Chris Weidman capitalized on an Anderson Silva lapse in their first meeting at UFC 162 in July, flattening the longtime former middleweight linchpin to snatch the belt he wore for nearly seven years.
Less than six months removed from his shocking loss to Weidman—his first in 17 UFC bouts—"The Spider" will once again get a crack at the New Yorker and middleweight gold at UFC 168 tonight.
But when Silva locks horns with "The All-American" in the same arena he lost his belt—The MGM Grand Garden Arena—how will the rematch differ from the first fight?
A more cerebral and more calculated Silva
Like he had done to so many other worthy contenders, Silva attempted to antagonize, taunt and ultimately rattle Weidman with an array of distracting antics in their first meeting.
Weidman obviously made the 38-year-old Silva pay for his theatrics in the end, but at times in the first round, Silva coaxed Weidman into engaging in a kickboxing match.
Instead of Silva talking trash, placing his hands on his waist for seconds at a time and faking injury, expect the Brazilian to use his footwork, his feints and his takedown defense to keep Weidman in his brand of scrap.
In other words, anticipate seeing a more humble, surgical and self-aware Silva, one who more resembles The Spider that made his UFC debut against Chris Leben in 2006.
Weidman will employ a more wrestle-heavy scheme
Although the first fight lasted just 6:18, Weidman, a third-place finisher in the 2007 NCAA Division I Wrestling Championships, only mustered three shots and one takedown on Silva.
Weidman had success in controlling and damaging Silva while on top, but eventually lost his only instance of top position when he dropped for a set of leg locks that The Spider masterfully defended.
Because he now must respect Weidman's punching power, Silva may be forced to hold his hands higher than he usually does, an adjustment that could make him more vulnerable to takedowns.
Programmed to take what Silva gives him, Weidman will recognize openings for shots, put Silva on his back and go to work with ground-and-pound.
A more refined and more confident Weidman
Those in the media and those close to the 29-year-old Weidman knew he possessed the physical and mental ingredients needed to knock off a seemingly unbeatable Silva in July.
But the adversities Weidman had to endure in the lead-up to UFC 162—like a shoulder surgery in 2012 and the destruction of his home from Hurricane Sandy later that year—are hurdles he didn't have to overcome heading into UFC 168.
Weidman enjoyed a clean bill of health, a new house and general financial stability during his second training camp for The Spider. So, akin to Silva, expect a better, more psychologically strong and more polished version of The All-American in the rematch.
A war of attrition will unfold
Unlike the first fight, which ended prematurely following an obvious blunder, Silva and Weidman will need five rounds to settle the rematch.
Precise striking from Silva will bring out the wrestler and grappler in Weidman, which will result in a brutal, grind-it-out scrap that will closely resemble Silva-Sonnen I at UFC 117.
Weidman will land enough takedowns and dish out enough punishment from the top position to take a unanimous decision from The Spider.
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