UFC: Chris Weidman should face Anderson Silva next
On Wednesday night in San Jose, California, unbeaten middleweight Chris Weidman made a statement in his UFC Main Event fight.
Entering as a slight favorite the 28-year-old New Yorker thoroughly dominated Mark Munoz.
After a controlling the first round with his suffocating top game and constant searching for submissions, Weidman finished things with a brilliant short elbow as Munoz flung an overhand right at him early in the second.
A few too many shots on the ground followed before referee Josh Rosenthal jumped in, but regardless of when it was stopped, the message was the same: Chris Weidman is the top contender in the middleweight division.
While most fighters take the “whatever the UFC wants to give me” road when asked who they’d like to fight next in their post-win interview, Weidman used his time with Jon Anik to request a meeting with the best fighter in the history of the sport, UFC middleweight champ Anderson Silva.
If I’m the UFC, I make that fight today.
There are a lot of people out there hedging on having Weidman take another big step up in competition just nine fights into his professional career.
They point to incoming Bellator champ Hector Lombard as the man who will most likely be next in line for Silva, provided he gets through Tim Boetsch at UFC 149, and does so without looking awful.
Because Weidman’s dominant performance against Munoz was on Fuel TV, some people believe he needs another fight on a bigger stage against another quality opponent before he’s put into the cage opposite “The Spider.”
While there is validity to all those arguments, they’re also short-sighted as far as I’m concerned.
Just because the UFC paid a pretty penny to bring Lombard over from Bellator and he’s older than Weidman shouldn’t put him ahead of someone who is emerging as the standout in the chase for the championship.
One win in the UFC, regardless of how dominant or who it’s against, should not be enough to move you to the top of the list of contenders.
Should Lombard beat Tim Boestch, the same, “He needs a little more exposure” argument certainly has to apply to him as well, and it’s not like he’s going to suddenly going to decide he’s too old to compete if he has to take one more fight before getting to a title shot.
Lombard is going to be around for a couple years. Regardless of the outcome of his bout with Boetsch next weekend; it’s not like there is a statute of limitations on his being a contender. But he’s beaten up has-beens and never-weres in Bellator, and while an impressive win over Boetsch might be enough to sway some people into putting him in the cage with Silva, I’m not one of them.
Weidman has won five straight in the UFC, beaten a pair of top 10 opponents in his last two fights, and just crushed the guy everyone thought was the #1 contender; those things trump Lombard’s accomplishments in my books.
I agree that having Weidman’s breakout performance against Munoz air on Fuel TV reduced the size of the audience who witnessed the thrashing, but that shouldn’t be the determining factor in whether or not you move him forward at this point.
You’ve got a marketing team and several months to work with, not to mention Primetime (potentially), Countdown (guaranteed), and every single MMA outlet around praising him for his performance to help elevate his profile even more between now and the time he’d step in against Silva, which I’m guessing would be about six months from now.
Here’s the other thing: if you’ve got an immensely talented, undefeated contender, why would you risk him taking a loss against anyone other than the champion? What’s the point of that?
The aim should be to maximise the long-term potential of a fighter like Weidman at this point in his career, and the best way to do that is to put him into a title but.
It gives him maximum exposure, and the positives of a pairing with Silva are so much greater than the negatives that there should be no hesitation in putting this together.
A loss to Silva is a loss to the greatest fighter in the history of the sport, which is nothing to hand your head about. His name gets added to the list of competitors who have tried to unseat Silva from the middleweight throne, but remains an elite option in the division. If you’re going to lose, losing to the champion is the way to go.
A loss to someone like Alan Belcher or Michael Bisping at this point, however, undoes all the progress Weidman has earning victories over Demian Maia and Munoz. He gets pushed behind both of those potential contenders, as well as the Boestch-Lombard winner, and perhaps even Chael Sonnen and Vitor Belfort too, both of whom are still in the mix at the top of the division.
Instead of being on the cusp of a title shot, he falls two or three good behind the rest of the pack, and needs to work his way back up the ladder, and for what? So the guy who beat him can get the chance to face Silva? That doesn’t make any sense. You shouldn’t be risking one ready-made contender just to create another.
And what if he beats Silva?
You’ve got an unbeaten 28-year-old champion who just ousted the best fighter of all-time from the throne he’s been sitting in for nearly six years.
He’s well-rounded in the cage, humble, well spoken, and genuine outside of the cage, and all kinds of marketable. Additionally, it re-energises the division, making all the challengers Silva has vanquished viable options again, and comes with the built-in “Can the champion stay undefeated?” sales pitch for every fight until someone finally ends his unbeaten run.
Of all the possible opponents for Silva at this point, Weidman is the only one we doesn’t have a resume we can pick apart and use to diminish his chances against the champion. Each appearance has been better than the last, and there are no “but he lost to so-and-so” in his past that hold him back.
He may not be the biggest name of the bunch or the most expensive potential option, but he’s the one that makes the most sense, but right now and in the future.
Chris Weidman versus Anderson Silva is the fight that makes sense. I just hope the UFC recognises that.
Follow The Roar’s UFC Expert E. Spencer Kyte on Twitter (@spencerkyte).
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