Less than one week after the biggest fight of the year, and maybe all of MMA history, Chris Weidman burst on to the scene as the best possible option to face Anderson Silva. His transitions from striking to takedowns were flawless. His top game was both smothering and punishing at the same time. Most importantly, he was confident enough to stand in the pocket with a guy with a lot of power in Mark Munoz. Chris showed all the qualities an opponent will need to compete with Anderson. Here are 5 reasons why, if given the opportunity, he could end the best streak in MMA history:
The one quality any opponent taking on Anderson Silva must have is elite wrestling skills. Striking with Anderson is a losing proposition for anybody, so a game-plan that is heavy wrestling oriented is the best possible. Chris “The All-American” Weidman has one of the best backgrounds in the 185 lb division. A four-time All-American qualifier at 197 lbs in college (two at the JUCO level) who holds wins over a few UFC 205 lb fighters, Weidman went on to earn a third place finish in 2007 (finishing ahead of Ryan Bader and Phil Davis). He also competed on the national level as he is a Cadet Freestyle and Greco-Roman All-American.
Although Anderson Silva has a black belt under the Nogueira’s in BJJ, he has been submitted before in mixed-martial arts competition (even if it was some time ago). So a fighter containing a good ground game would be one step closer to solving the riddle that is “The Spider”. Enter the phenom that is Chris Weidman when it comes to grappling. Chris was recruited by Gabriel Toribio to be the wreslting coach at Matt Serra‘s BJJ academy at the end of his collegiate career. He decided to take some classes while he was there, and three months later he had won the East coast Grappler’s Quest event in both his weight class and the absolute division. A little over a year after that he won enough matches to be selected to compete in the Abu-Dhabi Combat Club Submission Wrestling World Championship (ADCC). He made it to the second round at both 88 kg and the absolute division where he lost to Andre Galvao and Vinny Magalhaes, respectively. The Galvao match is especially memorable as he came within a couple points of winning. Let me put this in perspective, Andre Galvao is a multiple time ADCC champion at different weight classes while also taking gold seven times at the World Jiu-Jitsu championships (Mundials). Chris, with less than two years of BJJ training, almost beat him.
Anderson Silva has held a size advantage on almost every single fighter he’s gone up against in the UFC’s middleweight division. Even guys like Yushin Okami and Chael Sonnen who can match Anderson’s bulk couldn’t match-up with the long limbs of the GOAT. Chris’s size mirrors Anderson when it comes to both height and length (both stand at 6’2 while Weidman holds a slight advantage in reach), but its Chris’s history of competing against bigger guys in wrestling that will give him even more confidence when entering the cage with Silva.
In his first fight with Silva, Chael Sonnen put on a clinic for striking to takedown transitions. Anderson simply didn’t know whether Chael was going to shoot or strike, and it gave “Shael” the most success anybody has had in close to a decade when facing the champ. Compare that to the display Weidman put on against Munoz, and you can’t help but be impressed. At the 4:30 mark Chris throws a right head kick, backs up, and immediately shoots a pretty single leg takedown. He then spends the rest of the round switching from pressure, to striking, to looking for submission while always being in complete control.
In two years, Chris has not only become the best prospect in the 185 lb division (and in this writer’s opinion all of MMA), but he’s also turned into a top 5 ranked fighter. His growth is exemplified the most when you look at his perfectly timed elbow on a hard charging Mark Munoz. This is a guy who has made it clear his intentions are to grapple in MMA; he had the fortitude to hang in the pocket, slip a big overhand right, and finish the fight with a beautiful short elbow. The fact that he’s just 3 years in to his MMA career is scary.