Everything you need to know about this weekend's big fight.
Despite many UFC fighters predicting a Chris Weidman victory, Anderson Silva remains the Las Vegas favorite. (AP)
A mind-blowing all-time great against an indomitable and resolute star on the rise. That is the buildup backdrop of the UFC middleweight championship fight between the longtime belt holder Anderson Silva and Chris Weidman in the main event of UFC 162 on Saturday at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas (10 p.m. RT, PPV, $54.99). The 38-year-old Silva (33-4, 16-0 in the UFC), who ranks No. 1 both among 185-pounders and on the pound-for-pound list in the SI.com mixed martial arts rankings, has been the champion since October 2006, giving him the longest reign of anyone in the fight promotion’s history. He’s defended the belt a UFC-record 10 times and also holds promotion records for overall finishes (14) and finishes in title fights (nine). Overall, he’s won 17 straight fights, many spectacularly. When MMA superlatives are spoken, they invariably apply to the Brazilian fistic virtuoso known as “The Spider.” And when the topic of who’s the best fighter of all time is raised, Silva is always part of the discussion. For many, the mention of his name ends the discussion.
Weidman (9-0), No. 2 among middleweights in the SI.com rankings (and the No. 1 contender in the UFC’s official media-voted tally), was a two-time NCAA Division I wrestler (after two years as a junior college All-American) who began his MMA career fighting just four years ago. In his fifth UFC bout, last July, he dominated top middleweight contender Mark Muñoz, finishing him in the second round with a crushing elbow followed by a barrage of punches. The robust performance elevated Weidman to the top of the heap among 185-pound challengers.
In addition to the pay-per-view telecast of the five-fight main card, four prelims will be shown on FX (8 p.m. ET) and two will stream on the UFC’s Facebook page (6:30 p.m.).
The moment Silva’s psychodrama with Chael Sonnen had played itself out a year ago, the champion began looking for bigger and better things. There was talk of a superfight against light heavyweight champion Jon Jones. There was talk of a superfight against welterweight champ Georges St-Pierre.
In the end, “The Spider” settled for bigger but by no means better. He made a temporary move up to light heavy, something he’d done successfully twice before during his middleweight reign, and fought semiretired Stephan Bonnar. Make that: toyed with semiretired Stephan Bonnar. Before mercifully finishing in the closing seconds of the first round, Silva spent much of the fight with his arms hanging at his side, evading Bonnar’s punches with nothing but head movement. It was the MMA equivalent of the Harlem Gloetrotters vs. the Washington Generals.
Weidman, meanwhile, was fresh off his biggest career victory, a TKO of Mark Muñoz that culminated a dominant beatdown of the man who in the buildup to the fight was being talked about as possibly being next in line for a shot at Silva. That victory, combined with his mundane but convincing victory over Demian Maia in a fight Weidman took on 11 days’ notice, thrust the New Yorker to the head of the queue. While waiting his turn, Chris underwent surgery on his right elbow and right shoulder, keeping him out of the cage for a full year. Even with Weidman inactive for so long, Silva was resistant to take this fight. Weidman has only nine bouts on a resume with very few recognizable names on it. Would this fight enhance his legacy? Would it sell to the MMA public? Considering all of that plus Weidman’s skill set, which plays into Silva’s weakness as a defensive wrestler, this seemed like a classic high-risk, low-reward fight for the champ. Until other fighters began picking Weidman, and the fanbase began getting hooked.
Official weights announced at Friday's weigh-in (7 p.m. ET, Fuel TV)
Other Numbers To Count On
12: Post-fight bonuses won by Silva, tying him with Joe Lauzon for most in UFC history. In 16 UFC bouts, Silva leads all fighters with seven Knockout of the Night awards, and also has three Fight of the Night and two Submission of the Night bonuses. Weidman has one KO of the Night and one Sub of the Night bonus in five UFC bouts.
67.8: Silva’s significant strike accuracy percentage, best in UFC history. (All stats from the promotion’s record keeper, FightMetric.com.)
