Chris Weidman defeated Anderson Silva once again, this time by TKO after Silva’s leg snapped in the second round.
Weidman’s UFC 168 victory means he retains his UFC middleweight title.
The arena is booked. The date is set. And even though the new UFC middleweight champion, Chris Weidman has held his title for a mere 10 days, his Dec. 28 rematch with Anderson Silva can’t come soon enough.
“I’m excited to go out there and prove that what I did is going to happen again,” Weidman, 29, told SI.com in his first comments since UFC president Dana White on Saturday officially announced the rematch. “I’m the better fighter and I’m excited to look even better this next fight.”
Weidman (10-0-0) dethroned Silva (33-5-0) with a knockout 1:18 into the second round of their July 6 title fight. Silva taunted Weidman before the last blow by keeping his arms down and feigning injury after a series of Weidman’s blow. Silva’s antics sparked controversy ranging from erudite discussion about the sportsmanship of Silva’s goading of his opponents to harebrained conspiracy theories about fight fixing. The knockout ended Silva’s streak of 16 straight wins in the UFC, a record 11 knockouts and 14 total finishes.
Weidman wanted the rematch not only to snuff out any talk of subterfuge but also for a much more basic reason: Silva deserves it.
“I’m going to give it to him but because he’s going to deserve it. He’s been on the top for so long,” Weidman says. Though the wait to meet again, for the fighters, might feel just as long.
– Melissa Segura
SI.com analysts Loretta Hunt, Jeff Wagenheim and Jon Wertheim provide their predictions for UFC 162, which takes place Saturday (10 p.m. ET) and will be live-blogged on SI.com.
Anderson Silva vs. Chris Weidman
HUNT: I have to hand it to Weidman and the UFC. I can’t remember the last time a virtually unknown fighter stirred up this much hype as the usurper to the Silva dynasty. I feel like I’m standing alone on a platform where the train has long left the station. Is Weidman the one? He looked promising against a crippled Munoz, who couldn’t move his shoulder six weeks before the bout. I’m sticking with the aging Spider — I can always catch the later train. Silva by TKO
WAGENHEIM: Are we putting too much weight on Weidman’s most high-profile victory, in light of what we now know about the physical and mental state of Mark Muñoz on the night last summer when Chris pummeled him? On the other hand, shouldn’t Weidman’s plodding performance in his second-biggest fight get a pass, considering that he took on (and beat) the estimable Demian Maia on just 11 days’ notice? My point: The jury is still out on the 9-0 challenger. Not so with the champ, who’d already had 29 pro bouts, including four defenses of the UFC middleweight belt, by the time Weidman began his MMA career four years ago. I want to be sold on the good-natured yet bad-to-the-bone Weidman, but I’m not yet ready to liquidate my Silva stock. Silva by TKO.
WERTHEIM: The skills of Weidman are lost on no one but the upset pick — and it’s a hot one — feels more hopeful and whimsical than legitimate. Silva is MMA’s GOAT (Greatest of All-Time) and it’s because of his versatility and adaptability. If there’s a weakness in his game, it would have been exposed by now. Is Weidman — coming off a year-long layoff, under huge pressure, having faced no opponent nearly as skilled — ready? I say close by not quite. Silva by TKO.
Frankie Edgar vs. Charles Oliveira
HUNT: Three tough losses for former champion Edgar has strewn him towards the bottom of the heap. Oliveira is actually more in the middle, a talented featherweight who can clear out the bottom rung, but struggles with the contenders. Edgar by decision.
WAGENHEIM: Edgar enters on an unthinkable three-fight losing streak. But all of the ex-lightweight champ’s defeats were in title fights. Coming out on the wrong end of uber-close decisions against Benson Henderson (twice) and José Aldo can be explained away. A loss to Charles Oliveira could not be. Having fought a higher grade of opponents, Frankie now needs to outclass this guy. Edgar by decision.
WERTHEIM: Both fighters have something to prove. Edgar hasn’t won a fight in almost two years and Oliviera’s star is falling, having not only lost but missed weight in his last fight. This bout feels like an attempt by the UFC to reignite the career of Edgar, a grinding honest fighter. I say he outwrestles and outworks Oliviera. Edgar by decision.
