From what I’ve seen, the average opinion of Chris Weidman seems to be that he’s clearly a very good fighter, but not necessarily good enough to remain a UFC champion. A lot of people see Weidman as being quite lucky to win two fights against Anderson Silva. They see the knockout in the first fight as a product of Silva’s carelessness, and the broken leg in the second fight as just a fluke. I’ll acknowledge that the outcomes of those fights were unusual, but I have a higher opinion of Weidman’s abilities than most people. I think Weidman is a transcendent talent in MMA, a fighter who could potentially rise all the way to the top of the pound-for-pound rankings… and I don’t say this lightly.
The reason I feel this way is because I think Weidman has just entered his fighting prime. He’s clearly an improved fighter from the guy who fought Alessio Sakara, Jesse Bongfeldt, and Demian Maia. Weidman entered the UFC as a great wrestler but has also developed his submissions and striking very well. And here are Weidman’s combined statistics from his two fights against Anderson Silva: 36-22 in significant strikes, 2-0 in knockdowns, 2-0 in takedowns, 1-0 in guard passes, and 3-0 in submission attempts. Weidman out-performed Anderson Silva, plain and simple.
Whether or not you feel that Lyoto Machida has a good chance of beating Weidman probably depends on your opinion of Weidman. If you agree with me and see Weidman as a fighter who could be the middleweight champion for a long time, then you probably see Weidman as having a very good chance of winning this fight. If you disagree and see Weidman as a good fighter who got lucky against Silva, then you probably think Machida will either win or make it very close.
Weidman will want to take Machida to the ground because grappling is Weidman’s biggest strength as a fighter. Weidman is one of the best offensive wrestlers in the UFC, landing 4.0 takedowns per 15 minutes at 68 percent accuracy. At the same time, Machida has historically been very difficult to take down; his takedown defense rate is a very strong 80 percent. Of course, that 80 percent rate was mostly achieved against opponents who aren’t as good at takedowns as Weidman, but there is at least a chance that Machida could force Weidman into a striking match here.
If that’s the case, that’s the best case scenario for Machida as I don’t see him landing a takedown of his own. However, I think Weidman would still be very competitive in that scenario. Machida lands strikes at low volume, and that’s a problem for him because it allows lesser strikers like Dan Henderson and Phil Davis to make their fights closer than they should have been. If this fight is a striking match and Machida lands seven significant strikes per round, that’s not a tough output for Weidman to match, even considering how difficult Machida is to hit. It’s a situation where Weidman could probably win rounds just by landing a takedown on top of a small handful of strikes.
The biggest reason I’m so enthusiastic about Weidman is that he makes it very difficult for his opponents to do anything offensive against him. Weidman is very much like Jon Jones in that respect. In 56 minutes of UFC action, Weidman has been hit by 107 significant strikes (1.90 per minute). He has never been knocked down, never been taken down, and never had a submission attempted against him.
I’m also skeptical about Machida’s ability to consistently defend Weidman’s takedown for five rounds. Weidman is such a good offensive wrestler and has such a high “fight IQ” that I feel like he’s almost certain to find a way to get Machida to the ground at some point.
Don’t get me wrong. I think Machida actually has the right style to take into a fight with Weidman. There isn’t a single middleweight I would give a better chance of winning here. But I also think that Machida will find it very difficult to separate himself from Weidman in terms of offensive output. At some point, I feel like Weidman is going to break through and catch Machida with a big punch or a choke, or at least an extended period of top control and strikes following a takedown. Machida is an excellent fighter but Weidman is just on another level.
Pick: Chris Weidman by TKO