UFC 162: Anderson vs. Weidman
Anderson Silva's narrative is riddled with spectacular knockouts, matrix-like, operating against opponents previously viewed as troublesome or potential threats at usurping the Greatest Of All Time. His fights have authored history in such an inverted midas touch way, that some claim his record is padded because of the methods by which he has relegated past opponents to second tier status. By outclassing great opponents, he simultaneously changes their rankings in the minds of fans and analysts; history flash-cut-edits itself during his matches. By beating Dan Henderson decisively for example, he has cut a swath through time and space, altering the memory of every opponent Henderson has ever defeated. Conversely, by doing this, he has altered his own place in time, his status free form and in flux within the mathematics, his legacy operating with a grace typically unseen in sports fans memories. This similarly fuels revisionism, and grants hype and hope to novelty, to those untouched by his thread through time. The newest, most recent edit/addition to this story is the 29 year old Chris Weidman. He is (outside of Damian Maeia) several degrees removed from Silva's spectrum, which inherently grants him a greater chance. Weidman indeed has a skill set to operate wherein Silva has seemingly had the most trouble, wrestling. Therefore, the probability of this match up will take place entirely within this small space, these X-Points between gameplan and victory. Make no mistake; this is the story of Grace vs Chance.
However, as with all moments of grace, there were fascinating circumstances in this victory; Silva's Babe Ruth-like precognition, him having called the fight a win via submission, in a samurai like fashion, for revenge against derisive comments made by Sonnen at his teachers, the Noguiera brothers. Never before had he walked out in a gi, an overt symbol of his jiu jitsu pedigree. These phantasmagoric qualities surrounding the match, coupled with his documented rib injury which limited his movement and arguably his take down defense, prove to not only make UFC 117 a blue moon flash of light, but a conflux of intangibles that may never see themselves again.
Sonnen failed to see this and attempted to recreate the moment in his rematch, Grace vs Brute Persistence, only to fall drastically short and end up getting Tko'd in the second frame. For the first frame, he successfully took Silva down, and even managed to pass guard into full mount, but the complete lack of damage and significant strikes showed that his true carpe diem moment, for a Horatio Alger resolution, occurred a year before.
Undoubtedly these Sonnen/Silva fights have morphed into a supposed blueprint for future fighters on the method that gives the highest probability of defeat for Silva, a blueprint that Chris Weidman will surely follow. But therein lies the rub: Anderson Silva won both these matches, decisively. Sonnen tapped, submitted and gave up in the first match and went fetal in the second. Dan Henderson, a decorated, Olympic wrestler, was a pioneer of this blueprint and had some success, but ultimately fell victim to a rear naked choke. What does this convey other than the blueprint being problematic? Does this blueprint give the impression of a chance but in actuality is the equation for defeat? Is a wrestlers hope against Silva a 'red herring'? History says yes, but the future, and MMA analysts continually rebuke, as most predictions are curved towards revisionism, curved towards validating their young lions and their time.
That said, the beauty of MMA resides in it's unpredictability, its condensation of all training and game planning into one night, three to four times a year. In the World Series, NBA Championships, and most other sports, there are playoffs, repetitions, that allow for corrections from one game to the next. MMA however, only allows for corrections and audibles to be called only in that moment, those twenty five minutes. Therefore, this fight has life, and will come down to three factors: Stand-Up, Wrestling, and Experience.
The oft reported skill set of Chris Weidmans striking ability is not laughable, but most definitely chuckle-worthy and in my mind seriously makes the argument for Weidman as a three dimensional fighter moot. If Weidman is, as many say, the Sonnen 2.0 with his wrestling, his is nothing more than Chris Leben 2.0 with his striking. Much like Leben, whose claim to fame was being the first victim of spotless violent accuracy from Anderson Silva in his UFC debut, Weidman throws looping punches and kicks at a slow speed that is chum to a counter-striking fisherman of Silva's pedigree. That his gameplan will surely involve using striking to set up a takedown, Silva's speed and timing will more than likely counteract Weidman's lumbering pace.
Weidman's value in the betting odds are surely linked to his wrestling pedigree. A two time Division I All American, he has the credentials to be formidable against Silva's achilles heel. More impressive is his ability to have cast aside the useless techniques of college wrestling and adapt his game to best be used in MMA combat.
