Previewing the main card for UFC 162 “Silva vs. Weidman”

July 4, 2013

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Previewing the main card for UFC 162 “Silva vs. Weidman”



Alexander Lee – They say time waits for no man.  They say everybody loses.  They say the bigger they are, the harder they fall.  They say a lot of things, but it seems like no matter what cliché you subscribe to…Anderson Silva always wins.

UFC 162 will be a major turning point for the featherweight and middleweight divisions.  Almost everyone on the main card can claim to be one or two impressive wins away from challenging for a title in their respective weight classes.  Even for fans who don’t care about rankings, the matches look outstanding from a stylistic standpoint including a great striking battle between Cub Swanson and Dennis Siver, two power punching big men in Mark Muñoz and Tim Boetsch and the indefatigable Frankie Edgar facing off with rising star Charles Oliveira.

Then there’s the main event.  With apologies to Chael Sonnen and Vitor Belfort, Chris Weidman might present the most credible threat to “The Spider” since Dan Henderson.  If you believe the hype, they say he has the exact combination of physical gifts and skills needed to topple the UFC’s middleweight kingpin.  Of course, we all know how much Silva cares about what they say.

UFC 162 is Saturday, live on PPV starting at 10 PM (EST), with preliminaries starting on Facebook at 6:35 PM (EST) and continuing on Sportsnet 360 (formerly The Score) at 8:00 PM (EST).

 

Featherweight Bout: Cub Swanson (4-1 UFC, 5-3 WEC, 19-5) v. Dennis Siver (10-5 UFC, 21-8)

 

You have to think Swanson is feeling slighted by the fact that even though he knocked out Charles Oliveira last September, it’s Oliveira who is getting the co-main event slot against a former world champion.  I’m not sure whether to feel worse for Swanson or Siver, the man he’s going to take his frustrations out on.

Siver is undefeated in two appearances at featherweight, a weight class that is ideal for his squat, powerful frame.  He is a master at controlling distance, using long range kicks that most other fighters would think twice about throwing in practice, much less during live action.  He’ll have to remain poised and in control if he hopes to withstand Swanson, a notoriously fast starter.

One of the biggest hurdles Swanson faces is a problem of perception.  He’s faced José Aldo before and the results weren’t pretty.  Eager to engage, Swanson ducked right into an exquisite double flying knee that hurt him badly and opened up a big cut above his eye.  8 seconds into the match, it was over.  I’m from the school of thought that these are exactly the kinds of opponents that deserve rematches, because it is incredibly unlikely that that fight will unfold the same way, but I understand why the UFC would rather search for a fresh challenger.  Siver could step into that role with a win here.

 

Middleweight Bout: Mark Muñoz (7-3 UFC, 2-0 WEC, 12-3) v. Tim Boetsch (7-4 UFC, 16-5)

 

Muñoz has been candid about how psychologically damaging his last loss to Chris Weidman was.  He’d lost before, even been knocked out, but he was outclassed in every department and that would shake any athlete’s confidence.  His honesty was refreshing in a society where people are quick to dissect the slightest sign of weakness, especially in the high stakes world of professional sports.  Win or lose, everyone should be rooting for Muñoz to have a good performance to show that acknowledging your failures is essential to developing your strengths.

I can safely say that I’m one of the few people who hasn’t viewed Boetsch’s middleweight run as a fluke.  Yes, Yushin Okami was dominating him before Boetsch pulled out a thrilling finish in the third round.  Yes, he beat Hector Lombard in a fight that for all intents and purposes was a draw.  Yes, he was soundly beaten by Costa Philippou.  None of that takes away from the fact that he was the only the second person to beat Okami since 2009 and he ended Lombard’s 25-fight unbeaten strike.  The loss to Philippou should tell you how good Philippou is, not take away from Boetsch’s accomplishments.

With all that said, Muñoz is a nightmare match-up for him.  “The Filipino Wrecking Machine” has great speed and athleticism at 185, meaning it could be a long night for Boetsch if he’s looking to end the fight with one big shot.  Muñoz favours ground and pound, but he’ll need to be smart with his grappling.  Boetsch is well versed in wrestling and judo and he has a knack for ending up in top position.  Wherever the fight ends up, both men are going to have their work cut out for them.

 

Middleweight Bout: Tim Kennedy (0-0 UFC, 15-4) v. Roger Gracie (0-0 UFC, 6-1)

 

The fact that this is on the main card goes to show you how much cachet the Gracie name still carries in the MMA community.  Roger will become the 4th Gracie to compete inside the octagon.  It’s been a rough go for the first family of jiu-jitsu since the hay day of Royce Gracie.

Rolles Gracie had one fight in the UFC and it was a doozey.  Against Joey Beltran, he looked like a force for all of one round before the oxygen was sucked out of his body.  He flopped around in the second, inviting Joey Beltran to pound him out.  Renzo Gracie would later say, “It was embarrassing.”

Renzo himself would put on a similarly bizarre performance against Matt Hughes in Abu Dhabi.  Like Rolles, he came out strong before deflating as the fight went on.  At one point, he lay on his back and needed Hughes to give him a hand to help him up from the mat.  It was the first (and last) fight of a proposed six fight contract.

As for Royce, there have been rumblings of a comeback since 2011.  Nothing has come of it yet.