Tim Kennedy vs. Roger Gracie
HUNT: This was a bout that would have eventually played out in Strikeforce, if the promotion was still standing. I expect Kennedy to close the distance to negate Grace’s reach advantage and rack up points on the cage and with an occasional and carefully executed takedown (you don’t want this Gracie on his back too long). If he executes correctly, Kennedy is in the clear. Kennedy by decision.
WAGENHEIM: The majority of Kennedy’s wins have come by submission, but he would be wise to go with Plan B right from the start this time. Tim should know better than to mess with Gracie on the mat. But I’m guessing he’ll play with fire anyway, and get scorched. Gracie by submission.
WERTHEIM: An interesting fight and contrast of styles. Can Kennedy beat Gracie to the punch, as Mo Lawal did? Or can Gracie utilize his size advantage to defend striking and take the fight to the ground? I’ll go with the latter. Gracie by submission.
Mark Muñoz vs. Tim Boetsch
HUNT: Muñoz impressed the MMA sphere this week with his very own Extreme Makeover reveal — the dude lost 62 pound in 5 months! How does this relate to my pick? Munoz gained that weight during a downslide: coming into the Weidman fight with his shoulder surgery still not healed and out of that disaster with a broken foot. If the four-time All American wrestler is back in fighting condition, Boetsch can only hope to throw off some scattered punches here and there before he’s scooped to the mat and eating some Grade A ground-and-pound leather. Muñoz by TKO.
WAGENHEIM: Both were on track for a title shot — Muñoz farther along than Boetsch. Both were derailed — Muñoz more shockingly. Afterward, “The Filipino Wrecking Machine” crashed and burned. Now he faces a road test he simply cannot fail if he’s to stay in the race. Muñoz by decision.
WERTHEIM: Muñoz got plenty of attention in MMA World last week when he revealed that his depression following the loss to Weidman caused his weight to drift north of 260 lbs. Good for him for dropping more than 50 lbs. in seven months. But it’s not the ideal pre-fight regimen, physically or mentally. Still, he’s a superior fighter to Boetsch, 32, whose momentum was stopped by Constantinos Philippou at UFC 155. Muñoz by decision.
Cub Swanson vs. Dennis Siver
HUNT: SoCal survivor Swanson has definitely found his stride: four straight wins in 13 months, with one of them on short notice. When he fights aggressively and uses his speed, things come together for him. Siver, like the oncoming tank that he is, lacks the latter. Swanson by decision.
WAGENHEIM: Swanson is on a roll with four straight wins, three by KO. Siver, in winning six of his last seven, has shown himself to be a survivor. Dennis will be no pushover, but he won’t withstand Cub’s ferocity. Swanson by TKO.
WERTHEIM: An erratic fighter for much of his career, Swanson has matured at the Jackson/Winklejohn Gym. Almost 30, he is on a four-fight win streak and has become one of the more dangerous strikers in the division. Siver is a tough customer with plenty of experience. But Swanson is the stronger fighter. Swanson by TKO.
All hyberbole removed, Anderson Silva will face the toughest challenge of his career on July 6 when he takes on the undefeated Chris Weidman at UFC 162. So why, then, was most of a conference call in advance of the fight covering mostly everything but the fight? A quick look at the highlights from the call:
· A Fight Bigger Than His Own: While Silva might have the biggest fight of his legendary career in front of him, that doesn’t mean he’s lost perspective on what looks to be a bigger battle: That for the future of his native Brazil. In what’s becoming an increasing rarity in sports, Silva embraced his celebrity to speak intelligently and eloquently about the political protests unfolding in his homeland. The protests, Silva says, “are valid as long as they’re peaceful and there’s no destruction of any property.” He went on to say, “Brazil’s got everything to be a great country for Brazilians and for immigrants. It’s just a matter of having more conscious politicians and now people are going to the streets and demanding that from the government.”
