After Frankie Edgar and Charles Oliveira go to war in the featherweight division at UFC 162 in Las Vegas, Chris “All-American” Weidman will step in the Octagon for the biggest fight of his career against the best fighter on the planet, Anderson “The Spider” Silva at UFC 162: Silva vs. Weidman.
But how did he get here?
Weidman (9-0, 5-0 UFC) may have less fights than the champ has title defenses, but Weidman wasn’t inactive while the Spider was breaking out on the mainstream MMA scene. When Silva captured the middleweight strap in 2006, Weidman was placing high in NCAA collegiate wrestling during that time.
After college wrestling, Weidman would move on to MMA and post a perfect 4-0 record outside of the UFC, including a knockout win over the future Ultimate Fighter sensation Uriah Hall, also winning the Ring of Combat middleweight title while he was at it.
The All-American’s Octagon debut would come when Rafael Natal bowed out of his fight with Alessio Sakara and Weidman quickly accepted the challenge. The Serra/Longo-trained wrestler battered Sakara and out-muscled him for three entire rounds to get the unanimous decision victory. It was an impressive performance from the first-timer, as Sakara was an 11-time UFC veteran, and he decimated him for 15 minutes – standing and on the ground.
His next test would come at UFC 131 against Jesse Bongfeldt. Weidman came out the aggressor, mixing up his punches and kicks. Bongfeldt landed a grazing kick that caught Weidman off guard more than it stunned him, and he immediately transitioned to his wrestling. A big throw by Weidman put him right in side-mount, his opponent briefly regained guard, so Weidman used some powerful punches to set up a pass. As he continued to pursue the submission, going from kimuras to north/south, he wouldn’t stop advancing position and threatening with armlocks and chokes. A sudden scramble had Bongfeldt back to his feet, both exchanged strikes until a knee to the body landed flush for Weidman. When Bongfeldt ducked for his legs, the All-American quickly locked in a standing guillotine choke that forced the tap, getting the submission of the night bonus in the process.
Weidman would return three months later at UFC 139, when he faced TUF vet Tom Lawlor. As he displayed in his previous two fights, the dominant wrestler appeared to be settling in with his punches, but right when Lawlor committed to strikes of his own, Weidman easily got the outside-single-leg takedown. Lawlor was working his way back to his feet, but the D1 wrestler started working for a D’Arce choke two minutes into the opening frame, sinking it in and squeezing with all his might until Lawlor went unconscious.
With two back-to-back submissions, Weidman was well on his way to establishing himself as a fighter to watch at 185lbs. He then accepted a fight with the dangerous Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt Demian Maia. Weidman’s wrestling would do wonders for him in the fight, as he was able to keep his range standing and dictate where the fight took place, stifling the submission fighter’s offense for the entire 15 minutes, earning the unanimous decision win.
UFC on Fuel TV is where Weidman appeared next, headlining the fight card opposite Mark Munoz, who was on a four-fight win streak himself. Weidman overwhelmed Munoz with takedowns and submission attempts for the majority of the first round. It was just over a minute into the second when Munoz threw an overhand right and Weidman countered, slicing through Munoz’s offense with one single standing elbow. Not many fight fans expected anything Jon Jones-esque when the two wrestlers met in the UFC on Fuel TV main event; however, Weidman delivered just that.
Now ranked among the top contenders, Weidman has drawn a fight with the pound-for-pound king of the middleweight division. Many pros have picked Silva’s downfall on July 6, giving Weidman a much needed boost of confidence going into the most significant fight of his professional career.
Will the All-American be the man to swipe the throne and achieve success when he meets the Spider this weekend? According to Joe Rogan, he’s better than Chael Sonnen, and far more dangerous. But does it even matter? “Is he better than Silva?” is the million-dollar question.