If Chris Weidman intends to dethrone longtime middleweight champ Anderson Silva at UFC 162, then the 29-year-old New York native must capitalize on his stellar grappling chops.
Because the former NCAA Division I All-American wrestler will obviously have his hands full on his feet, Weidman must make his venomous grappling game the X-factor in this much anticipated scrap.
While the pound-for-pound king holds a black belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu and has tapped some of the game's best, Silva still must execute with precision on the ground to survive Weidman's submission assaults.
Weidman has yet to allow a takedown in nine pro bouts and has accumulated 13 floorings—including a pair against former NCAA Division I national champion wrestler, Mark Munoz. And although Alessio Sakara and Jesse Bongfeldt aren’t regarded as top-tier wrestlers, Weidman outgrappled expert Demian Maia and former college wrestler Tom Lawlor in back-to-back wins.
In his stiffest challenge, Weidman dropped over 30 pounds in 10 days to take on Maia on short notice. Weidman didn't look his best but still stuffed each of the Brazilian's seven takedown attempts en route to a unanimous-decision win at UFC on Fox 2.
Silva will undoubtedly need to remain cognizant of Weidman's submission ability, especially in the realm of chokes. But "The Spider" should be more wary of a Chael Sonnen-like game plan from "The All-American."
A master in top control, Weidman sounded off on the Sonnen comparison's during a media conference call for UFC 162 by saying:
The obvious answer is the takedowns and trying to expose him with the wrestling. But we’re (he and Sonnen) totally different fighters. I believed I could beat him before that fight (UFC 117), but (Silva) stays relaxed and if you’re tense and he’s relaxed, eventually he’s going to be able to get off what he wants. So I think the main thing I learned from that is that I thought Chael was a little bit too uptight and tense when he got the takedown, and I think it paid off for Anderson to stay relaxed the entire fight because he was able to have the energy to knock that out in the fifth round. And all props to Anderson on that.
Sonnen seemingly exposed a chink in Silva's armor at UFC 117, making the Brazilian appear vulnerable to upper-echelon wrestlers. But realistically, The Spider has a sturdy defensive wrestling game, and an excellent defensive grappling repertoire.
In his last 10 fights, Silva has only surrendered five takedowns—three of which came in his first encounter with Sonnen. The Spider also hasn't been submitted since getting shocked by Ryo Chonan with a flying scissor heel hook at Pride Shockwave 2004.
In an interview with Rick J. Lee, Silva acknowledged Weidman's grappling pedigree, but then ambiguously implied that it won't affect the outcome of their fight.
Yeah, he's a good wrestler, a good athlete, but, a fight is a fight. It's different. This is not wrestling, this is MMA. This is not jiu-jitsu, this is MMA. This is not muay-thai, this is MMA.
Only time will tell whether Weidman can use his freakish grappling skills to serve Silva his first loss in the UFC. One thing's certain, however, Weidman's got four inches of reach on Sonnen, a fact that will make closing the distance on Silva easier.
His promise to finish Silva may not come to fruition for Weidman. But a boring decision win could definitely be in the cards if the former Hofstra University wrestler can utilize his X-factor.
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