Posted 12/23/2013 by Derek Suboticki in Subo Says
 
 

Chris Weidman Beat Anderson Silva, Not An Impersonator: UFC 168 Preview

A great deal of professional sportswriting is utterly predictable. Triumphant champions are inevitably hailed for “wanting it more” than their opponents, their “hunger” and “heart” having been judged superior on the field of competition; underdogs are necessarily “scrappy” and possessive of an “us against the world” mentality; Peter King will give disparate credit/blame to white/black quarterbacks before backpedaling the next day and giving longwinded descriptions of the kind of travel woes most Americans would kill to care about; and retiring/fading athletes will be remembered and celebrated for their prime more than belittled for their later playing/fighting days. These archetypes, however, become less predictive when emotions are in play – and they are never in play more than when an all-time great, one that changed the sport and its record books, shows the mortal side of their demigod status among us.

A consensus has built around the first bout between Anderson Silva and Chris Weidman, and it goes like this: Anderson Silva underestimated Chris Weidman, clowned around and got knocked out. Rather than engaging the challenger and finishing him – which, were he interested in doing so, he clearly would have – Anderson Silva screwed around and tempted fate in a way he never had before. Weidman, consequently, landed a punch he (nor anyone else) could have never hoped to otherwise, ending the fight – and Anderson’s amazing run at champion – in the most anticlimactic manner possible. The outcome of the rematch, scheduled as the headliner of UFC 168 this coming Saturday, is entirely dependent on Anderson: if he wants it, he’ll take it, if he doesn’t, he won’t.

I find this to be patently inaccurate.

First of all, to place the entirety of the blame on Silva’s loss on Silva’s shoulders is to absolve Weidman, a 29 year old undefeated beast of a 185er, of any responsibility for that outcome. It’s not as if Chris Weidman’s victory was some sort of out-of-the-blue Matt Serra redux or the type of upset that made bookmakers cry for mercy. The bout itself was pegged by Vegas as Anderson’s closest in years, with some only paying out 2 to 1 for bets on the underdog challenger; Serra, for comparison’s sake, was a +800 underdog when he clipped Georges St Pierre at UFC 69 (tee hee). Weidman himself was (and is) a relative newcomer to the middleweight division, but he had shown flashes of brilliance as early as 2010, when Sherdog’s Jordan Breen posted about him as a prospect to look out for. While his resume was less than stellar going into the bout, his demolition of then-top five Mark Munoz – following on the heels of his eleven day notice shutout of Demian Maia – was more than enough to show that he was, in fact, a legitimate threat to Silva’s crown.

Those picking Weidman – again, a non-negligible number of MMA fans and bettors – were primarily doing so due to his size, power and wrestling background, combined with his ever-evolving submission game. An ADCC participant, Weidman was looked at as a kind of Chael Sonnen with submission defense; this was, at the time and maybe even now, considered the quintessential Spider killer. What, then, was Anderson’s gameplan? To bait his opponent, superior on the ground and in terms of raw physicality, into a striking match from distance. And he did! Despite Weidman’s near-instant takedown (and ability to safely land from that position), the majority of the bout was contested in Anderson’s wheelhouse. How is that a failed strategy?

Chris Weidman’s unique four-punch combo, replete with a backhand after a missed jab that led to the penultimate punch (before finishing on the ground), was exactly the kind of thing that Anderson Silva baits his opponents into throwing. His dismissive taunting and insanely brutal leg kicks (listen to the noise they make and the claims they generated from Chael Sonnen for confirmation) prompted Weidman, an inferior striker by any measure, into throwing a combination that earns any competent MMA fighter a few extra minutes of cardio if thrown in practice. The champion didn’t have to resort to the shorts-grabbing that characterized his take down defense against Sonnen the second time around; the attempts simply weren’t coming. It was everything Anderson could have hoped for, particularly after the first round – in that respect, it may be Ray Longo who was most affected by the strategy, as he advised his fighter to “punch a hole in [Silva's] fucking chest” rather than taking the fight back to the ground.

There were fans of Anderson Silva that were genuinely hurt by his performance at UFC 162, going as far as to disown him, vow not to watch the rest of his career, accuse him of “giving up” a fight/belt that was clearly his for the taking. People I like and respect, people whose work I enjoy and appreciate… this is just another place where I think my relative infancy in MMA impacts my ability to understand my elders. With the possible exception of Donald Cerrone, there isn’t a fighter in the world whose wins and losses actually impact me on a personal level; I can’t imagine feeling “betrayed” or otherwise slighted by a fighter’s performance. It’s just not that personal to me with Anderson Silva. I think that’s part of why I don’t dismiss out-of-hand the idea that 29 year old Chris Weidman, as a mixed martial artist, is just flat-out better than 38 year old Anderson Silva.

Maybe I’m an outlier – I recently found out that Matt Roth, MMAMania author and co-host of Untethered MMA (along with Mike Fagan and myself), never watches old fights – but I will, from time to time, trawl my MMA video library for the sake of both nostalgia and research. Following the reactions to their first bout (which largely fit and formed the consensus outlined above), I made a point of rewatching Anderson Silva against Chris Weidman at UFC 162 several times. For those of you interested in doing the same, click here for their first fight, courtesy of Zuffa. Only one conclusion can be drawn: that was Anderson Silva in there with Chris Weidman. And Chris Weidman won. I have no idea whether he’ll win again – we’ll find out in less than a week – but anticipating and debating that possibility is both more entertaining and reality-based than whether or not Anderson Silva bothers to show up this time. The latter is patently offensive to Chris Weidman and unsupported by what happened in their first bout.

 

 

 


Derek Suboticki

 
Derek Suboticki is a weekly contributor to MMA Owl. He also co-hosts Untethered MMA every Thursday at 7 p.m. ET at FightFansRadio.com, also available as a podcast via iTunes. Previous work includes being former editor at Head Kick Legend and Fightlinker and contributor for Watch Kalib Run and Cageside Seats.