Kennedy is cut from the same mold as fellow middleweight Brian Stann: all-American military man turned martial artist.  He was pushed hard in Strikeforce and he fared well in two title fights against Jacaré Souza and Luke Rockhold, despite not coming out with his hand raised.  I always wonder how these military guys can get amped up for these encounters when they’ve been in combat situations that are a hundred times more intense than any cage fight.  Must be the ring girls.

 

Featherweight Bout: Frankie Edgar (9-4-1 UFC, 14-3-1) v. Charles Oliveira (4-3 [1 NC] UFC, 16-3 [1 NC)

 

While I think this is a terrible fight for Edgar, it also sums up what I love about him: he’ll take on anyone.  He could easily have lobbied for a more marketable, less challenging opponent but he’s giving this kid a shot instead.

The 23 year old Oliveira has already been thrown into the cage against top competition like Jim Miller, Donald Cerrone and Cub Swanson.  At his best, he mixes lively stand-up with dazzling submissions (including a rarely seen calf slicer against Eric Wisely); at his worst, he leaves himself open to damaging shots or shows sloppy submission defence.  I’ll never forget seeing him try to hammer fist his way out of a kneebar that Miller had locked on.  Which “Do Bronx” will we see on Saturday?

This is another opportunity for Edgar to stay in the contender’s circle.  Only 31, Edgar has a lot of mileage on him, having taken severe punishment in most of his title fights.  Constantly enduring 25 minutes of high level martial arts competition will take its toll on you.  In Oliveira, Edgar faces yet another opponent who will have a size advantage over him.  It seems like regardless of weight class, Edgar is a David amongst Goliaths.  Still, this is the same man who beat BJ Penn twice, knocked out Gray Maynard and took both Ben Henderson and José Aldo to the limit.  All signs point to him ending a 3 fight losing streak.

 

Middleweight Championship Bout: Anderson Silva (16-0 UFC, 33-4) v. Chris Weidman (5-0 UFC, 9-0)

 

Over the last year, whenever people have asked me who Chris Weidman is, my answer is always the same: “He’s the next UFC middleweight champion.”

In transitioning from prospect to main eventer, Weidman has done it the right way.  His debut came when he replaced Rafael Natal in March of 2011.  A domination of Alessio Sakara provided a glimpse into the fighter Weidman would become.  He was already known for his sterling wrestling career at Hofstra, but it was obvious that the prized prospect from the Serra-Longo Fight Team was rapidly improving in all areas.  He followed that up by submitting Jesse Bongfeldt and Tom Lawler inside of a round.  The hype train had officially left the station.

It was in January of 2012 that Weidman would make the risky decision to take a fight with Demian Maia on less than two weeks notice.  History is littered with overanxious fighters taking replacement spots in the hopes of leapfrogging the competition or just getting in the good graces of the company.  Maia was still regarded as one of the five best middleweights in the world and a loss would have exposed Weidman badly.  It was an ugly fight that arguably did more to cement Weidman’s reputation as a contender than a lightning quick finish would have.  After all, it’s easy to make a big splash, but how you handle yourself when you’re dragged into the undertow says a lot about you.

Anyone searching for a highlight was satisfied with Weidman’s last fight against Mark Muñoz.  Muñoz was establishing a name for himself, having also beaten Maia in the midst of a 6-1 run in the middleweight division.  It was considered an even fight, which only made it more memorable when Weidman dusted him.  The Jersey native outclassed him in wrestling and striking, showing off the latter with a spectacular standing elbow that set up the finish.  It wasn’t a move you’d expect to see from an NCAA wrestler.

After that, all Weidman had to do was promote himself and wait for the other contenders to drop out.  Chael Sonnen, Tim Boetsch, Michael Bisping…for various reasons, they all fell by the wayside leaving only Weidman.  Now all he has to do is beat one of the greatest fighters of all time.

As nice as Weidman’s elbow strike was, Anderson Silva has made a career out doing of the impossible.  Attacks like that are lost amongst the flurry of mind blowing finishes that Silva has authored (in fact, he ended a fight with Tony Fryklund with a standing elbow prior to joining the UFC).  He is the proverbial unstoppable force.

But he’s human, isn’t he?

You have to believe there will come a time when Silva’s reflexes will slow down, his cardio will diminish and his mind won’t be as sharp.  There certainly hasn’t been any noticeable decline in his last four fights, though that includes two bouts against the comically overmatched pair of Yushin Okami and Stephan Bonnar.

Weidman is younger, more athletic and he has a maturity beyond his years.  Trainers rave about his ability to absorb concepts, particularly his BJJ acumen.  He’s boasted that he’ll be able to submit Silva.  Weidman knows how to set up his takedowns and he’s shown creativity with his striking, but it will be a bad idea to try and match Silva in the creative striking department.  It’s assumed that Weidman will employ a Sonnen-esque gameplan to neutralize the champion’s strengths, something that is easier said than done.  If Weidman is able to score takedowns, expect him to be more aggressive in looking for a finish.  That’s the scary thing about an inexperienced challenger: they rely primarily on their instincts and that makes them unpredictable.

This is the first time Silva will be facing someone who is legitimately viewed as the future of the middleweight division.  That said, Silva is the present and it’s up to Weidman to prove his time has passed.

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