COMMENTARY | After the main event of UFC 168 on Saturday night, the focus of the MMA world was on Anderson Silva's gruesome leg injury that stopped the bout. The attention is understandable, considering that the career of the most dominant fighter in UFC history likely ended with one of the most stomach-turning injuries in the promotion's history.
However, lost a bit in the shuffle is the man left to carry the torch in the middleweight division, reigning champion Chris Weidman. Despite the fluky feel of the fight's ending, Weidman left no doubt that he is the true champion and better than Silva at this stage in their respective careers. With his strong wrestling and evolving, well-rounded game, a good case can be made that Weidman would have continued to impose his will on Silva had the leg break not occurred.
Once the dust has settled on Silva's injury, the attention will necessarily shift to Weidman going forward. At a time when the UFC has recently lost two of its best pay per view draws in Silva and Georges St. Pierre for the foreseeable future, the promotion needs new stars to emerge. After UFC 168, Weidman is in the perfect position to join Jon Jones, Cain Velasquez and Ronda Rousey as the pay per view stars of the new generation.
For starters, Weidman has the skill set that should lead to a dominant championship run in the middleweight division. As with any great fighter, he has one truly elite skill in his wrestling. The former NCAA Junior College and Division 1 All-American has been able to use his wrestling in the octagon to his advantage, as shown by his takedowns of Silva. To complement that skill, Weidman has also steadily improved the rest of his game with better striking and submissions to turn himself into a well-rounded fighter. As a result, it is hard to think of any potential match-up in the middleweight division that would find Weidman as a heavy underdog.
At the same time, Weidman has the kind of personality and story that can lead to pay per view buys as time goes on, as he embodies the "All-American" nickname he has taken on. He is handsome and a relentless worker, and personifies the fact that hard work can slay dragons. In addition, it does not hurt that he comes from a camp with larger-than-life personalities Matt Serra and Ray Longo, who can always be counted on for an entertaining sound bite.
In that sense, he is not much different than St. Pierre, another hardworker and dominant wrestler with well-rounded skills and a likable personality. It is easy to see crowds getting behind the young champion in the same way as they have with St. Pierre. Although the UFC may have forever lost one of its greatest stars in Silva, the middleweight division is in good hands with Weidman. A rare mix of skill and likability, he now has the opportunity to run with the division's title and help fill the void of marketable UFC stars for the next generation.
Del Pearson is a big MMA fan who has been to many live UFC events. His all-time favorite fighter is Randy Couture. Follow Del on Twitter @DelPearson44.
- Sports & Recreation
- Martial Arts
- Anderson Silva
- Chris Weidman