Despite earning the win outright and defeating Anderson Silva yet again just months later—albeit after an unfortunate injury for The Spider—Weidman has unfairly drawn tremendous criticism. Even fellow fighter Junior dos Santos chimed in with his two cents on the matter, per MMAFighting.com's Guilherme Cruz:
Then there was Weidman getting bashed by Vitor Belfort, of all people. The Brazilian attempted to lessen the Fighter of the Year award that Weidman received, per Jared Jones of Fox Sports.
"Not that it should be me, but he wins because of just one fight? It was shameful," Belfort said. "He won one fight. The other he haven't won, it was an accident. The ceremony in Las Vegas was pretty cool, but the votes are from the fans, not always they are right."
Standing at 11-0 and fighting his way up the ladder, Weidman more than deserves to be seen as the champion he is at this point. As for Machida, this will be his first attempt at challenging for a UFC title since losing to Jon "Bones" Jones after trying to regain the light heavyweight title in December 2011.
While this may be Weidman's first true title defense after Silva's injury during the December bout, he has a chance to prove why he's the champion on Saturday night.
But does he see an end to the criticism? He answered that question on CBS Radio's The Morning Show.
"One thing I’ve kind of realized is no matter how many times I win, stay undefeated or who I beat, I’m always going to have critics and doubters out there," Weidman said. "So my ultimate motivating factor can’t be to prove those guys wrong because they’ll never end."
That brings us to Weidman's fight at UFC 175 against Machida. Going against yet another strong Brazilian fighter, Weidman will have to use all the tricks in the bag yet again.
Machida's strong defensive style will make it difficult for Weidman to earn a takedown, but he likely won't be able to do the same to Weidman. Though he carries a 21-4 record into the match, Machida has gone 5-4 in his last nine bouts.
With his strength and attacking style, Weidman will find ways around Machida's tactics to impose his will. As for the weaknesses of Machida, Weidman's trainer Ray Longo provides his thoughts, via Dave Doyle of MMAFighting.com:
I think he's got a real weak chin, I think that's his biggest hole. Weidman hits his guy, he'll hurt him bad. [Machida] likes to control the pace of the fight, I don't think he likes to be pushed.
... He's going to get in that ring, he's going to go forward, and he's going to impose his will on Machida and he's going to make Machida fight his game, and he's probably just going to end up crushing the guy.
The 36-year-old has been much more susceptible recently to being worn down and losing a decision, which happened against Phil Davis last August. But with a deadly kicking arsenal that earned him Knockout of the Night against Mark Munoz, the former UFC light heavyweight champion is still deadly in the Octagon.
Weidman might not be as exciting as the former champion or quite as dominant—at this point—as Silva, but Saturday night can change all of that. A win against Machida might not take away all of the murmurs about a fluke title defense, but a decisive victory would certainly help.
Though fans are reluctant to celebrate Weidman's success thus far, another clear-cut win against a fighter like Machida would silence some of those critics. Weidman might never reach the same level of stardom as Silva, but his rise is legit, and he'll prove it on Saturday night.