Friday, February 10, 2012

The potential of Chris Weidman

Recently in MMA, there’s been a shift in the top tier names in each weight class. Overeem, dos Santos, and Velasquez make people say “Fedor who?” Names like Fitch, Koscheck, Alves, and Shields are being replaced by Diaz, Condit, Ellenberger, and Hendricks. In the middleweight division, Chris Weidman is a name that should be on everyone’s mind. Weidman made his UFC debut by stepping up on two weeks’ notice to fight longtime UFC vet Alessio Sakara. Weidman was earning a reputation as a top prospect, but he only had four fights heading into the Sakara fight. It didn’t matter, as he was able to dominate the Italian striker to earn a unanimous decision victory. In his next fight, he was able to submit Jesse Bongfeldt with a 1st round guillotine choke. After that performance, he was matched up against Tom Lawlor. He made the always tough Lawlor look like an amateur, taking him out with a D’arce choke, also in the first stanza.

His next fight was on the UFC’s second effort on Fox. He once again stepped up on short notice to face Demian Maia after Maia’s original opponent, Michael Bisping, was plucked from that fight to move into a bout with Chael Sonnen. Now I just want to get a few things out of the way before I continue. Was the Weidman/Maia fight sloppy? Yes, it was one of the sloppier bouts I’ve seen from two top-level fighters in a while. Let’s just put it this way: with that performance, we won’t be seeing Maia or Weidman in K-1 anytime soon. It also didn’t help that both of them were gassed by the start of round three. Still, there is some silver lining to this debacle. First off, Chris Weidman not only had the fortitude to step up on 11-days’ notice to fight Maia, but he was also able to defeat him. Maia was considered a top-10 level fighter at the time of the fight. This is the same Demian Maia that submitted Chael Sonnen and gave Jorge Santiago his walking papers from the UFC.

My point is this: for as bad as Weidman looked at UFC of Fox 2, he made Maia look even worse. Weidman seems to be a sponge; his jiu-jitsu and striking skills are improving, and his wrestling is already quite good. He qualified for ADCC with only one year of formal jiu-jitsu training, and gave grappling superstar Andre Galvao a good run for his money in their match. Take Jon Jones for an example. He came in mostly as a wrestler, but developed his skills and evolved into a complete mixed martial artist. Look at how scary he is now. Does Weidman have the potential to do that? Maybe not as quickly, but yes, I believe he does.

So what’s the next step for Weidman? If the UFC wants to test his ground skills again, Rousimar Palhares and Mark Munoz would be good choices. However, I want to see how he reacts to taking a good shot. I say put him in there with someone like Michael Bisping or Brian Stann next. Both have the striking prowess to put Weidman in a lot of trouble and potentially finish him. I actually feel like Bisping would be the tougher fight for Chris right now, as The Count’s takedown defense has been stellar of late. Still, my name is not Joe Silva, so I don’t get to make those kinds of decisions, but with his victory over Maia I doubt the New Yorker will get an easy fight next. Regardless, it will be interesting to see who he is matched up with, and exciting to see where he could go from here.

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