17: Knockdowns by Silva, most in UFC history.
4.47: Takedowns landed by Weidman, on average, over a 15-minute fight.
100: Weidman’s takedown defense percentage. Not that Silva’s going to try to take this fight to the canvas, but the stat is nonetheless impressive.
Silva knockouts and other highlights:
Weidman’s unbeaten run in the UFC:
Did you see what Chael Sonnen did to Silva for about 23 minutes in their first meeting back in 2010? Sonnen started out doing much the same thing in their rematch two years later, taking down the champion within seconds and keeping him on his back for the entirety of the first round. Chris Weidman must follow that blueprint.
Weidman is capable of doing Chael one better. He has the wrestling chops to put Anderson on the canvas, and he has the ability -- that is, the tenacity and jiu-jitsu skill -- to end the fight once it’s a grappling match. For Sonnen, takedowns led to no more than a waiting game, as he merely maintained top control as the clock went tick-tick-tick and the cageside judges admired how he was in charge while they wrote a “10” next to his name, again and again.
Until Chael wasn’t in charge. Sonnen had Silva looking like a beaten man until barely two minutes remained and the champ suddenly pulled a triangle armbar out of his bag of magic tricks. Abra cadabra, bigmouth. Tap-tap-tap.
That part is not in the Weidman blueprint. He can’t just sit in the Silva guard. He has to finish. If he doesn’t, Anderson will. And if “The Spider” escapes to his feet, watch out. Now the fight is in his world. Anderson Silva owns this world and chooses to live in it alone.
“It’s been a dream-come-true fight for me. Since I got to MMA, he’s been the champion in my weight class. The only reason I got in this sport was to be No. 1. Right away I had to envision beating this guy if I was going to do it. And I believed I could beat him from Day 1.” --Chris Weidman, speaking on the SI.com show 'SI Now' on Monday
“It’s good for Chris Weidman, not for me. He’s a boy. He’s a kid. It’s good for Chris Weidman.” --Anderson Silva, speaking back in February on the Fuel TV show 'UFC Tonight,' on what was then just a potential matchup with Weidman
“I apologize that I’m going to [expletive] up all your superfights. If you take Anderson Silva out of the mix, the superfights are all gone. I’m gonna [expletive] up all your superfights and I’m gonna be your next champion. But what I will do for you is I’ll give him an immediate rematch in Madison Square Garden as soon as he loses.” --Weidman speaking to Dana White, according to the UFC president
“All the pros, when you talk to all the fighters -- every fighter out there that I’ve talked to, that we’ve interviewed, thinks Weidman is going to beat him. Georges St-Pierre thinks he’s going to win so much that he didn’t even want to plan to fight Anderson.” --Dana White
“I believe it’s a bad matchup for Anderson Silva. Very bad, style-wise. Anderson’s weaknesses are Weidman’s strengths. I’ve trained with Weidman, and his wrestling is on another level. Not only is Chris Weidman going to beat Anderson Silva, I believe he’s going to finish Anderson. I believe it's not going to last too long, this fight.” --Georges St-Pierre, UFC welterweight champion (via Sportsnet)
“Weidman can absolutely do it. But against Anderson Silva the pressure is on not to make a mistake while he uses his strikes to set up a takedown. That is the critical thing for Weidman. I’ve spent some time with Chris, he’s a smart dude, and he knows he’s not going to try to strike with Anderson. And he has to be conscious of that fact: Striking-wise, Weidman cannot compete against Anderson on any level. At all.” --Dominick Cruz, UFC men’s bantamweight champion
“I think Anderson Silva is the best pound-for-pound fighter in the world, but Weidman is the absolute worst possible matchup for him.” --Ronda Rousey, UFC women’s bantamweight champion
“Gotta go with the East Coast boy Weidman. He’s the whole package. Anderson has fought good wrestlers, but Chris has got great jiu-jitsu and a solid standup game as well.” --Frankie Edgar, former UFC lightweight champion, who fights Charles Oliveira in Saturday’s co-main event
