Chris Weidman would like nothing more than for history to repeat itself. | Photo: Dave Mandel/Sherdog.com
When Anderson Silva walks to the Octagon to face Chris Weidman at UFC 168 on Saturday at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, it will be the first time since 2006 that he will enter the cage as the challenger. Some of the mystique Silva enjoyed as the last fighter of the night to walk out, with everyone in the arena including his opponent forced to acknowledge the entrance of the greatest fighter of all-time, has been lost. Instead, Chris Weidman, sporting a flawless record and the youthful confidence of the new breed of modern MMA fighter, will enjoy the intimidating position of champion, along with all the perks and pressures that come with the title. They faced each other before, but with the additional hindsight afforded by their first fight, perhaps different statistics will jump off the page this time around. There is no shortage of data, so let us see how they stack up.
The Tale of Tape reveals fighters with nearly identical frame sizes, although Weidman is more likely to enter the cage slightly heavier with the more muscular build. There are two more important differences between them: age and stance. Pushing 39, Silva is now one of the oldest fighters on the Ultimate Fighting Championship roster and gives up a nine-year Youth Advantage to the champion. That age range usually puts a fighter at a much higher risk of knockouts. However, Silva also tends to fight southpaw and routinely switches his stance often during fights, which generally confers a small but significant advantage. Overall, the Tale of the Tape favors the champion, at least according to historical trends.
With regards to performance metrics, we will start with striking data.
I have already calculated that, strike-for-strike, Silva is the most dangerous striker in UFC history. He has the ability to slip his opponents’ strikes and land punches with laser-like accuracy before they can even stop their advance. Perhaps that is an additional factor in why he scores so many knockdowns. Not only is he deadly accurate, but he often connects while opponents are coming forward. Baiting opponents to chase him only makes it worse.
Compounding Silva’s record-breaking knockout prowess is the fact that he has been facing the middleweight division’s elite for a long time. Look closer, and you will see another trend. Since 2009, all of Silva’s opponents have been over 30, and none were dangerous standup striking threats to him. Then Silva met Weidman, who had a sturdy chin and possessed one-punch knockout power. The rest is history.
According to the data, Weidman is not an accurate power striker, but in terms of knockdowns per landed head strike, he comes in well above average -- twice the middleweight rate, in fact. He also likes to push the pace. In a standup duel, Silva is sure to land more strikes, but with the youthful chin advantage that Weidman wields, he should be able to eat a few in order to deliver one of his own. That could be all it takes, or it could mean Weidman will walk into being knocked down for the first time. It is another reason this fight is so intriguing. We will find out if the first fight was truly an off night for Silva or if Weidman is simply too dangerous a fighter for “The Spider” to stand and bang with.
We saw their first fight go to the mat briefly, and it confirmed what the data tells us.
Weidman is aggressive in taking fights to the mat, and his success rate is very high. He has never been put on his back himself -- he has a 100-percent takedown defense stat -- and has therefore dominated ground control. While Silva rarely ever attempts takedowns, his defense is historically quite good. With that said, we have seen Silva end up on his back against solid wrestlers, Weidman included.
In their first fight, Weidman landed one of two takedown attempts in the first round. Once on the ground, he advanced position once, landed strikes and then attempted two separate submissions while going after Silva’s leg. While Silva has a Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt, which has bailed him out of trouble before, we cannot ignore the threat Weidman poses from top control, either through submissions or through an onslaught of ground-and-pound. He has a history of both.
Part of what helped Silva with his takedown defense in the past was that so few fighters were willing to stand and trade with him. Silva knew the takedown attempts were coming, and he was less concerned with eating punches, sometimes even inviting opponents to punch him in the face. The knockout loss he suffered to Weidman could cause him to tighten up his stance and pick up his hands, which could conceivably work against him should the champion change levels for a takedown. Despite having seen these exact same two fighters face each other less than six months ago, we cannot expect the same fight. Each will make adjustments, and game plans will be altered.
The Final Word
The current betting line favors the challenger Silva at -150, with the comeback for Weidman at +130. Being an underdog champion is rare, but it has happened several times before -- Frankie Edgar vs. B.J. Penn and Mauricio Rua vs. Jon Jones come to mind -- so regardless of the first fight’s outcome, the betting public is still giving Silva a slightly higher probability of victory.
What do you think? Does history repeat itself? Is Weidman the next-generation champ who brings dangerous power and submissions along with a well-rounded skill set, or will Silva learn his lesson, buckle down and show the world why he is the greatest MMA striker on the planet. Is there any specific factor you think will help determine the outcome of this rematch?
Note: Raw data for the analysis was provided by, and in partnership with FightMetric. All analysis was performed by Reed Kuhn. Reed Kuhn, Fightnomics, FightMetric and Sherdog.com assume no responsibility for bets placed on fights, financial or otherwise.
Like Fightnomics on Facebook, or follow on Twitter @Fightnomics to hear when new research and blog posts are available. For all the big questions in MMA answered with a little bit of science and a whole lot of numbers, get “Fightnomics” the book, available now at Amazon.