When the unpredictable happens, reactions tend to be not so unpredictable.
I'm referring to Chris Weidman's upset of Anderson Silva. And yes, I realize that some of you who are reading this will say it's nonsense for me to characterize that result as unpredictable, particularly if you're among the half of the UFC fighter roster or the smaller but still significant segment of the mixed martial arts media and fan base who picked the challenger to win. But I'm still going to refer to Weidman's second-round TKO as unpredictable because, as much as I thought the undefeated New Yorker had what it takes to do the unthinkable, it came as a shock when he actually did.
(How much of a shock? Ask the poor vacationers who were trying to sleep in the tranquil lakeside inn where I went with my laptop to sit in a parlor all evening using the wi-fi to watch the UFC 162 pay-per-view from faraway Las Vegas. When suddenly Silva went down, I let out a shriek that surely awakened every slumbering guest and might even have reached the nearby cottage where my family was sleeping. Didn't see that one coming.)
And to those of you who predicted the winner, I say, c'mon, admit you were stunned, too, when you saw Weidman do it. The way he did.
Nearly two weeks have passed since that surreal evening, and I'm talking about it today because it's still just about the only thing that anyone who follows MMA cares to talk about. That includes the fight and the aftermath, the "will he?" or "will he not?" we went through for several days regarding a rematch.
Most people I communicated with had the aftermath all figured out. Silva's post-fight ambivalence ("I don't fight anymore for the belt") was widely seen as nothing more than the numb reaction of a man who had not lost for seven years ... until moments earlier, when he'd been brutally knocked out. This is not a time to take a man's thoughts to heart. Few of us did. And sure enough, by the end of last week Silva was on YouTube, wearing an "Anderson Knows" Nike T-shirt, and announcing, "I back."
So the rematch that had to happen will indeed happen Dec. 28 in Las Vegas, in UFC 168. What a relief, right? Well, not for everyone.
To the mailbag ...
Yes, Silva is the greatest of all time, and his impressive run in the UFC should count for something. But granting him this automatic rematch simply "because he's Anderson Silva" sets a bad precedent. The guy was beaten as convincingly as you can be beaten, and he gets to go right back in there to fight again for the belt? Yeah, I know it's Anderson Silva, but where do you draw the line? What if Johny Hendricks, Alexander Gustaffson, and "The Korean Zombie" pull off similar upsets in the next few months? Will they all have to beat those champions twice? -- Brian, Marysville, Calif.
I understand your dissent on Weidman-Silva II, Brian, but I think Anderson has earned that privilege. Yes, "because he's Anderson Silva." It's true that he was beaten far more decisively than either Frankie Edgar or BJ Penn, the two most recent champions given immediate rematches after being dethroned. However, a reign of seven years and 10 title defenses, and 17 straight victories overall, counts for something.
A Hendricks win over Georges St-Pierre, Gustaffson upset of Jon Jones or Chang-Sung Yung unseating of José Aldo might call for a rematch, too, but none of those great champions is quite as deserving of a mulligan as Silva is.
Why does the UFC insist on instant rematches? Why not have a title defense by the new champion against a new challenger and a title eliminator for the recently dethroned champ? This builds the revenue potential as well as keeps the title with a fresher face (or faces) for the immediate future. The fans and fighters deserve to have a new champion defend against a top-rated challenger before we have to embrace Part II. What do you think? -- Joe, Mission Viejo, Calif.
I do agree that rematches can bog down a weight class, as was the case in the lightweight division during the 2½ years after Edgar took down Penn. We saw Part II between them, then a dramatic two-part miniseries starring Frankie and Gray Maynard, and finally a doubleheader between Edgar and Benson Henderson. All the while, the rest of the 155-pound gang basically stood around and watched. Actually, they jostled for a position that wasn't hiring.
When you mention revenue, Joe, I think you answer your own question. The UFC creates its matchups based on what fights the bean counters think will sell. If Dana White & Co. thought they could pile up more dollars by pitting Weidman against, say, Vitor Belfort and making Silva earn his shot by beating Michael Bisping or someone, they would be doing that. They understand that Weidman-Silva II is where the big payoff is.
Now, you know what I think about the behemoth promotion's tendency to follow the money rather than a meritocracy, particularly in title fights. But in this case I have no complaint.
Silva's postfight comments to Joe Rogan were the most confessional words that could have been uttered in that surreal moment inside the Octagon, short of if it was Sylvia Plath who'd been decked by Weidman for the middleweight strap. With the crux of Silva's confession being that he was tired and just wanted to go home, it's probably safe to assume he didn't really want to show up in the first place.
A do-over might seem to be the solution to restore the natural order of the middleweight division, and by extension that of the universe. But while it was given in the heat of the moment, Silva's confession did seem to honestly come from his heart. Apathy follows from having too much of the same thing, so when Silva admits that he doesn't want the belt anymore, offering him another shot at that same belt might not be the key to him finding his smile. -- Patrick, Rahway, N.J.
Poetic as always, Patrick. (Love having a Sylvia Plath reference in the mailbag. Sets the bar high for Peter King.) I should note that I received your e-mail before Weidman-Silva II was officially announced. But I think the commentary on Silva holds up.
I already addressed your concerns about Silva's first words. As I said above, we shouldn't put much weight on the comments of a man who's just been concussed after being essentially untouchable for the better part of a decade. Then again, Silva's approach to the fight did suggest some degree of apathy. He always taunts and clowns in an effort to get his opponent off his game, but this time he let down his guard with a shocking lethargy, as if trying to stack the deck against himself just to make things interesting.
So the question fight fans want answered is: Is Silva still interested? I think we have to trust Dana White on this one. Yes, the UFC poobah (and part-owner) has a financial stake in getting Silva back into the octagon. But Dana has said on more than one occasion that when a fighter says he's finished, he doesn't try to persuade the guy to reconsider. "This isn't a game where you, you know, 'Maybe I'll play two more, three years of this, you know, go hit a ball with stick' and all that [expletive]," he said early last year following the retirement of pay-per-view cash cow Brock Lesnar. "This is the real deal, man. You don't half-ass this stuff. When you know it's over, it's over."
It's not over for Anderson Silva. Dana White flew to California to sit with him face to face, and if Silva's resolve had been at all flinching, Dana would have noticed.
Do you really believe the fight was fixed? Seriously? Silva, the greatest of all time with a legacy on the line, gets brutally knocked out, and yet he took a dive? Seriously? -- Louis, Milford, N.J.
No. Seriously. No.
Questions? Comments? To reach Jeff Wagenheim or contribute to the next SI.com MMA mailbag, click on the E-mail link at the top of the page.