As far as main events go, you're not going to find many better than Chris Weidman vs. Lyoto Machida.
The middleweight title fight headlines this Saturday's UFC 175 event in Las Vegas. It is a sublime stylistic matchup featuring two of the best fighters in the world, both of whom have drastically different approaches to combat in the Octagon. Weidman's game is centered around his wrestling and grappling; Machida relies on distance and counter-striking, and both men are capable of pulling a finish out of nowhere.
It's the kind of fight true mixed martial arts fans crave. But it's flying under the radar, and I can't quite explain why.
The lack of attention focused on the main event is probably due, at least in part, to the presence of Ronda Rousey in the co-main event. She is likely MMA's biggest star, and she draws the lion's share of attention. During Monday's media call to promote the event, most of the questions were pointed at Rousey and opponent Alexis Davis. Weidman, the middleweight champion who twice defeated the legendary Anderson Silva, was relegated to the sidelines, fielding just one question during the 35-minute call.
Is it because fans don't take Weidman seriously? Are we discounting his wins over Silva because of the bizarre circumstances surrounding both finishes? Hasn't he done enough to calm the critics who say he didn't actually beat Silva?
"I think everybody always going to have critics out there. And it’s not really one of my motivating factors to silence those critics because they’re always going to be there," Weidman said. "So that’s not really one of the big things in my mind."
The lack of attention could also be blamed on promotion. Weidman and Machida are accomplished fighters, but neither are gold on the microphone. They prefer to do their talking in the Octagon. That's all well and good, but the biggest UFC main events are usually reserved for those willing to talk up their opponent and play up some sort of rivalry, even if it is a contrived one.
This is not to say that Weidman and Machida should adopt pro wrestling personas and begin cutting Steve Austin-style promos. They are who they are, and they are not likely to change for anyone.
"I’m always trying to sell the fight in a different way. I’m trying to sell the fight with the way that I’m fighting in the Octagon," Machida said. "And I don’t want to be the guy that’s offending my opponent before the fight."
You can't blame Machida for his approach. If he prefers to be remembered for what he does inside the Octagon and not what he says outside of it, well, so be it. And you can't blame Weidman for not caring about those who don't believe he ever beat Silva in the first place. He does have the gold, after all, and that's the only thing that counts.
But it seems almost criminal that a fight of this caliber isn't getting the kind of attention it deserves. The UFC's promotion of the fight has been a fraction of what they usually run. We haven't been bombarded with commercials featuring Weidman and Machida. We're four days away from one of the best fights of the year, and I'd wager many casual fans have no idea that it's even happening.
That's a shame. Weidman and Machida aren't boring. They are explosive, excellent middleweights who present very real threats to each other. Weidman is a moderate betting favorite, but would anybody be surprised to see Machida walk away with the belt?
It is an excellent main event. It's too bad that the promotion for the event has been non-existent; it's the kind of fight that might help create new fans, but only if they see it.