Smartest Guy at the Bar: UFC 162 Edition
Chris Weidman dethrone the pound-for-pound king? | Photo: Kathleen
Two days after the United States celebrates its 237th birthday, the
Ultimate Fighting Championship brings another top-level title
bout to the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas.
The world’s most prominent mixed martial arts promotion will flex
its promotional muscle with a week’s worth of fan activities in Sin
City, including its immensely popular Fan Expo. It will be capped
off with a middleweight title fight between the world’s best
pound-for-pound best fighter, longtime champion Anderson
Silva, and unbeaten challenger Chris
Weidman on Saturday in the UFC
162 main event.
How We Got Here: Silva last defended his belt 364
days ago in this exact same venue against old foil Chael Sonnen.
Weidman has been waiting in the wings -- and recovering from
shoulder surgery -- since he blasted through Mark Munoz
almost a year ago on Fuel TV. The stars aligned for the
“All-American” wrestler when potential middleweight challengers
Bisping and Luke
Rockhold suffered brutal knockout losses to Vitor Belfort.
Also, whatever lingering steam surrounded a potential super fight
between Silva and welterweight champion Georges St.
Pierre fizzled, leaving Weidman as the last man standing ... A
terrific No. 1 contender fight between featherweights Ricardo
Lamas and Chan Sung
Jung fell apart when an injury to Anthony
Pettis left champion Jose Aldo
without an opponent for UFC
163. “The Korean Zombie” was all too happy to fill the void,
with Lamas left to twiddle his thumbs. Fortunately, former
lightweight boss Frankie
Edgar was there to slide into the co-main event slot, as he
tries to put a stop to his three-fight losing streak against
Oliveira in his second appearance at 145 pounds.
Edgar will take a second crack at 145.
Show Me the Money: When you have won 16 straight
UFC fights, oddsmakers are going to shine on you. Against Weidman,
Silva (-225) remains a healthy favorite but not by the overwhelming
margin to which gamblers have grown accustomed. The last time “The
Spider” was a lesser favorite was against Dan Henderson
at UFC 82 more than five years ago.
Zero Downside: Righteous, competitive matchups for
UFC are always no-brainers, and Silva-Weidman is all sorts of
right. No matter the outcome, the UFC and the fans will leave
smelling like roses. If Weidman upsets the champion, their rematch
will become the biggest bout of 2014. If Silva thrashes another
challenger, calls for a super fight with St. Pierre or Jon Jones will
only grow louder. Plus, it will also cement the fact that we are
watching the greatest fighter of all-time do things no one else has
ever done. Score one for good matchmaking here.
Useless Fact: Silva has more consecutive title
defenses (10) than Weidman has professional fights (nine).
Only as Good as Your Last Fight: The last time
Weidman and Munoz saw action was against each other in July 2012.
Weidman blasted the 2001 NCAA national champion, becoming the
middleweight division’s darling and the sexy pick to upset Silva.
Munoz, on the other hand, nearly disappeared from the spotlight
while recovering from injury. He went from the main event on a Fuel
TV card to not even making the par-per-view portion at UFC 162 --
until a reshuffling opened a slot for his bout with Tim Boetsch.
Would Munoz be as attractive an opponent for Silva had he been the
one doing the manhandling at UFC on Fuel TV 4 instead of Weidman?
It may be a little bit of a stretch, but one cannot deny how much
that one fight raised the stock of one competitor at the expense of
another. Do not forget, Munoz owns a 12-3 record as a pro.
Munoz is a forgotten man.
Say What: If a fighter competes in this sport long
enough, he eventually loses. However, Silva’s unblemished 16-0
record in the UFC spits in the face of that belief. What else is
left for the 38-year-old to accomplish? During a pre-fight media
call, Silva sounded like a man who was content with his career, no
matter the outcome of his bout with Weidman. “And whatever I should
have done in the sport, I’ve already done,” he said. “Win or lose,
I’ve already done everything there is to do. Now, it’s just a
matter of doing what I love to do.”
Act II: The last six months have provided
something of a mixed bag for UFC title fights. There were three
challengers -- Edgar, Sonnen and Nick Diaz -- who
were coming off losses and two others, Antonio
Silva and John Dodson,
who failed to move the needle much. Plus, we had the controversial
split decision between lightweight champion Benson
Henderson and Gilbert
Melendez at UFC on Fox 7. With the exception of Ronda Rousey
defending her bantamweight crown in the first-ever women’s bout
inside the Octagon, the first half of 2013 has proven forgettable.
That can all change with UFC 162. Weidman has a lot of people
talking -- the Smartest Guy at the Bar included -- as the man with
the best chance to dethrone Silva ... Title bouts involving
top-draw champions and worthy challengers populate the rest of the
calendar year. Light heavyweight boss Jon Jones will defend his
gold against surging Swede Alexander
Gustafsson at UFC
165, and heavyweight champion Cain
Velasquez will forge his trilogy against former titleholder
UFC 166 in Houston. To top it all, UFC
167 will mark the 20-year anniversary of the Ultimate Fighting
Championship with St. Pierre defending his belt against Johny
Hendricks in November. Throw in three other potentially
action-heavy championship bouts at 125, 145 and 155 pounds, and the
next six months look downright violent. With that said, the SGATB
politely requests a sacrifice to the Injury Gods in an effort to
keep this schedule intact.
Stephen Fernandez / Splash News
St. Pierre takes his turn in November.
Awards Watch: A savvy submission fighter, Cub Swanson
has turned into a potent knockout artist; a potent knockout artist,
Siver has turned into a savvy submission fighter. These
world-ranked featherweights will likely duke it out all over the
place before scoring “Fight of the Night” honors ... Gabriel
Gonzaga and Dave Herman
have not seen the judges’ scorecards since 2010. Look for Gonzaga
to take the path of least resistance: taking down Herman and
strangling him into surrender for the “Submission of the Night”
bonus ... The Silva-Weidman main event could easily lead to two
post-fight performance awards. Silva could knock out the
challenger, or Weidman could submit the champion. Since the SGATB
is picking Weidman to score the upset, let us throw in “The Spider”
winning the “Knockout of the Night” bonus as an alternative ending.