UFC 175 was billed as the biggest event of the year and, boy, did it deliver.
In front of a sold-out crowd at the Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas, UFC middleweight champion Chris Weidman put on the performance of a lifetime during Saturday's main event, walking away with a hard-fought unanimous decision over Lyoto Machida.
Many pundits believed it would be Weidman, a former All-American wrestler out of Hofstra University, and his wrestling skills that would play the deciding factor against the elusive Machida. But, the Long Island native utilized a kick-heavy attack and out-struck the former UFC light heavyweight champion in the early rounds.
With his back against the cage, Machida spent much of his time evading the champion's strikes while looking for an opening to land a powerful counterpunch.
Machida (21-5) suffered a cut over his eye early in the third round but seemed to find a second wind in the beginning of the fourth frame. Following a series of vicious body kicks, "The Dragon" connected with a perfectly timed straight right, sending the champion reeling back.
Weidman played off the damage well, egging his opponent on with a "bring it" motion even as Machida unloaded a flurry of punches against the cage. Machida would eventually connect with a perfectly placed straight right to Weidman's jaw in the closing seconds of the round.
"He's as good as I thought -- quick," said Weidman during his post fight interview. "When you think he's going to do something, he does the opposite. Awesome fighter. Tough as nails."
With both men visibly exhausted, the crowd rose to their feet and applauded the two warriors as they made their way out for the fifth and final round. Weidman looked to quickly secure a takedown, but Machida shook him off with a knee to the chest. The two would eventually clinch up against the cage, exchanging knees to the thigh along the way.
With blood dripping down his face, Machida quickly broke free and looked to press the attack in order to secure the knockout victory.
Weidman would manage to persevere through the onslaught and secure a critical takedown to get back in control near the end of the round. Machida would eventually slip free and land some serious elbows against the cage, just as the horn signaled the end of the fight.
With the crowd erupting around them, the two octagon warriors embraced as their respective entourages swarmed into the octagon.
The judges' scores were 49-45, 48-47, and 49-46.
Asked whether he was ever hurt from Machida's attack, Weidman simply responded, "Probably. I don't remember right now. I was in the moment."
Machida, to his credit, showed true class in defeat and praised Weidman's performance.
"The plan was to keep the fight standing, but Chris Weidman is a tough opponent," said Machida. "He's a true champion, and he deserves the title. I'll come back strong."