Now that we have finally learned that Chris Weidman is the next man fighting Anderson Silva for the title, we are left to wonder just how Weidman can succeed where so many others have failed.
Make no mistake about it, this is a fight Weidman can win, but it won’t be easy.
First off, he has to apply constant pressure to the champion; much like Chael Sonnen did at UFC 117, because trying to figure out how to beat Silva from the outside isn’t going to get it done.
Silva is a rare fighter; a man equally adept at striking offensively as he is countering an opponent who tries to go toe-to-toe with him. So what does Weidman need to do in order to pull off the upset?
There are three possible ways Weidman can get the job done, but each requires total commitment. Many great fighters have stepped into the cage with the champion, only to seem to forget how to ply the skills that got them there in the first place—as if showing up was good enough.
There has never been a champion in the history of the UFC as great as Silva because he dares to be great, so all measures against him must be equal to the task.
First of all, Weidman needs to limit the weapons of the champion as best he can and that means a relentless takedown attack for all five rounds.
The one place where the effectiveness of Silva’s best game—striking—is going to be diminished is on the ground with Silva on his back, and that is where Weidman needs to take this fight as often as possible.
Yes, he may eat some serious strikes on the way in (perhaps even suffering a KO from a well-placed counter-knee) or get some elbows from the clinch, but we know—nearly to a certainty—that he’s going to be in far more danger if he tries to engage Silva in a striking contest for any extended period of time.
If he can get take Silva down repeatedly and keep him down, he can employ the same basic plan Chael Sonnen did, but with greater effect and earn a decision victory that may not be pretty but gives him the title.
Another way Weidman can win is by taking risks and attacking Silva from the top—looking for the stoppage aggressively—whenever he takes the champion down.
This is risky, as it gives Silva room to either pull Weidman into his guard or escape to the feet, but it does allow Weidman a chance to secure a sooner victory via KO/TKO thanks to his heavy-handed ground-and-pound.
No matter what many people may think, Silva can be knocked out just like any other man and Weidman is a very strong fighter who knows how to use that strength on the ground.
One of the main virtues for going after the stoppage instead of trying to grind out a decision victory is that it lessens the amount of time Silva will have to end the bout himself. He’s proven to be the kind of champion that is dangerous in any fight, at any time, and if Weidman could get him out of there, well sooner is better than later.
And lastly, if somehow Silva manages to thwart every takedown attempt, Weidman is going to be forced to stand and exchange, which is a possibility he needs to be ready for.
Should that happen, Weidman still has heavy hands that could land given that Silva has shown a tendency to “clown” about if he feels he has an opponent who must stand with him.
That means when Weidman throws, he can’t be tentative like so many others have been. Everyone else before him seems to see Silva standing still, arms at his sides, as if it is a mirage and thus they throw tentative strikes that lack their full authority.
If Silva does that with Weidman, the challenger must throw with all his might, and throw often.
Very few fighters have gone after Silva with the intent to throw heavy leather for every second of every round. In all of his bouts in the UFC, the champion has not had anyone pressure him like that, probably because of how destructive he looked against Chris Leben in his debut.
But this is a title fight, and if Weidman cannot secure the takedowns, then he should be ready to throw everything that he can at the champion and let the chips fall where they may.
When at all possible, he should cut off the cage—far easier said than done, to be sure—and get inside Silva's long range and work heavy punches to the body, uppercuts and then hooks.
Yes, he will have to fight like mad to combat Silva’s Thai clinch, but if he wants the title badly enough, he should be ready to expend as much energy as needed to dish out more damage than he takes and take as much damage as he must.
As incredible as Silva is, he is still getting older, day-by-day, and given how infrequently he fights, his defensive timing may slip enough for Weidman to land, especially if the challenger is really ready and has enough gas in the tank to throw over 100 meaningful punches per round.
There is a saying in the South that speaks to the idea that sometimes you fight the fight where you find it and other times you fight it where it finds you.
For Weidman, he must do both and fight like the younger, hungrier man, constantly putting pressure on Silva and never for a second forgetting that showing up is only half the battle.