Weidman's wrestling however, is not touted because of his take down ability, but is an all encompassing term for his overall ground game, which includes a brown belt in jiu jitsu and coaching by John Danaher. Thus far, his jiu jitsu has been reduced to outclassing mediocre wrestlers with shoddy take down attempts (such as Mark Munoz and Jessie Bongfeldt, who dove his head into a standing guillotine) and a submission over UFC vet Tom Lawlor, who was his closest competitor in the Jiu Jitsu field, but had decided to stand and bang with Weidman.
The first round of Sonnen/Silva II had Chael Sonnen in side control with Andersons arm dangling in waiting to be attacked. Sonnen ignored this, Weidman will not. What is left to be seen is what happens when Weidman attacks. Silva has been working his Jiu Jitsu game, with the likes of Andres Galvao. This will be the defining variable in the fight and surely will be tested in the first round should Weidman score a takedown. Problematic for Weidman fans is his lack of a powerful and quick double leg of GSP or Sonnen. In his fights with Bongfeldt and Lawlor, we saw his struggle in getting the fight to the ground.
In all previous battles with grapplers/wrestlers, Silva noticeably gives away the first round. Much like his striking, he grants himself time to guage and measure the supposed strength of his opponent. In his battles with Henderson, Sonnen (I, II) and Travis Lutter, he was taken down in the first round. Some made moves, but most were nullified in any attack. One can almost imagine Silva belt-testing these combatants, watching reactions, much the same he did in his striking battles with Griffin, Bonnar, and Vitor Belfort. Then, after enough time and data has been collected, with strikers about two to three minutes, grapplers a round, he spits out his calculations with violent accuracy, an overwhelming ticker tape of off angle strikes, head movement and slight of hand jiu jitsu; an instant karma grading of fighters theses in front of the class.
This all of course presupposes that a takedown will occur or that Silva would welcome a chance to fight off his back. So we have to conclude that Weidman's best chance is planting Silva on his back, which would require a serendipitous chain of events, leading back to the striking as a set up for that to happen. With this chain's first link (striking) being untempered, the following actions (takedown and submission/ground and pound) are alarmingly reliant on Weidman's weakest strength, leaving the possibility that they will be impotent likely.
Experience. This area has the wildest differential. Though Anderson Silva is not known as a wrestler, his defensive wrestling is on par with most of his opponents and has only been threatened by high level wrestlers who move swiftly behind a punch distraction. The difference in experience is equal to the difference in striking and quite possibly far more important. Experience equals calmness and focus, the antidote to the adrenal dump that fighter fall under the weight of. It is quite simply the difference between knowledge and naiveté. How this will factor into the fight will be in how it serves to swell the varying intangibles, the fighters heart, will, and championship spirit. In a match between two combatants who each have a side door to each others weakness, it will whittle down to which fighter is willing to go all in and which fighter is willing to call. Throughout their fight careers, Chris Weidman has never had to fold, call a bluff or more importantly, hold out for the river card. What makes this fight most interesting is it will surely grant him the opportunity for all three, in one night.
One gathers from his pre-fight interviews that he is prepared to go all in; which many champions: Benson Henderson, GSP, Dominique Cruz have never done. How Anderson will read this, knowing the skills of his opponent, will determine the momentum. I expect Anderson to call Weidman's bluff, and I expect him to be holding the better hand. This is however, MMA, a sport in which anything can truly happen; however, I believe EVERYTHING has to happen for Chris Weidman.
Most odds-makers have Silva at a meager -250 favorite over Weidman's mas o menos +175. Interestingly, these odds are not quite wide and reveal both a non play in gambling, and an unspoken desire to simply sit back and see what happens. They could also be based on reluctance to make a call after the recent upsets (Silva/Overeem for example). I recommend no play as well, or rather a bet to oneself about what you think you know, what all past events have told you, what history has supposedly taught and how it manifests itself on July 6th. Surely at every bar there will be the Sonnen chorus, eager to place win loss bets against Silva. I would recommend this to simply break even on your cover and bar tab.
My call is a first round TKO by Anderson Silva. Weidman will attempt to strike in hopes of making Silva “Respect” his stand-up in the first few minutes of the opening frame, ostensibly to build a Cain Velasquez-style confusion that allows for take downs at will. Weidman will never see his game plan play out. His stand-up will be countered, his slow take downs shucked off, and his hopes still born and fetal on the mat after a knee to the solar plexus or a stiff lunging jab or cross, pin point to the chin of the charging young bull from the graceful matador, rocks him and breaks his will. His chance, hope and hype becoming another formality.
Ryan Johann Perry