When we last left our heroes...The day has finally came upon us. As Bruce Buffer is constantly reminding us, it's the moment we've all been waiting for. Finally...finally we don't have to listen to Sail for the 234234234th time.
Although truth be told...the Silva vs. Weidman 2 promo is actually really well done, and the kind of promo they need to do everytime. A promo that sells the narrative of the fight rather than manufacturing one with fake ass personal disputes.
I guess I should say something about their previous bout. It was a little odd. If I'm not mistaken, the advantage of blogging is that I don't have to feign objectivity. And so I won't. I wanted to personally see Silva win, so when he didn't, it was somewhat disappointing. It would have been one thing of Chris had dominated the bout, but instead it came from what many fans argued was a lapse in judgment. I don't necessarily buy that narrative, but we'll get to that in a bit.
If you want to go back to Silva's last real loss, you have to go all the way back to 2004 when Ryo Chonan beat him with an inverted heelhook. Since then he's been dominant. But even crazier is that he's been dominant well into his late 30's. He's a medical marvel in my unprofessional opinion. Guys his age generally show physical signs of decline, and Silva hasn't. He still looks sharp, quick, and powerful.
As for Weidman, this is his chance to prove that the first bout was no fluke. It's the common theme of the underdog, but Chris may well be the one who has been destined to pick up the middleweight torch all along.
What both men can do: Watching the first bout again at UFC 162, I was struck by how comfortable and dominant Chris was early on. One of the elements of his game he's taken giant strides is in accuracy. Chris has only ever won 4 fights by TKO/KO, but early on he was landing some rather savage punches from top control that Silva happened to take really well in retrospect (at the time it just looked like Silva kind of wanted to be punched for gamesmanship sake).
Also of note...Weidman seemed well aware of Silva's history. Once on the ground he immediately looked for a heel hook. Weidman's ability on the ground is noteworthy because his brilliance is matched by his tenacity. It was this feature that not only made him a threat before the Silva fight, but that garnered him the attention of fans as a blue chip prospect when he gave Andre Galvao all he could handle in 2009 at ADCC.
He's improved since then, which is what makes him far more legit than Silva fans (myself included) would like to admit. It's the one thing Silva fans hate to potentially admit...that it's not Silva's time to retire and that he still has more brilliance left...but that Weidman just happens to be the man who's ready to take over the division right now.
His striking is not something I would bank on repeating from 162 but it's also not something that Silva should take for granted. He chambers his right hand quick, and his power continues to improve only now he's added something else to his arsenal.
All the cliches in the world still don't do Anderson's skills on the feet justice. It's not just his technique...though his straight left and left leg are money. It's his way of landing, timing, and ability to confound his opponents. The question for this bout is, what can work this time?
One of the things documented so well in Connor Ruebusch's Judo Chop is that Silva can no longer plead ignorance to dealing with a pressure fighter like Weidman. Silva was doing something really well in the second half of the fight...he was landing leg kicks, sometimes at will when he wasn't dancing the patron jig.
What both men can't do: So what did Silva do wrong? Honestly I don't think "not messing around" is the answer. Observers often make the mistake of believing that mistakes somehow exist in a vacuum. "If only Silva didn't taunt and fool around he would have at minimum not have been knocked out..." the logic goes...except that Silva's routine of tomfoolery is part of what allows him to be comfortable in the cage. Even he didn't he might be more predictable, and therefore not be quite as good at timing his offense as we've come to know him.
I'm not saying he has to fool around to win. Only that he's never been punished for his habits until recently. If he fights exactly the same way, but simply with more offense, it's a winnable fight.
But ultimately the reason for picking Weidman is that he still has the ace up his sleeve. Yes, Silva has one punch power, but he's always been a liability on the ground, and I feel like Weidman will be able to put him on his back to beat Silva the way some of the more adventurous betters thought would happen the first time...which is by submission.
I'm tempted to pick Silva, but his unpredictability, combined with his age, combined with Weidman's stability and relative youth lead me to believe Chris is the "smart" pick. If he gets it to the ground he's got a huge advantage, and Weidman's capacity on the feet make me think Silva will need more than one punch to end it. Think the Sonnen fights minus Sonnen's psychological weakness, but plus way more grappling acumen.
X-Factor: The judges won't be a factor, nor are both competitors the type of fighters who stray from the beaten path, which just leaves the referee. If Silva does win, I really think a questionable or early standup could be what we point at in this parallel universe.
In-Fight Soundtrack: Toots and the Maytals...give it to me...two times!
Prediction: Chris Weidman by TKO via ground and pound round 3.