The protests began on June 6 as a small, centralized outcry against a hike in transit fees but have swelled in both numbers and purpose. Last Thursday, 1.5 million Brazilians took to the streets in more than 80 cities to rage against government corruption, substandard health care and education, and an atrocious public safety record. Though the protests come on the precipice of soccer’s World Cup next year and the 2016 Summer Olympics, no other sport has a larger percentage of athletes affected than mixed martial arts. Three of the top 10 pound-for-pound UFC fighters are Brazilian-born. For more on the protests, check out this week’s July 1 edition of Sports Illustrated.
· Who’s Fighting Again? Weidman is Silva’s next opponent but he fielded what seemed like just as many questions about . . . Roy Jones, Jr. Yup, the boxer. And the boxer who, we humbly submit, at age 44, should, perhaps, consider hanging up his gloves. “That’s a fight I’ve always wanted. That’s a fight I still want,” Silva says of a matchup with the boxer. “His boxing style is one that I would like to test myself against. I’ve always been a fan of his and I’ve always wanted to test myself against Roy Jones.” Silva floated the idea of fighting Jones earlier this month in an interview with the New York Post. What started as a whimsical wish in a tabloid registered as a legitimate challenge to Jones who responded via TMZ that he would accept the bout?
· Psyched Out? Chris Weidman, who graduated from Hofstra with a psychology degree, may have found an unusual application for his studies: Beating Silva. “I just know what kind of mindset I need to have when I walk in that cage,” Weidman says. “The biggest thing is to stay confident, stay relaxed and make sure I dictate my fight once I get in there.”
– Melissa Segura
Nice 1-2 punch by Chris Weidman.
The “1” was not actually a punch but an elbow, which connected to the head of Mark Muñoz and crumbled him in the main event of UFC on Fuel TV 4 on Wednesday night in San Jose, Calif. What a knockout blow. It knocked Muñoz out of the fight (at 1:37 of the second round, after Weidman had followed his fallen opponent to the mat and unleashed a finishing flurry that really wasn’t needed), out of the No. 1 contender position in the middleweight division and out of a presumed matchup with champion Anderson Silva.
That brings us to the “2,” which also was not a punch. It was a verbal challenge. “I want Anderson Silva,” Weidman (9-0) said afterward in the cage. “Every single time I’ve had a full training camp, I’ve gotten a finish. Give me a full training camp, and I’d love a shot at the man.”
Talk about seizing the moment. Weidman seized Muñoz’s — Mark was expected to be next in line for Silva, since he had been slated for a No. 1 contender’s showdown with Chael Sonnen back in January before injuring an elbow — and then the unbeaten New Yorker seized his own with the respectful but no-nonsense challenge.
It wasn’t merely the victory that allowed Weidman to step to the front of the line. It was the way he won. He came into this fight as an underdog — although no one with any sense was counting him out because, well, we’d never seen him lose. But the thinking was that the title shot was Muñoz’s for the taking, and if he didn’t snatch it up, then guys like Michael Bisping and Alan Belcher would lay claim to it. But Bisping is coming off a loss and Belcher is no more high-profile a fighter than Weidman, and he doesn’t have the kind of signature win that Weidman authored on Wednesday night.
How’d it happen? Once again, we were taught the enduring lesson of the octagon: Wrestling is different from MMA wrestling. Weidman was an All-American at Hofstra but his singlet credentials don’t measure up to those of Muñoz, who was the 2001 NCAA Division I champion at 197 pounds. On those wrestling mats, however, you can go for a takedown without worrying about a punch, knee or kick to the face. And it was within that context that Weidman seized control, getting a takedown in the bout’s first minute, then threatening Muñoz with submissions and punishing him with fists while the fighters were on the ground. Weidman also began the second round with a quick takedown. And when Muñoz got the fight back to standing and tried to change the momentum with a looping overhand right, Weidman was quicker to the punch. I mean, the elbow.
It was Weidman’s moment to shine. And to think about the shiny brass-and-leather belt that’s long been in the possession of Anderson Silva. “My takedowns are pretty good,” he said. “I’ll get him down, and I think, I really do believe, that I can submit him.”
That’s the kind of confidence you can pull off convincingly when you’ve never lost.
SI.com analysts Ben Fowlkes, Loretta Hunt, Jeff Wagenheim and Jon Wertheim provide their predictions for UFC on Fox 2 on Saturday in Chicago.
