COMMENTARY | The year 2013 was a year that displayed a wealth of excellent mixed martial arts action.
Now that the 12 months have passed, it is time to look back on those that reached the highest levels of acclaim within the MMA community. After analyzing many of the sports biggest stars both inside and out of the Octagon, there is one individual that used the last 365 days to elevate himself to a new level within the sport.
Chris Weidman stepped into the Octagon on July 6, 2013, with a task that hadn't been accomplished by 14 men that attempted before him. Across the Octagon stood the longest reigning UFC champion, Anderson Silva. A man that had dispatched nearly every opponent that was placed in front of him by some for of stoppage.
His reign as middleweight champion was three years longer than Weidman's professional career. By the time UFC 162 came, Silva had defended the belt 10 times, which was one more than the nine professional fights that Weidman brought with him into the cage that evening. However, those statistical truths would still not be enough to deter the New York native.
Their first meeting lasted two rounds before Chris seized the moment to shock the sports world. He used combination striking to show that he wasn't afraid to stand with the champion in the first round, before landing a takedown and passing Silva's guard. While Anderson resorted to his text-book mocking that had frustrated so many competitors in the past, Chris remained calm enough to take the first round on the judges' scorecards.
Then it happened. Seventy-eight seconds into the second round, Weidman would land a clean shot that would floor the champion. He followed up with shots to a prone Anderson that would force Herb Dean to step in and call the bout, thus creating the first middleweight champion not named Anderson Silva since 2006.
The reaction from the sports world would immediately be mixed as some would praise the new champion, while others would call fluke. While slow-motion replays would quickly deter those ideas, the fact remains that the UFC had a new champion in a division that had been dominated for much of the time that the sport had grown to mainstream status.
From that point, the legacy of Chris Weidman would immediately take off. Outside of the Octagon, he would be featured in many ways that mixed martial arts athletes have not been able to break into. For example, Weidman was welcomed to ESPN to take part in various studio shows both with and without Anderson by his side to promote the rematch. Outlets such as Sports Illustrated, CNN and others demanded more of the fighter's time in a way that no champion other than Ronda Rousey had experienced at that point. In a time when the UFC was clearly in the need of a new star, one was being born in front of the sport's eyes.
UFC 168 couldn't get here fast enough for many within the promotion and fans of mixed martial arts as well. Anderson Silva would have the opportunity to take back his title in the main event of the year's last fight card. Coming into the fight, Weidman would be the betting underdog as regular fans and media experts were picking Silva to "fight serious" and not make the same mistakes he had before. Not only did the exact opposite occur, but fight fans may have witnessed the end of one of the greatest MMA careers to date.
Even before the leg break that may have caused the end of Silva's career, Weidman was once again dominating "The Spider." Chris would land a hard shot from within the clinch that would drop Silva to the canvas. Weidman looked to finish the fight even faster than their first meeting, but Silva would survive the ground-and-pound assault to make it out of the first stanza of the title bout. Seventy-six seconds into the second round, Silva would suffer the leg-break injury that has sent shock waves through the MMA community. Weidman would once again walk out of the Octagon with the middleweight title and firmly plant himself as the potential title holder that the Ultimate Fighting Championship needs to build around.
2013 was an exciting year of growth for mixed martial arts in some areas, while struggles in others. While stars such as Georges St. Pierre and Anderson Silva may be gone for an extended period of time, Chris Weidman performed both inside and out of the cage in a way that can created the opportunity to become the next big star of the sport.
With that in mind, he is the "2013 Fighter of the Year."
Raphael Garcia lives in Washington, DC and has worked as a sports journalist since 2006. His work has contributed to outlets that includes multiple newspapers, websites and ESPN.
- Mixed Martial Arts
- Sports & Recreation
- Chris Weidman
- Anderson Silva
- mixed martial arts