Everything you need to know about the upcoming title fight.
Chris Weidman vs. Anderson Silva headlines UFC 168. (Buda Mendes/Zuffa LLC/Getty Images)
Dana White has called this the biggest fight in UFC history.
He’s a promoter. As president of the UFC, his job is to hype up fights in order to attract paying customers. But in this case, White’s enthusiasm seems not the least bit hyperbolic.
When Chris Weidman and Anderson Silva meet inside the octagon at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas on Saturday (10 p.m. ET, PPV), the middleweight championship belt will be on the line. You know, the brass-and-leather strap that was worn for over half a decade by Anderson Silva. Now it’s in the possession of Weidman, who took it away in style back in July with a stunning TKO. He caught Silva clowning, and stuck a big, red, round foam nose on him with his left fist.
It was the first loss in over seven years -- a span of 18 bouts -- for “The Spider.” He’s no itsy-bitsy figure in this sport.
Neither is Weidman, especially now.
The 29-year-old New Yorker (10-0, 6-0 in the UFC) stands at No. 5 in the SI.com pound-for-pound fighter rankings and No. 8 in the UFC’s media-voted tally. The two-time NCAA Division I All-American wrestler first appeared in the Top 10 following the astounding knockout of Silva, but even before that fight he was on the verge, especially after brutalizing another highly ranked 185-pounder, Mark Muñoz, with an elbow to earn his title shot.
Silva (33-5, 16-1 UFC) was pound-for-pound king seemingly forever, but the loss to Weidman dropped him to No. 6 on the SI.com list. He remains near the top of the UFC’s official rankings, however, at No. 3. Among middleweights, Anderson is the top challenger in both our tally and the fight promotion’s. His UFC tenure has been about as dominant as dominant gets. In 16 victories with the company, he’s scored 11 knockouts and submitted three of his other conquests.
But he’s 38 now. Does he still have what it takes?
In addition to the pay-per-view telecast of the five-fight main card, four prelims will be shown on Fox Sports 1 (8 p.m. ET) and the card’s other bout will stream on the UFC’s Facebook and YouTube pages (6:30).
Chris Weidman had to fight through a lot to get to Anderson Silva.
Standing before him in a No. 1 contenders’ showdown back in July 2012 was Mark Muñoz, who at the time was on a four-fight winning streak and seemed lined up for a 185-pound title shot. But Weidman put a stop to that, crushing the “Filipino Wrecking Machine” with a sharp elbow in the second round, a Fight of the Night bonus-winning performance.
That was the easy part. Before the year was out, Weidman would have to have to deal with a far more dangerous foe named Sandy. The hurricane ravaged his home and his neighborhood in Baldwin, N.Y. Then, a week after he resumed training camp for a scheduled December fight, he tore his labrum and required surgery.
It all worked out for Weidman, though, as he was slotted for a summertime date with Silva. His shoulder rehab continued, as did his cleanup from the floodwaters. But nothing deterred the fighter’s focus. “I could give myself a million excuses on why I might lose this fight, but I refuse to do that, he told SI.com at the time. “I think I’ll be able to sustain a pace that could break him mentally and physically. I’m young. I’m hungry. I’m undefeated.”
* Official weights announced at Friday's weigh-in (7 p.m. ET, Fox Sports 1)
Other Numbers To Count On
5: Significant strikes landed by each fighter in Round 2 of their first meeting. Silva threw only six shots, so he was being his typically accurate self. (At 67.5 percent, he lands at a better clip than anyone ion UFC history.) But Weidman threw 16 strikes, which shows you how active he was in the fight. He kept Silva reacting … until the one time Anderson didn’t react quickly enough.
1: Stands for the takedown (on two attempts) landed by Weidman in the first round. It also could signify the then-challenger’s guard pass, which led to some ground-and-pound and eventually a submission attempt.
79: Percentage of wins in which Silva has stopped his opponent (20 knockouts, 6 submissions). Weidman is at 70 percent (4 KOs, 3 subs). Not much chance Saturday night’s fight goes five rounds.
Chris Weidman shocks Anderson Silva to win middleweight title
The beginning of the end was a Weidman left hook that grazed the right cheek, prompting Silva to go melodramatically rubber-legged. It was about 1:10 into the second round, and this was a continuation of the then-champion’s mocking head games. As soon as he had worked himself out from under the ground-and-pound blanket of Weidman late in the first round, Anderson had commenced taunting and dancing. He was getting in his rhythm.
But Weidman wasn’t getting out of his. As Silva waved him in, arms down and smile wide, Chris stayed the course. He did have one brief lapse where he dropped his hands and waved Silva in, dangerously playing his virtuoso opponent’s game. But for the most part, Weidman kept his composure. And kept throwing punches.
