling, otherworldly submission skills, and rapidly developing power striking under coach Ray Longo.

But Weidman’s striking, although undoubtedly powerful, has never faced off against a striker like Machida, the lifelong karate practitioner who utilizes a style his father Yoshido actually created.

“The Dragon’s” power has received a huge boost thanks to the weight cut, and his takedown defense is beyond solid for a man with striking as his base. Weidman is arguably in for the toughest test of his life, because it seemed like Silva was almost ready to make way for a new crop of talented middleweights heading into UFC 162.

Nothing can be taken away from Weidman’s achievements, but he can put an emphatic exclamation point on his title reign by making Machida his latest victim. Will the champion silence his doubters at UFC 175, or are we destined to witness the birth of yet another “Machida Era?”

Photo: Jayne Kamin-Oncea for USA TODAY Sports