Transitions of power are messy, be it in politics, business, or sports. When Chris Weidman's left hook caught Anderson Silva cleanly and the then UFC champion tumbled to the mat and Herb Dean was forced to pull Weidman off the Brazilian, a power vacuum opened in the Middleweight division.
Now the nice thing about title fights is there is a natural candidate to fill that vacuum, Chris Weidman. With that knockout, Weidman took Siva's title, but what he cannot assume is the level of stardom or the same level of fear or respect that Silva held in the minds of Middleweights around the world. Oh certainly Weidman's stock has climbed with this victory, but Silva had years of title defenses to build his reputation.
Weidman's win was amazing and well deserved. He is a fantastically talented fighter who worked hard to hone his already excellent skills and was driven by a touch of desperation as his house is still in ruins after flooding in the wake of Hurricane Sandy. Take nothing away from his win or his ability; coming into this fight I had stated that he is a perennial top 5 Middleweight for years to come. But his work has just begun with this win.
Every UFC Middleweight that wasn't fighting last night likely rushed into their gyms this morning because the door has opened. Regardless of how fans view Weidman, fighters do not view him in the same light as they did Silva. Many will see this as their big chance to win UFC gold and are going to be angling to get in on the title shot while they can.
Sometimes transitions of power can be done cleanly and one dominant ruler can be replaced by another who is able to retain the title for some time. On rare occasions, the transition is clean and perfect such as when Fedor Emelianenko defeated Antônio Rodrigo Nogueira, who had held the Pride Heavyweight title since its creation. The transition of power was clean, and Emelianenko went on to become equally intimidating and dominant, if not more so.
Somewhat more commonly, things are messier such as when Frankie Edgar was able to dethrone B.J. Penn from his dominant perch over the Lightweight division and then fought tooth and nail to defend the title three times in hotly contested fights.
But far more often chaos reigns. Historically, when a powerful dynasty ends, the vacuum of power emboldens many to think they can ascend to the purple. When the first Roman dynasty ended, the one founded by the legendary Cesar Augustus and destroyed by the egotistical maniac Nero just 50 years after Augustus' death, it was followed by a period of utter chaos. Known as the Year of the Four Emperors, men climbed to claim the title of Imperator, but were then deposed and killed, sometimes in a matter of weeks.
This idea of chaos following a power vacuum transfers well to MMA. A quick look at the Light Heavyweight division shows Tito Ortiz emerged as the first dominant champion, then he was deposed by Randy Couture, and then a period of chaos followed where Couture and Belfort battled for the crown. Then Chuck Liddell was able to lock down the title until Rampage Jackson overthrew his reign. The title then moved from Jackson, to Forrest Griffin, to Rashad Evans, to Lyoto Machida, to Shogun Rua in the span three years. And then emergence of Jon Jones again brought order and stability back to that weight class.
But I know what you are thinking, that isn't a great analogy because Weidman is young and hungry and super talented while many of those fighters were a bit older when their time at the top came. But even a fighter as dominant as Georges St Pierre fell victim to the post coup chaos. St. Pierre, fresh off dethroning all-time great Matt Hughes, lost his very first title defense to Matt Serra.
Winning a title is a difficult feat, but anyone who has won a championship will tell you that the hardest part of being champion is going out and defending that title. The Middleweight division is now full of possibilities. Vitor Belfort is on a hot streak and now appears to be the natural choice for Weidman's first defense, but long time contenders like Michael Bisping, Yushin Okami, and Chael Sonnen likely all view this as a chance to get back in the title picture. Mark Munoz seemed to be revitalized last night, and UFC new comers like Luke Rockhold and Ronaldo "Jacare" Souza will likely also be chomping at the bit for a title shot.
Chris Weidman's UFC Middleweight title win is the result of amazing talent, skill, and work ethic and he felled an all-time great in the process, but now the real work begins.