FOWLKES: If it were a straight-up wrestling match, I’d take Davis. But Evans knows the tricks of this trade a little better, and he’s more comfortable in the big fights. In a match-up this close, that experience could make all the difference. Evans by decision.
HUNT: The athletic Davis has the right body type (lanky reach, thick lower half for explosive shots) to negate champion Jon Jones’ assets in another year or two. But it’s that year or two of missing gym time that will give Evans the edge Saturday. Evans by TKO.
WAGENHEIM: If Davis can take this fight to the mat, his wrestling pedigree (2008 NCAA champ, 2006 runner-up, four-time All-American) will trump the usually superior grappling of Evans. But I have my doubts that, with barely three years in the MMA game, he’s developed the cage savvy to come to grips with Rashad, whose footwork and fast hands should send “Mr. Wonderful” to the canvas not on his own terms. Evans by TKO.
WERTHEIM: This is a big step up for Davis and the conventional wisdom is that he a placeholder so Evans and Jon Jones can finally settle their score. But Evans hasn’t impressed lately; and if Davis can take this to the ground, he has a real shot. I’ll go upset here. Davis by decision.
FOWLKES: Bisping is a better fighter than he gets credit for, but Sonnen is strong in the exact places where the Brit is weak. Get ready for a carnival of takedowns, America. Sonnen by decision.
HUNT: Though Bisping looked polished and well prepared in his last fight against a gassing “Mayhem” Miller, wrestlers are a bad matchup for the U.K. striker. The story of this fight will be takedowns, takedowns, takedowns. Sonnen by decision.
WAGENHEIM: Did you see the whupping Sonnen put on Brian Stann? And that guy’s a Marine with thunder in his fists, someone you might be wary of closing the distance against. Chael isn’t going to hesitate for a millisecond before moving in for the kill against the pitter-patter punching of Bisping. The Brit says he can win this fight from his back, but if he has the ground game to expose Chael’s jiu-jitsu vulnerability, we’ve yet to see it. Sonnen by TKO.
WERTHEIM: Bisping will do his best to get in Sonnen’s head (PED! PED!) but if he’s Sonnen equal in the talking department, there’s nothing else he does better. Like most Brits, Bisping’s not adept at defending the takedown. Sonnen’s superior wrestling will win out. Sonnen by decision.
Chris Weidman has always been a risk taker.
As a kid he wasn’t very good at tag because he would run too close to people while taunting, “You can’t get me.” As an adult he takes the biggest professional fight of his life on the shortest notice of his career.
“I’m young, you only live once, and if the opportunity arises I’m jumping at it,” said the 27-year-old middleweight, who will take on Demian Maia on Saturday at UFC on Fox 2.
Weidman owns a 7-0 record, but Saturday will only be his fourth fight in Dana White’s organization. His biggest UFC win came in November, when he defeated Tom Lawlor by submission. A win over Maia would propel Weidman from a top UFC prospect to a bona fide contender. He took the fight on 11 days notice.
“They give him a day’s notice and he’d be ready to fight as long as he could get his weight there,” Strikeforce heavyweight Gian Villante said. Villante defeated Trevor Smith by TKO on Jan. 7 and Weidman was a part of his camp. Villante said Weidman is always in shape and in the gym, but that the short notice will make the weight cut more difficult. Weidman isn’t worried about it.
“It’s probably the most weight I’ve cut in this amount of time, but my body knows the deal,” said Weidman, who weighed 217 pounds the day he took the fight. “I’m prepared and I’ll be good with the weight cut. I’m excited for the struggle too. It’s a good experience.”
Instead of making excuses, Weidman is looking forward to the additional challenges that come with being a late injury replacement. He said he’ll be able to look back on this week’s fight preparation and learn more about what his body can handle during a tough weight cut.
Weidman’s confident attitude has even translated over to his training partners. Villante said that training with someone of Weidman’s caliber gives him confidence for his own professional fights. The Strikeforce veteran was asked to imitate Maia’s unique, Brazilain Jiu-Jitsu-based fighting style during Weidman’s ridiculously short training camp.
“If I was Demian Maia I’d feel bad because Chris beat me up pretty bad when I was acting like him,” Villante said.