UFC middleweight champion Chris Weidman has had the misfortune of his infant title reign besmirched by dismissive fight fans that saw him as nothing more than a man who was lucky enough to capture lightning in a bottle. There is a type of stigma that affixes itself to fighters in Weidman’s position; the young challenger that makes a legendary champion look mortal. Despite two impressive and one-sided wins against the great Anderson Silva (naysayers will point out that the second loss was more fluke…and they would be wrong) respect has been slow to come for Weidman.
This lack of respect is a shame as Weidman is deserving of more. Name me another young fighter who would go from being heralded as a prospect to champion in such a short time frame. Yeah, the wins against Silva were freak-ish in nature. But the fact remains they were wins, not one, but two decisive wins against the greatest fighter in the history of MMA. Such performances should not be taken with a grain of salt needless to say.
So Saturday night, at UFC 175, Weidman was given a chance to shut up his naysayers. Standing in front of him was Lyoto Machida. Machida, the former UFC light heavyweight champion, was undefeated at middleweight heading into this contest and possessed a stern test for Weidman. While Silva’s style was dynamic, it was still fought at relative close range. Something a wrestler like Weidman could capitalize on. Against Machida, Weidman would be facing an opponent who moves constantly and is as slippery as greased soap. If any opponent could make Weidman seem like a one-dimensional plodder it would be Machida.
But on Saturday night Weidman would show the world that his title reign was no fluke. Over five rounds he chased down Machida and battered him with kicks and punches. Machida was all heart, and even managed to rick Weidman in the fourth round, but ultimately the night belonged to the champion. It wasn’t the most entertaining scrap on the card, but it was without a doubt the fight that carried the most weight for the promotion.
The UFC needed us to believe that Weidman was the truth as a champion. Against Machida, an opponent that most would say is a dangerous outing for any fighter (see Jon Jones) Weidman rose to the occasion and delivered the type of performance he needed to in order to shake the haters off.