In less than twenty-four hours one man will get a chance at redemption and another will be looking for validation. Tomorrow night in the main event of UFC 168 former UFC middleweight champion Anderson Silva will challenge current champion Chris Weidman for the title.
Chris Weidman took the UFC middleweight championship from Anderson Silva at UFC 162 in shocking fashion dethroning Silva from a reign that lasted over six years. Fans and pundits were quick to discount Weidman's victory because of the antics pulled by Silva in the cage. Weidman caught Silva, with a spot-on left hand, right in the middle of a taunt. Moments later, Dana White was putting belt around a different waist for the first time since 2006.
Some say Silva did not show up to fight and that he did not take Weidman seriously as a contender. Others said before and after that Weidman was the guy to defeat Silva and that he would have defeated Silva either way.
No matter which angle you chose to view the meeting between Weidman and Silva, the bottom line remains that the name of the game for Silva is and always has been counter-striking. The end game to the taunting, dancing, and dropping of his hands is to force his opponents to strike. Of course, once the other guy strikes well, you know what happens.
Silva has an uncanny ability to pick up his opponents timing and rhythm. Combine that with lethal striking power along with speed and almost unmatched technique and you get sixteen straight wins in the UFC. Silva is, at this point, the greatest champion in the history of the UFC. Yes, even without the belt.
Chris Weidman has the opportunity to validate his upset win over Silva. At 10-0 overall in his MMA career and 6-0 in the UFC, Weidman moved up the ranks of the UFC's middleweight division rather quickly. Some due to his talent and some due to the fact that Silva mowed through pretty much all other challengers to the thrown.
Weidman is a very good wrestler with NCAA Division I wrestling experience and a brown belt in jiu jitsu. Weidman has knockout power in both hands and can finish fights on the ground or standing up. Seven of his ten wins have all been finishes.
For Weidman, he has to make this fight a ground and clinch fight. He shot early in the first round of their initial fight and would be making the right choice if he does it again. Weidman will need to stay aggressive when it comes to initiating the clinch and shooting for the takedown. He will need to cut the cage off and keep Silva working.
Silva will likely come out with the same strategy he always does. This time, however, expect Silva to be more focused and take Weidman more seriously. Clearly in the first fight Silva did not respect Weidman and he paid for it. This time Silva will not make that same mistake.
In this fight Silva will be more aggressive and more focused, but the question will still remain, can he stop the takedown? The reason Weidman went away from wrestling in the first fight was because of Silva's in cage antics. While Silva will fight a similar style in tomorrow's fight, it is safe to say that the over exaggeration will be left out of the game plan.
Look for Weidman to take this fight to the ground early and often. Weidman will make Silva work from his back and in the clinch. Doing so, he will want take the fight into the latter rounds where Silva's striking will be less dangerous as he tires. Silva on the other hand will attempt to force Weidman into a stand up battle. He will counter strike and try to end the fight early. The longer the fight goes the more favorable it will be for Weidman.
At the end of the night expect Weidman to get his hand raised and validate his win over Silva. The perfect plan would be for Silva to win so that a rubber match is set up. However, father time waits for no man and at 38 years of age the Anderson Silva era could be over.
UFC 168 airs live on pay per view tomorrow night at 9:00 p.m. central time from the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. Preliminary fights begin at 6:00 p.m. central on Fox Sports 1.