Originally written on The Sports Post  |  Last updated 11/18/14
Chris Weidman’s record does not qualify him for a middleweight title shot. He hasn’t beaten any top contenders and it’s common knowledge that it is supposed to be Michael Bisping facing the almighty Spider at UFC 162, but the drug-induced explosiveness of Vitor Belfort derailed that plan last January. Weidman’s pride derives from his defeat of Mark Munoz, who became a standout competitor by beating four guys in a row, none of which have any real relevance in the division whatsoever. Some even view Munoz as a reoccurring gatekeeper. Weidman proved that he is simply an above average competitor and due to a few bizarre circumstances, was instantly elevated to No.1 contender status. So, once again, we have someone who hasn’t really given us any reason to think he could beat Anderson Silva fighting for his championship belt. Weidman’s greatest strength is his wrestling, the only facet of the game in which he’ll have a significant advantage over the greatest fighter of all time. History has shown us that wrestlers are the fighters Silva has had the most trouble with, so we can bet that Weidman’s strategy will resemble those of Chael Sonnen and Dan Henderson when they previously faced Silva. These two came closer to beating Silva than anybody in recent memory because they were able to take him down and keep him on his back. But prior to their fights with Silva, Sonnen and Henderson were thought to have a good chance of dethroning the champion with their wrestling prowess because their skill sets in this department had already earned them wins over several highly-ranked fighters. They weren’t just coasting off one victory over an (arguably) reputable opponent to assure them that they had what it takes to win. These are credentials Weidman’s wrestling simply does not have. If Weidman wants his wrestling to have the same success Sonnen and Henderson's did, he’s going to have to show us an understanding of MMA grappling that his dismal record does not suggest. And it’s so hard not to count Weidman out in this situation because, with the exception of Jon Jones, this has never happened in the UFC before.   We’ve seen numerous promising wrestlers with sub-par records evolve into powerhouse grinders who seem to be able to neutralize virtually any opposing offensive. But this evolution is a gradual process, one that takes at least three or four matches against well-versed fighters to complete. Georges St. Pierre didn’t obtain the skills to out-wrestle the legendary Matt Hughes after just one dominant performance over a fairly credible opponent. He had to have his take downs tested by four fighters, two of which were top contenders at the time, before he was ready to grapple with the then-welterweight champion. Frankie Edgar and Jon Fitch are just some of the collegiate stars who perfected their wrestling skills by defeating the best their division had to offer before assuming that they had a chance at becoming world champions. Phil Davis’s wrestling helped him secure a victory over Antonio Rogerio Nogueira, a very experienced grappler. But that didn’t mean he suddenly had the wrestling ability worthy of championship gold. Had Davis defeated one or two more experienced grapplers afterwards, he probably wouldn’t have made a fool of himself against Rashad Evans a few months later. Chris Weidman may have improved his understanding of MMA by leaps and bounds since the Mark Munoz fight. Yet these improvements will mean nothing until they are validated under the bright lights of the octagon opposite a highly-regarded opponent. Any fighter will vouch for the idea that it doesn’t matter what someone can do in the gym if it can’t be done on the big stage. We judge fighters by their octagon performances, not how much they amaze training partners in the gym. All we know about Weidman is that he doesn’t completely suck; he can defeat a mid-tier fighter. This is a lot less than we knew about anyone else who has fought Silva before, and the longtime champion has made numerous people who appeared to have advanced understanding of MMA look like amateurs. Upsets happen all the time in MMA, and that’s what a win for Weidman at UFC 162 would be, since he hasn’t given the fans or the UFC any reason to think he could beat Anderson Silva let alone any middleweight title contender. With the exception of Jon Jones, there hasn’t been a single wrestler in UFC history who only needed one win over a moderately credible opponent to solidify the likelihood of him defeating the reigning king of his division. If Chris Weidman beats Anderson Silva, it will not only be one of the biggest upsets of all time, but it will also mark one of the only instances in the UFC where a man with the credibility of being just above average performed like someone with multiple wins over former title contenders under his belt. By: Sean Levinson Twitter: @SeanLevinson
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