“Anderson has shown one weakness -- he can be controlled on the ground by powerful wrestlers -- and Weidman is the most powerful wrestler there is in the division. … The only way I see Weidman not winning is if he has a macho thing where he has illusions of striking with the best striker in the world. But I think he’s too smart for that.” --Frank Mir, former two-time UFC heavyweight champion
“He’s a beast. He’s an animal. He will take this fight to Anderson Silva, but unlike some of the other guys, he will do it with aggression and skills.” --Matt Serra, former UFC welterweight champion and Weidman’s jiu-jitsu teacher
“When Anderson is moving, he’s the best. If he strikes the way he can strike, he’ll have his way with Weidman. Weidman is very good at setting up his shots and Weidman is very good on the ground. I think if Anderson is on his back, he’s going to have a long night.” --Mark Muñoz, Weidman’s last opponent and a former Silva training partner, speaking to MMA Fighting; he fights Tim Boetsch on Saturday’s undercard
“Weidman is a younger version of me, and a better version when it comes to aspects like top game. I took Anderson down repeatedly, and while I punched him all night, I don’t have the submissions Weidman has. Weidman is going to have the same success I had with a ground attack, but then he’s going to choke Anderson.” --Chael Sonnen, who twice lost to Silva but dominated much of both fights
“I don’t think there is any fighter in the world who can hope to beat Anderson on the feet, but I think Weidman can and will get this to the ground and, once there, I expect him to be in a huge position to win the fight.” --Kenny Florian, three-time UFC title challenger, current co-host of Fuel TV’s [ROM]UFC Tonight
“If anyone is going to beat Anderson Silva, and stop this guy retiring with the belt, undefeated in the UFC, for sure it is Chris Weidman.” --Gray Maynard, two-time UFC lightweight title challenger
Silva is favored, with odds at various sports books ranging from -224 (bet $100 to win $44.64) to -333 (bet $100 to win $30.03). Odds on Weidman range from +180 (bet $100 to win $180) to +220 (bet $100 to win $220).
Weidman has what it takes to win. He has the wrestling. He has the tenacity. He is a humble man who is following his dream, and that’s a hard man to stop.
Silva is 38, and you have to get old sometime. The champ has had his troubles with wrestlers. It would not be shocking to see him on his back, being smothered by the challenger.
It would, however, be shocking to see Weidman’s hand being raised in the end. A lot of people think he can win. And they’re right: He can. But how do you pick against Anderson Silva? Maybe if he bites off more than he can chew with a Jon Jones superfight. Maybe if he loses a step to the aging process. But not now. It’s Anderson Silva, for goodness sake. Silva by TKO.
Silva unleashed a front-kick-to-the-face that levelled Vitor Belfort in February 2011. (Zuffa LLC via Getty Images)
The Tweet Beat
Join the conversation about Silva-Weidman on Twitter. Track the hashtags #SilvaWeidman or #ufc162 to see who's tweeting what about Saturday's fight. And get blow-by-blow coverage on SI.com via Loretta Hunt's live blog.
· Frankie Edgar vs. Charles Oliveira, featherweight
· Tim Kennedy vs. Roger Gracie, middleweight
· Mark Muñoz vs. Tim Boetsch, middleweight
· Cub Swanson vs. Dennis Silver, featherweight
· Non-PPV fights (8 p.m. ET, FX): Chris Leben vs. Andrew Craig, middleweight; Norman Parke vs. Kazuki Tokudome, lightweight; Gabriel Gonzaga vs. Dave Herman, heavyweight; Edson Barboza vs. Rafaello Oliveira, lightweight.
· Facebook fights (6:35 p.m. ET): Seth Baczynski vs. Brian Melancon, welterweight; Mike Pierce vs. David Mitchell, welterweight.
· Mike Goldberg will handle blow-by-blow for the PPV and prelims on FX and Facebook, with Joe Rogan on analysis. Jay Glazer will host an hour-long postfight show on Fuel TV, beginning at 1 a.m.
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