COMMENTARY | The winning streak. The superfights. The belt. The aura. New middleweight champion Chris Weidman took them all away with a swift left hook placed squarely on Anderson Silva's jaw.
It was predicted by some and thought unimaginable by others. Silva was unbeatable for over six years, after all. But that's exactly what Weidman prepared for through his training and the obstacles he'd overcome in the year leading up to his shocking finish of the former champ at UFC 162 on July 6 at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas.
"I've been through some tough times this past year," Weidman said in a post-fight interview on Fuel TV. "I tried not to let it get to me. I wouldn't talk about it. I tried to play like it didn't get to me, but my family was hurting and going through some really tough times. When I was in the Octagon getting ready to touch gloves, I was telling myself, 'Why am I doing this? It's freaking for my family, you know? I'm doing this for my family. I'm not beating myself.'"
The adversity was overwhelming. Weidman's New York home was destroyed in Hurricane Sandy, leaving him and his family in turmoil. Next thing he knew, he was trying to rebuild his life. Additionally, injuries forced him out of a fight with Tim Boetsch following a convincing win over Mark Munoz in 2012. Weidman faced a year-long layoff.
Those kinds of challenges made dealing with Silva's taunts and mind games seem like a walk in the park.
"I think adversity like that is what makes you a bigger, better, stronger person and stronger fighter," he continued. "I don't regret anything that happens. I feel like it was just part of God's plan, and I'm just going to keep rolling."
Roll he did, coming out of the gate at UFC 162 on fire. Weidman (10-0-0, four KO/TKOs) took Silva down early and controlled him on the ground just like many experts predicted.
When "The Spider" got to his feet, the mocks, lowered hands, egging on, and inciting gestures began -- and seemed to work. The first round ended with Weidman looking out of rhythm.
But things changed. Silva took his "game plan" too far, and the man who was supposed to use his wrestling and jiu-jitsu put his fist on the champ's chin, turning the lights out.
"I didn't see him as being cocky; I saw it as him trying to mentally defeat [me] in there," the new humble champion said during the post-fight press conference. "That's just part of the warfare. He's trying to defeat you. It's like any other style. It works for him. I tried to not let it get into my head. I was like, 'I'm going to keep walking forward, walking forward, throwing my punches.' Then it got to a point where he was doing it and I was like, 'Screw this. I'm hitting him.'"
Many fans sat stunned. The greatest fighter of all time looked anything but. It wasn't the Silva fans expected, but it was exactly what Silva (33-5-0, 20 KO/TKOs) asked for. As the old saying goes, "if you play with fire, and you get burned."
Weidman was too good, too motivated and too confident for Silva to get away with the same moves that worked during other fights, most notably against Demian Maia at UFC 112 in Abu Dhabi. At the time, fans and UFC brass were irate. After Silva's uninspired win, where he taunted and danced his way to victory, UFC President Dana White voiced his disapproval and said, "If you're that talented, be Mike Tyson. Go in and finish it in two minutes."
"The Spider" took the same approach against Weidman that helped him amass his record 16 straight UFC victories and 10 title defenses, but "All-American" did what no one - not Rich Franklin, not Dan Henderson, not Vitor Belfort, not Forrest Griffin, not Chael Sonnen - could do. He humbled the Brazilian.
After the fight, Silva said he wasn't interested in a rematch in what may have been the first respectful thing he did on July 6. He let Weidman enjoy the moment and the two combatants shared a long embrace that looked like a passing of the torch.
"I worked hard for this fight," Silva said in the cage. "Chris Weidman is the best tonight. He is the new champion. Chris has my respect because Chris is the best now. Chris is the best -- I worked hard, but still he won. No [I do not want a rematch], Chris is the champion now. All the people tonight need to respect Chris, he is the best."
Nothing should be taken away from Weidman. The 29-year-old earned every bit of the victory that ended Silva's record-breaking reign. He remained calm and beat Silva at his own game -- on the feet, mentally strong.
For Silva, UFC 162 damaged his public image, not his already well-established legacy, a topic that was played up far too much heading into the fight.
After all, how much of a hit did Chuck Liddell's legacy take when he lost to Quinton "Rampage" Jackson at UFC 71? How much of a hit did Randy Couture's legacy take when he lost to Lyoto Machida at UFC 129.
"The Spider" has 10 more fights to erase the memory of his first UFC defeat, while Weidman potentially has 10 more years to demonstrate why the win over Silva was no fluke.
And there's plenty of reason to believe Weidman will do just that. Given what he's overcome, providing proof will be the easy part.
Paul Putignano lives in Southern California, where he has covered mixed martial arts and a wide array of sports across the Greater Los Angeles area. His work has been published in a variety of newspapers and online publications.
- Sports & Recreation
- Martial Arts
- Anderson Silva
- Chris Weidman