Anderson Silva’s reign of terror over the middleweight division began with a three-minute mauling of Rich Franklin in October 2006. In the seven years since, “The Spider” has barely been challenged inside the Octagon, turning away a Who’s Who in the 185-pound and even 205-pound divisions.
However, a growing number of experts expect that challenge to finally emerge in the form of undefeated No. 1 contender Chris Weidman at UFC 162: Silva vs. Weidman on July 6 at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas.
Leading Las Vegas oddsmakers make the 9-0 Weidman the shortest underdog to face Silva in over five years, since then-reigning PRIDEFC champion Dan Henderson collided with the Brazilian back in March 2008. The sportsbooks believe a Weidman victory this Independence Day Weekend is more likely than a Chael Sonnen victory was at last summer’s Independence Weekend event, despite Sonnen having famously dominated Silva for four-plus rounds in a previous bout.
And UFC president Dana White said: “Every fighter out there that I’ve talked to and every fighter we’ve interviewed thinks Weidman is going to beat Anderson. All the pros think this is the biggest challenge Anderson has ever faced in the UFC. These are the guys who know the sport, the pros, and they are all saying Weidman could really shock the world. This is a huge fight in the middleweight division.”
Here some of the biggest names in the UFC weigh in on what could be the upset of the year.
Chael Sonnen (two-time title UFC middleweight title challenger to Anderson Silva)
“Listen, he has two wins over me, it does me no good at all to bash Anderson publically now that our thing is over. But that’s not what I am doing here. I think Anderson is an excellent fighter, an awesome fighter, but he’s just not winning this fight.
“I think Weidman takes Anderson down at will, I think he blows past Anderson’s guard, and I think he finishes him. Taking Anderson down isn’t a hard thing to do. Chris will get to Anderson’s head, hurt him with ground and pound, and submit Anderson within three rounds with a D’arce choke or similar. Weidman is a younger version of me – and a better version when it comes to aspects like top game. I took Anderson down repeatedly, and while I punched him all night, I don’t have the submissions Weidman has. Weidman is going to have the same success I had with a ground attack but then he’s going to choke Anderson.
“The seven-year reign is over. That’s genuinely what I feel.”
Ronda Rousey (reigning UFC women’s bantamweight champion)
“I think Anderson Silva is the best pound-for-pound fighter in the world, but Weidman is the absolute worst possible matchup for him. It’ll definitely be interesting and I’m excited to see what happens on the night.”
Matt Serra (former UFC welterweight champion, trains BJJ with Weidman)
“Chris is going to shock a lot of people. The combination of Chris’s skillset, which is a bad matchup for Anderson on any day, and his mentality to win is going to result in a huge win. Everyone sees what this kid has skill-wise, and Chris doesn’t take ‘no’ for an answer. He’s a beast, he’s an animal. He will take this fight to Anderson Silva – but unlike some of the other guys, he will do it with aggression and skills. He’s the complete fighter to beat Anderson.”
Miesha Tate (former women’s bantamweight champion, No.3 UFC contender)
“Chael Sonnen almost beat Anderson based on being a wrestler. And Weidman is a more dynamic wrestler than Sonnen – and Weidman doesn’t get caught in submissions. Weidman’s wrestling definitely gives him a chance.”
Georges St-Pierre (two-time and reigning UFC welterweight champion)
“I believe it’s a bad matchup for Anderson Silva. Very bad, style wise. Anderson’s weaknesses are Weidman’s strengths. I’ve trained with Weidman and his wrestling is on another level. Not only is Chris Weidman going to beat Anderson Silva, I believe he’s going to finish Anderson. I believe it’s not going to last too long, this fight. This fight will shock a lot of people. I’ve trained with Weidman and I know how good he is. He will be the champion. Anderson is smart, though, and is fighting Chris after a long layoff for injury. That’s why it is important for Weidman to have a great camp. But if Weidman gets though camp with no problems, he will win this fight.”
Kenny Florian (UFC Tonight host, three-time UFC title challenger)
“Weidman is going to be Anderson’s biggest challenge. Weidman is a guy who can take you down, has a tremendous ground and pound game and has excellent submissions as well. I think his D’Arce choke can pose a lot of problems for Anderson Silva when the fight hits the ground. The way Anderson tries to get to his feet – and the way Weidman controls opponents on the ground using their heads – will leave Anderson very vulnerable to the D’Arce.
“If you look at what my UFC Tonight co-host Chael Sonnen did to Silva – he won all five completed rounds over two fights – and not just kinda slightly won. He dominated, and Weidman is a bigger, stronger, younger and harder-hitting version of Chael. I don’t think there is any fighter in the world who can hope to beat Anderson on the feet, but I think Weidman can and will get this to the ground and, once there, I expect him to be in a huge position to win the fight.”
Michael Bisping (No. 4 ranked middleweight contender)
“With Weidman, I think he’s got a hell of a shot at becoming the new champion. Anderson Silva is the greatest of all time but, believe me; Weidman has a very bad style for him. A nightmare style, really. Weidman will be able to take Anderson down, and do serious damage when he does so. Weidman has a great ground game, and that’s where Anderson has shown vulnerabilities. Chael Sonnen took Anderson down at will and Anderson hardly ever got himself up; he had to wait for the end of the round. When I fought Chael I got up every time and punched him in the face. Anderson is the best fighter of all time, but his weakness is wrestling and Weidman is at least as good as Chael in that area.
“Also, you have to factor in that Anderson has been doing this for a very long time now. He’s put his body through a lot in the gym over the years and we all get old eventually. Beating guys like one-legged Canadians and broken down, semi-retired light heavyweights is one thing, but if Weidman can back his mouth up and really take the fight to Anderson I think he can do this.”
