In this edition of Pundit Arena’s ‘Fighter Of The Week’ we’re going to take an in-depth look at this weekend’s UFC 210 co-main event headliner, Chris “the All-American” Weidman.
Chris Weidman’s legacy as a mixed martial artist may already be set in stone as a result of his pair of wins over the legend and long-time middleweight champion Anderson Silva. but despite the fact that he ruled the 185lb division as champion for approximately two years, questions undoubtedly still remain over his abilities even to this day.
Weidman’s next fight, a UFC 210 meeting with Gegard Mousasi will be one that could end up defining the career of the All-American and if he does, in fact, leave the KeyBank Center in Buffalo this weekend with a loss, it would mark his third successive failure and likely spell the end for his future title-aspirations.
Chris Weidman is a native of New York and from a young age displayed serious amounts of natural athletic ability, something that saw him emerge as a standout wrestler in the years before he made the switch to MMA.
He was a two-time Division I All-American wrestler and just prior to focussing all of his efforts on the multi-faceted world of mixed martial arts, worked as a wrestling instructor at Hofstra University in Long Island. Ray Longo and Matt Serra played a pivotal role in Weidman’s transition to MMA after he failed to achieve his dream of representing the USA in the Olympic games and in February of 2009, he made his debut as a professional, submitting Reuben Lopes with a kimura in the first round.
Three more wins would follow his first (including a KO victory over the eventual Ultimate Fighter-standout Uriah Hall) before the UFC signed him to face the highly-crafty veteran Alessio Sakara in 2011. Sakara represented a truly different challenge for Weidman, and though at times his striking looked shaky, his class on the mat would not be denied and a new hope for the middleweight division was born.
A pair of truly masterful submissions followed as Weidman stepped closer to his shot at the belt, one being a beautiful standing-gullotine choke at UFC 131 and the other a very snappy d’Arce choke achieved over Tom Lawlor at UFC 139.
With his notoriety increasing by the fight, Weidman’s first real test against world-class opposition came against Demian Maia in early 2012. Weidman’s striking had been steadily improving but if I’m honest, when this fight went down – it was a relatively tepid affair with minimal grappling. Sure, the All-American was gutsy enough to take the BJJ-master Maia down on several occasions but this – for me – was the first of several performances by Chris Weidman that perhaps could be described as underwhelming.
I’m not going to criticize him as a fighter, I think he’s an elite competitor in every sense of the word, but I just can’t help but shake the feeling that the stars seemed to align just a tad-bit too nicely for the American over the coming years.
His beautiful finish of Mark Munoz in his next bout was enough to grant him a title-shot, but that in itself is something that speaks volumes about the division that the champion Silva has effectively cleared out around that time. Munoz, of course, was a solid fighter but the Anderson Silva era’s later days saw the middleweight division thinning out to a certain extent – especially in comparison to the shark-tank 185lbs has become today.
The Silva-fights were ones dominated by Weidman, of course. Taunting or no-taunting, leg-break or no-leg-break, the All-American represented a very-bad stylistic matchup for the Spider on paper and when the octagon-doors closed, his pressure, distance control and takedowns nullified the more methodical counter-striking the Brazilian brought to the table.
We all know how each of those fights ended and you have to give it to him, he managed to do what no-one else had until that point and he somehow managed to do it twice. It was a remarkable achievement and one that will live on in the history-books long after he retires.
A very-reluctant Lyoto Machida stood as Chris’ second title-defence and despite a cagey performance in the opening three rounds from the Brazilian, as he opened up later in the fight, he exposed some weaknesses in the stand-up of the All-American. Fight of the Night honours were shared between the two men on the night but again, I can’t help but point out that it was the tame performance of Machida in the first half of the fight that led to Weidman’s victory.
At several points throughout he looked to be in danger against the tricky-karateka and though his game-plan of constant pressure was solid from the off, he still left many questions unanswered despite the fact he left the octagon with that belt still around his waist.
Vitor Belfort was another who appeared to cause problems for Weidman, and though the fight was less than a round, the Phenom clearly hurt his opponent in the opening exchanges. Weidman’s quick takedown and the ground-and-pound that followed were too much for his in-form adversary but again, the questions that had been plaguing this superb-wrestler’s rise were not in any way dispelled.
At UFC 194, after an unbeaten career, Weidman finally met his maker in the former Strikeforce champion Luke Rockhold, whose frankly terrifying kicking ability caused his usually dominant opponent to back-up and possibly give Chael Sonnen’s ill-advised spinning back-fist in the Anderson Silva rematch a run for its money as the worst idea in title-fight history when he – for the first time in his career – attempted a spinning back kick, one that resulted in a takedown and later, a brutal, bloody ground-and-pound win for Rockhold.
Yoel Romero’s thunderous flying knee at UFC 205 marked two consecutive defeats for the All-American and now, with a very-hungry, prime-of-his-life Gegard Mousasi standing before him, Chris Weidman – despite his run as the champ – finds himself in the biggest fight of his career, a fight not only to overturn a two-fight losing streak, but also one where with a win, he can finally dispel some of the doubts that have become more and more widespread as his career as gone on.
Cillian Cunningham, Pundit Arena