Breaking Down The Three Threats To Weidman In 2014
I do not deny that Weidman is the true champion. He beat Silva fair and square both times. In their first match, Weidman capitalized on Silva’s two glaring weaknesses: the fact that he suffers against heavy pressure and power wrestling, and the fact that Silva is sometimes overly dramatic in his attempts to get in his opponents’ head. (Check out Jack Slack; he describes Silva’s flaws in a very technical way.)
Weidman had just been through a family tragedy due to Hurricane Sandy in which his home was severely damaged before his fight with Silva. He was coming off a brutal victory (and very late stoppage; looking at you Josh Rosenthal) over Mark Munoz and then he was subsequently sidelined due to injury. Coming into that first fight, there was no way Weidman could be stopped. His passion was unwavering and his spirit was unbreakable.
No one would have been able to beat that man on July 6, 2013 at UFC 162, and Silva was the man who ended up on the canvas unconscious for the first time in his career. Silva awoke to Weidman standing near him, with an American flag draped across his back and a smile on his face, victorious.
And after seeing his performance he put on against Silva at UFC 168? That was amazing. A fight where he had Silva nearly out cold at one point in the first round (watch the replay; it happened.) Weidman then finished the fight by properly checking an inside leg kick and inadvertently breaking the former champion Silva’s leg. Absolutely stunning.
But. But is the most important word when one discusses the current UFC middleweight title picture. Weidman has three men in particular champing at the bit to get their hands on the lucrative UFC middleweight title, and all three of them are a threat.
Also, not only are they all Brazilian; two of them train with Silva.
First off, we have former UFC light heavyweight champion and Silva training partner Lyoto Machida. After dropping down to 185 and starching “The Filipino Wrecking Machine” at UFC Fight Night Munoz vs. Machida in October, it will be hard to deny “The Dragon” a title shot if he defeats Gegard Mousasi next month at UFC Fight Night: Machida vs. Mousasi.
Machida has a style that many have a problem with. If he gets matched up with Weidman, how will Weidman fare? It will be interesting to say the least.
Second on the list is another man who trains with Silva and is swiftly working his way toward the title that the American now holds. That man is eight time World Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Championship gold medalist, two-time ADCC gold medalist, and former Strikeforce middleweight champion Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza. Souza has shown lightning in his hands as of late, and has won all of his past five fights by finish.
The third man who is gunning for the title will be the next man to face Weidman later this year. Vitor Belfort. Shrouded in controversy, yet undeniably talented, Belfort has the brute power and technical mastery to knock any man on the planet out cold. The man seems unstoppable. After three head kick knockouts in a row in 2013, it is hard to argue that Belfort is not the most impressive fighter of last year. (Although my vote is for Demetrious Johnson. Gotta root for the Seattle home team.)
One knock on Belfort? He has sometimes suffered against established wrestlers in the past, and Weidman is an NCAA Division One All-American. Most recently he has had problems against UFC light heavyweight champion Jon Jones, and also current WSOF light heavyweight, heavyweight, hell, any weight Anthony “Rumble” Johnson. Sure, Belfort won that fight against Johnson, but you can’t tell me Dan Miragliotta wasn’t quick on the draw with his stand-ups in that match at UFC 142.
Out of all of those competitors, I believe all three could beat the current champion who hails from New York. But will they be able to? Will Belfort be able to run through Weidman like he has been able to do to all of his recent opponents? In my opinion, it is a very likely possibility.
Will Jacare be able to submit or outstrike the champ? There is a good chance.
Will Machida be able to take advantage of Weidman’s aggressive tendencies through counter striking? Who knows. We never know with Machida.
Whoever comes out of the meat grinder that is the current middleweight division at the end of this year with the belt will truly be the man to beat. Just like Hawk in Sylvester Stallone’s arm-wrestling movie Over The Top.
And this, my friends, is just one of the many reasons why 2014 will be an amazing year for MMA.
Oh, and GO HAWKS!