Gray Maynard (two-time UFC lightweight title challenger)
“If anyone is going to beat Anderson Silva, and stop this guy retiring with the belt, undefeated in the UFC, for sure it is Chris Weidman. Weidman is the only guy I can point to in the division and go ‘This guy can do it, this guy can beat Anderson’.”
Daniel Cormier (No. 2 ranked UFC heavyweight contender)
“I am always partial to wrestlers, but I honestly think Weidman has the tools to win this fight. Anderson is the greatest of all-time, but Weidman has the blueprint set by Chael Sonnen. It’s not like he has to spend a round or two figuring out what he has to do to win. Just follow the game plan that Chael had success with: take Anderson down and pound on him. I think Anderson’s takedown defense has improved over the years, but Chris is such a good wrestler he will get the job done. I pick Weidman by decision.”
Frank Mir (two-time UFC heavyweight champion)
“Anderson has shown one weakness – he can be controlled on the ground by powerful wrestlers – and Weidman is the most powerful wrestler there is in the division. Everyone is making the comparison to Chael Sonnen, but while Chael controlled Anderson on the ground and landed shots, he couldn’t hurt Anderson and that was his undoing. Weidman can hurt Anderson with ground and pound and he can submit Anderson.
“The only way I see Weidman not winning is if he has a macho thing where he has illusions of striking with the best striker in the world. But I think he’s too smart for that. I’m not just saying he’s got a great shot, I am picking Weidman to win.”
Alan Belcher (UFC middleweight contender)
“Weidman has all tools; on paper he can do this. Anderson always seems to find a way to win, but everyone is human, and style wise, I don’t like this for Anderson. Weidman’s really good on the top, and he could sub Anderson. He’s that good on the ground. What worries me about Weidman is he knows just enough to get himself into trouble on the feet. He is just good enough to land a shot or two and think he can win standing up. But he can’t. No one can beat Anderson standing. Weidman has to get this to the ground, and when that happens it is Chris Weidman’s fight, Chris Weidman’s world. If this hit the floor in the first round, it is going to be insane because Weidman could sub Anderson Silva in the very first round.”
Roger Gracie (UFC 162 fighter, middleweight)
“Weidman’s grappling is at a very high level. He has some very good submissions. He can put a lock on anyone – any world class grappler. I think he’s that good that he can tap anyone, including me or Anderson Silva.”
TJ Grant (No.3 contender, UFC lightweight title)
“Personally, I feel Weidman has the tools to win. He’s young, confident and his grappling is on a completely different level. You never want to pick against Anderson Silva, but I give a slight edge to Weidman.”
Luke Rockhold (No.7 UFC middleweight contender)
“This is a 50/50 fight. I’ve not thought that about an Anderson fight in a long time, but this can go either way.”
John Moraga (No.4 flyweight contender)
“I’m going out of a limb and say Weidman is taking him out. He is real determined and confident and that’s the key to beating a legend. Weidman is going to let it all go, and I think his style is all wrong for Anderson. I can see Weidman dominating, actually.”
Rick Story (UFC welterweight contender)
“I can see Weidman grinding out a points win by controlling most of the fight on the ground. Ask Chael Sonnen, five rounds is a long time not to make a mistake in Anderson’s guard, but Chris is so young and hungry I think he can do it.”
Johny Hendricks (No.1 welterweight contender)
“Anderson doesn’t like to start fast but I think in this fight he needs to get going early. Weidman is coming off a long layoff and Anderson should take advantage, jump on him, and go for the first round KO. But if Weidman gets to the later rounds, his wrestling and being so young will take over. I think Weidman has the style and the skills to win this fight and I pick him to win a decision.”
Dominick Cruz (UFC bantamweight champion, FOX Sports Analyst)
“Weidman can absolutely do it. But against Anderson Silva the pressure is on not to make a mistake while he uses his strikes to set up a takedown. That is the critical thing for Weidman. I’ve spent some time with Chris, he’s a smart dude, and he knows he’s not going to try to strike with Anderson. And he has to be conscious of that fact: Striking wise, Weidman cannot compete against Anderson on any level. At all. The reason he was able to land that elbow against Mark Munoz was Munoz was trying to set up for a takedown just as much as Weidman was and, knowing that, Weidman was waiting for the overhand right and that allowed him to land that elbow. He cannot land anything like that against Anderson.
“Weidman has to have the exact same game plan as Chael Sonnen; everyone is saying that is the blueprint for him to win this fight. But here’s the problem: Anderson had two fights with Chael and has had over 30 minutes of Octagon time with that exact strategy. Anderson went through at least two camps expecting that to be his opponent’s strategy. Anderson’s takedown defense is light years away from where it was even two years ago. Remember, takedown defense is only one aspect of one discipline in MMA – and it is one of the easiest aspects to improve on.
“But Weidman can still get him down. Anderson takes anything from a minute to half a round to figure out his opponent’s distance and timing, and Chris has to make use of that to score a takedown. Once he has Anderson down, he can strike very well, and I expect him to pass and force Anderson into a scramble. Anderson usually waits in his guard for a chance to escape or counter, but Chris hits hard enough and is active enough to force Anderson to try to get back up fast. That’s where I see Weidman winning the fight, in the scramble as Anderson tries to get back up.”
Frankie Edgar (Former UFC lightweight champion)
“Gotta go with the East Coast boy Weidman. He’s the whole package. Anderson has fought good wrestlers, but Chris has got great jiu-jitsu and a solid standup game as well.”