754 Seconds For Naught: Overlooking Chris Weidman Dec 31, 2013

Chris Weidman 2“Anderson Silva was clowning. Who knows how the fight would have played out otherwise.”

“Anderson’s broken leg was a freak accident. Who knows how the fight would have played out otherwise.”

Those are the prevailing narratives that emerged from the pair of bouts between Anderson Silva and Chris Weidman. It almost seems a crime in the days following the second fight to even mention the actual UFC Middleweight Champion’s name. For most, these two contests were all about what Silva did or didn’t do; what happened to Silva; or what may happen with the rest of his career.

It may be the overwhelming sense of nostalgia that pervades MMA fandom which causes this reaction. The same nostalgia that will have people convinced that BJ Penn is motivated and in the best shape of his life leading up to his bout against Frankie Edgar. The whole ‘PRIDE never die’ mentality. In many cases, fans should be applauded for their loyalty in a world that is increasingly devoid of it. However, in all of the attention paid to Anderson Silva from July 6th to now, the true story has been buried.

Chris Weidman is, in 2013, a better fighter than Anderson Silva.

Look at is this way. At UFC 162 Weidman was able to get an early takedown, land some good ground and pound and threaten with submissions. He even landed some decent strikes on the feet. He won the first round, and he did it clearly. Even then, the story was Silva’s posturing. People thought that, despite producing virtually zero offense, Silva was turning the tide in the fight. Some have even claimed that Silva was winning the fight.

Seventy-eight seconds into the second round of a fight he was apparently starting to take over, Silva was unconscious. Dropped by a Weidman left hook and demolished by a diving right hand, his reign was over. Rather than having praise heaped upon him for taking advantage where many others had failed, Weidman’s win was dismissed as the product of a cocky champion who wasn’t taking the fight, or the sport, seriously. Lost in the white noise following that bout was the fact that Weidman was in complete control of all but perhaps 30 seconds of the contest.

Possibly the biggest culprit in all of this is the UFC itself. Rather than putting its substantial promotional muscle behind the new, young champion, UFC brass (or marketing, or whoever makes these decisions) seemed just as reticent as MMA fans to credit Weidman with a “clean” win. Had they pushed the American’s immense talent and uncommonly dominant resume, they could have at least begun to create a new star. Anderson Silva would have lost none of his lustre, and fans would have been just as eager to see the rematch. There really was no downside.

Instead of the rematch being built on the tenet of Silva trying to come back and avenge himself to regain his title, he was deemed to have given it away, and we were left with a much less palatable “will he show up?” storyline.

Fast forward to December 28th, and the two men stood across the cage once again. Silva was still the favorite, as the general public had done an excellent job of forgetting the previous 378 seconds the fighters spent in the cage, instead running with the “clowning” narrative.

As someone examining this saga from a rational perspective might imagine, the second fight began similarly to the first. Aside from knocking Silva out, Weidman was able to mount all of the same offense as the first fight – taking Anderson down, landing hard ground and pound, threatening with submissions, and hurting him on the feet – this time in the span of a single round instead. Aside from a handful of strikes from his back, Silva was limited to no effective offense.

At this point, even those who had doubted Weidman after the first fight had to be reconsidering their stance. Through two full rounds, the young champion had been in almost complete control. The next 76 seconds were essentially a stalemate in what was supposed to be Silva’s realm. Each man landed one kick prior to Weidman checking an attempted inside leg kick and Silva’s shin simply giving out. A fluke injury gave Silva apologists another out in a fight he was clearly losing.

Once again, Weidman was the better fighter, but once again the focus was all on Silva. His injury is terrible, and it would be unfortunate if that was the last time he steps foot in the Octagon, but that should not take away from the fact that Weidman proved over a combined 754 seconds that he was the superior mixed martial artist.

Perhaps someday people will look back upon these fights and come to the conclusion that Chris Weidman didn’t just win because Silva lacked motivation in one bout and he fortuitously checked a kick in the other. Unfortunately, with the accounts of their time in the cage together as currently portrayed, those fights were essentially for naught.

Beating the consensus greatest fighter in MMA history twice in one year should be cause for celebration. Instead, Weidman’s nascent title reign is marred by doubt, dismissal and discussion of circumstance. Other than being exposed to a larger audience, the stock of this UFC champion is no further ahead than it was before he won the belt, and that’s a shame.

Written by Brad Taschuk

Brad began following MMA closely in 2004, and started writing about the sport in 2008. Since then he has contributed to websites like Sportsnet.ca, but now primarily writes and edits for MMAOddsbreaker.com. You can also follow Brad’s personal MMA bets on his website.

2 Responses to “754 Seconds For Naught: Overlooking Chris Weidman”

  1. jellybelly says:

    Nice article. And I agree with it. The fanboyish perspective will always be there. It is understandable. As a fan, you cannot fathom your idol losing to a young guy with 10 fights in his record. And not only losing, but losing in a devastating fashion, in a fashion which we never could have imagined. Most of Weidmans fans predicted a decision or a submission in the first fight, only to see Weidman knock him out cold on the feet.

    Weidman outstruck him, outwrestled him, ground and pounded him, hurt him in the clinch as well as knocked him out in those 754 seconds. Simply put, Weidman outclassed him. Weidman is the better fighter as a result of going 2-0 against him.

    However, here is where I believe a problem arises. Fans of Weidman claim that Silva finally met a solid fighter, a guy who could expose the weaknesses he had all along, the guy who is simply better than him that he has yet to face in his past 16 fights in the UFC. First and foremost, this discredits Silvas reign. And another thing they tend to ignore, is the fact that Weidman fought a 38 year old champion.

    Weidman is certainly a better fighter than Silva as of July 2013 till forever. But one simply cannot say that Weidman is the fighter that had Silvas number all along, as if Silva would have never had the streak he had if he faced Weidman earlier in his career. No one claims the guys that beat Muhammad Ali late in his career are better than him, or the guys that beat Roy Jones Jr. late in his career are better than him, so why should it change with Silva? The guys that beat those boxers late in their career were better than them at that point in time but in no way shape or form did those guys have their numbers, as if Jones and Ali were lucky they didn’t face those guys earlier in their career.

    • Brad Taschuk says:

      The latter half of your post is very true. Many people had already pegged Weidman as a future champion early on in his career. I know that he first came to my notice when he gave Andre Galvao a world of trouble at the 2009 ADCCs. But to say he would fare the same against a 34 year-old Silva is simply a claim we can’t make.

      As far as the grappling game goes, I think we’ve seen some consistent improvement from Anderson since he came into the UFC. His takedown defense was suspect early on, and it has become very good. Same goes for his defensive grappling (offensively he’s always been pretty dangerous). So do I think that this incarnation of Weidman would have had success against a younger Anderson? Yes. Can we say it for sure? Absolutely not. Purely conjecture.

      And I didn’t clarify this in my article, but this does absolutely nothing to diminish what Anderson has done in the sport. He is still the most accomplished fighter in UFC and arguably MMA history, and losing to Weidman twice doesn’t change that. However, I don’t think people are making this mistake. I don’t think I’ve heard anyone say Anderson isn’t the greatest fighter of all time after these fights (if they didn’t already hold that stance prior). At the same time, people shouldn’t be letting the nature of those victories take away from Weidman’s accomplishments, which I feel is a far bigger issue here, and what really prompted me to write the article.