The left hand that “wobbled” Silva was followed by a quick 1-2 -- a left hook that barely touched him and a looping right that hit nothing but air, as Anderson’s impeccable head movement was as protective as a force field. However, Weidman then did something unorthodox that changed the rhythm. Instead of coming back with a left hand or reloading, he stayed with the right that had just missed, flinging it backhanded at Silva. It apparently threw off “The Spider,” because when Weidman then followed with another left, Silva was already leaning backward and had nowhere to go.
Well, actually, he did have one place to go: flat on his back. Though the strike caught him square, it wasn’t devastating. But the back of Silva’s head snapped back into the canvas. And within a millisecond Weidman was on him. A crushing right-left combo was all it took to redirect Silva’s eyeballs to the back of his head. He was out.
Some have tried to explain away the stunning result by saying Silva simply got caught fooling around. But Anderson often fools around. That’s how he gets into his opponents’ heads, which is to say it’s as much an explanation of his career success as it is an illumination of this one defeat.
Chris Weidman spent a few minutes with SI.com last week:
SI.com: Now that you’re world champion, do your friends and neighbors on Long Island treat you any differently?
Weidman: The people who really know me treat me like Dr. Chris. [Laughter from several voices in the background.] I beat them in video games and make them call me Dr. Chris. [More laughter.] Nah, people treat me the same, make fun of me and stuff.
SI.com: You wouldn’t want it any other way, right, doc?
Weidman: Oh, yeah, keeps you grounded.
SI.com: You were notably confident going into the first fight. You were unwavering in maintaining that you could beat Silva. Now that you’ve done just that, is your confidence level even higher now?
Weidman: I feel it’s the same. It’s just that there are less question marks now. I know what he feels like in there -- how fast he is, how strong he is. I’ve felt that already. And now I don’t have to deal with the mystique of Anderson Silva, constantly having to tell himself, ‘He’s just human.’ I know he is. I know I can beat him.
SI.com: You’re also in a much better place yourself this time. You’re healthier. Your home isn’t in disarray.
Weidman: That’s right. As much as I wasn’t letting myself have any excuses for losing that fight, there were some question marks in my head. This time there’s none of that.
SI.com: Ever since the fight, Silva has spoken of you with much respect. Do you prefer having that type of relationship with an opponent as opposed to trash talking?
Weidman: Trash talking or not, it always comes down to pure competition. There’s nothing anyone can say to get me angry walking into the cage. I don’t go into a fight with hate. I wouldn’t perform as good if I did. I like to be relaxed, just go out there and win the competition.
SI.com: Part of competing against Anderson Silva, of course, is dealing with his mental gamesmanship. For the most part, you remained focused on your game plan. But there was a brief moment when you slipped into playing his game.
Weidman: Yeah, that was in the first round. I just wanted to let him know, “Hey, I’m not scared of you, pal, like the other guys who come in here all star struck. I’m in here to win. If you play games with me, it’s not going to work out for you.”
Silva is the slight favorite, with the money line ranging from -156 (bet $100 to win $64.10) to -200 (bet $100 to win $50). Odds on Weidman vary from +125 (bet $100 to win $125) to +160 (bet $100 to win $160).
We know which Weidman will show up because there’s only one Weidman. He’ll be moving forward, fearlessly but not recklessly. And confidently, as he should be after what went down in July.
But what about Silva? Will he get serious this time? Will it make a difference?
There were stretches of the first meeting when Silva was toying with Weidman and appeared capable of attacking him at any moment. There also were stretches when Weidman put the pressure on and had Silva on the defensive.
As intriguing as this matchup is physically, though, the difference is in the mental game. So many past Silva opponents were defeated before they set foot in the octagon. Not Weidman. He exuded confidence from the start. So imagine what’s he’ll be feeling on Saturday night. He’s already slayed the dragon. Why not do it again? Weidman by TKO.
Chris Weidman stunned Anderson Silva back in July. (Donald Miralle/Zuffa LLC/Getty Images)
The Tweet Beat
Join the conversation about Weidman vs. Silva II on Twitter. Track the hashtags #WeidmanSilva2 and #UFC168 to see who's tweeting what about Saturday’s fight.
· Ronda Rousey vs. Miesha Tate, for the women's bantamweight title
· Josh Barnett vs. Travis Browne, heavyweight
· Jim Miller vs. Fabrício Camões, lightweight
· Dustin Poirier vs. Diego Brandao, featherweight
· Preliminary card (5 p.m. ET, Fox Sports 1): Chris Leben vs. Urijah Hall, middleweight; Gleison Tibau vs. Michael Johnson, lightweight; Dennis Siver vs. Manvel Gamburyan, featherweight; John Howard vs. Siyar Bahadurzada, welterweight.
· Online prelims (4 p.m. ET, UFC’s Facebook/YouTube pages): William Macario vs. Bobby Voelker, welterweight; Robbie Peralta vs. Estevan Payan, featherweight.
· Mike Goldberg will handle blow-by-blow and Joe Rogan analysis for the main-card telecast on pay-per-view as well as prelims on Fox Sports 1, Facebook, and YouTube. An hour-long postfight show begins at 2 a.m. ET on Fox Sports 1.
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