It's somewhat fitting that this coming weekend is without a UFC event. The reason for that statement is due to the fact that even if there were a fight card booked for December 21, it would be overshadowed by the fight that is going to take place the following Saturday in Las Vegas.
On December 28, Chris Weidman will walk to the Octagon at the MGM Grand Garden Arena and hear his name announced with the phrase ‘UFC Middleweight champion.' Staring at him from the unfamiliar terrain of the blue corner will be the man he defeated to earn that title, Anderson Silva.
Weidman's title will be on the line in the UFC's year ending event. He'll also face the added pressure of proving that his knockout victory over Silva at UFC 162 was not an aberration.
One man that is confident that Weidman will once again have his hand raised in victory is Ray Longo, Weidman's trainer. Longo appeared on Monday's edition of the MMA Hour and had the following to say about the upcoming rematch between Weidman and Silva:
We want to put a stamp on what Chris did the first time. Chris is focused, and training camp is going excellent. We're ready to roll. He's ready to show everybody that first time wasn't a fluke.
Some are of the opinion that the taunting and clowning style that Silva often employs during his fights finally caught up to him. The feeling is that maybe Silva's reaction time, which allowed him to always be out of reach, has slowed by a few milliseconds with age, and that perceived difference in timing allowed Weidman to put a left hook on Silva's chin in their last fight, knocking out Silva in the process.
When asked if he felt that Silva would forego those antics at UFC 168, Longo said that he felt that Silva might not employ that strategy at the beginning of the fight, but that he would revert to form at some point:
I think that's just woven into the fabric of who Anderson Silva is. Watch his fights, I don't think there was one fight where he didn't try and mug the guy or goof around, and that's just who he is. I think that would be the hardest thing for him to change.
The Octagon doesn't lie. It'll show you who you are, and I think that's who he is, and I think that'll be hard to change.
As for changes that he and Weidman have made for the second go with Silva, Longo said that they are pretty much keeping things the same as they were in the first fight. They did bring in a southpaw boxer for sparring, but for the most part they kept things the same. That includes utilizing UFC fighter and former kickboxing champion Stephen Thompson to mimic Silva's style.
One change that fans will see on fight night is that former UFC welterweight champion Matt Serra will be alongside Longo in Weidman's corner. Serra was unable to join the team for UFC 162.
Along with Longo, the other cornerman that will remain from the first fight is Weidman's father, a man that Longo feels will help Chris immensely come fight night:
That is the x-factor, 100 percent. He provides stability, and I think he really keeps Chris grounded. He's very spiritual, and I think he's a great relaxation for Chris.
One of the more memorable moments that occurred in Weidman's corner during his first fight with Silva came between Round 1 and 2. Weidman was sitting on his stool with Longo crouched in front of his fighter. Longo, pointing to Weidman said, "I want you to punch a hole in his f- - cking chest. That's what I want."
Longo discussed that strategy on Monday:
I wanted him to punch a hole in his chest, yes. The guy has great head movement, but the body doesn't move. In between rounds it was part being emotional and trying to psyche him up, but we wanted to put a bull's-eye on his chest so we could find the head a little easier. That wasn't something that just came up at that point. That was what we talked about, but with a little extra emotion.
Despite the loss to Weidman, Longo still sees Silva as one of the best fighters in the game:
I still think there's 95 percent of the people that he can still beat up, but I just think he's got the wrong guy in front of him.
Longo sees the rematch ending the same way as the first meeting between the two fighters, with the UFC middleweight belt strapped around the waist of Weidman:
He's looking forward to this fight, and he's going to get what he wants.
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