Chris Weidman successfully defended his title last Saturday at UFC 175, earning a unanimous decision victory over veteran Lyoto Machida. It was the first time in a year that Weidman has fought anyone other than Anderson Silva. For some it marked the beginning of the Weidman era while others remain skeptical.
Two things are for sure. Weidman is yet to lose and he looks unstoppable. He has an aura of invincibility that only few fighters have had.
Going back to where it all began, Royce Gracie was an absolute terror when no one understood BJJ. All people knew was that once Royce got a hold of you, it was all over. Royce's bouts with Kimo Leopaldo and Ken Shamrock exposed him as human after all, and he was utterly destroyed by Matt Hughes years later when Gracie made his return to the UFC. Regardless, during the UFC's infancy, Royce was as invincible and intimidating as they came.
Next up was Tito Ortiz. Despite two early career losses, Ortiz emerged as the most dominant force in the UFC at the turn of the millennium. His takedowns were unstoppable and once he got the top position, his opponents had no choice but to endure his ground and pound for as long as the fight lasted. He once held the record for the most title defenses but once he ran into foes that he wasn't able to take down, the losses piled up and buried the era of "The Huntington Beach Bad Boy."
In Ortiz's most significant defeat, he ushered in the reign of Chuck Liddell when Liddell brutally knocked him out, a feat that Liddell would later repeat, establishing him as the most dangerous fighter in the world. Liddell was near impossible to take down, had an iron chin and was the hardest puncher the light heavyweight division has ever seen. To this day, no one has matched Liddell's legendary right hand, which he landed with deadly precision. His 2003 TKO loss to Quinton "Rampage" Jackson in Pride was easily ignored by fans as Liddell continued to knock almost every challenger out in the UFC. His rule came to an abrupt end when he faced Quinton Jackson once more, this time in the UFC, and lost his title by TKO. Liddell would lose his next and last two fights by knockout.
Meanwhile a middleweight by the name of Anderson Silva was beginning his meteoric rise in the UFC. He would go on to win the middleweight crown, ultimately winning 16 consecutive times, most of them being lopsided affairs. He cleaned out the middleweight division and even went north on occasion, besting some very tough light heavyweights. He was a dynamic striker with a combination of power, speed and grace. When it came to natural ability, he was head and shoulders above the competition for many years, leading most experts to regard him as the greatest fighter who ever lived. His lone weakness was in his wrestling, but he was always able to overcome superior wrestlers until he met Chris Weidman last year.
Silva was not the sole dominant champion of his time, however. Georges St. Pierre stood side by side with Silva during their respective title runs. GSP's dominance overshadowed his only two losses, both of which he avenged. He has beaten literally every fighter he's ever fought. Though not considered to be the most exciting fighter to watch, his wrestling was second to none and he could kickbox with the best of them. GSP definitely had the skill to pay the bill, but it was his will and determination that defined him. We may yet see him back in the Octagon but regardless of what happens, there is little anyone can do to tarnish GSP's legacy.
Today, we have what is possibly the strongest lineup of champions the UFC has ever seen. Chris Weidman joins Cain Velasquez and Jon Jones as the most formidable fighters in MMA today and is quickly rising to the top of everyone's pound-for-pound list. It's way too soon to start counting him among the all-time greats, but he undoubtedly has what it takes. He has the strength, toughness, size, skills and intelligence to dominate for a long time. His style, while effective, is relatively low-risk, making him virtually immune to losing by way of a stray punch or getting submitted due to carelessness.
Just like it took someone like Weidman to soundly defeat Anderson Silva, it might take a very special fighter to beat Chris Weidman one day. By the way things look today, that fighter may not be coming for a long time.