It is a day no mixed martial arts fan will soon forget.
In front of 12,000 screaming fans at the MGM Grand Garden Arena, new UFC middleweight champion Chris Weidman did the unthinkable, not only defeating, but finishing the greatest fighter the world has ever known and taking the belt from the longest-reigning champion in UFC history, Anderson Silva, who had won 17 consecutive fights and never been knocked out in his 38-fight career.
“It is still surreal. I’m waiting for it to sink in,” said Weidman after being crowned the new 185-pound champion. “I trained so hard and waited so long for this fight.”
With only nine professional fights under his belt, few fans gave the young wrestler much of a chance against the Brazilian striker (except our own Jim Grieshaber and Ryan Bader, who picked Weidman to win.) After all, Silva was coming off one of the most impressive performance of his career back at UFC 153, which ended in a TKO of Stephan Bonnar.
Weidman had been on the shelf for almost a year due to a shoulder injury he sustained at Power MMA & Fitness, and was dealing with the destruction of his Long Island, New York home following Hurricane Sandy. Chris, his wife Marivi and their two small children were forced to move back into their parents’ house while their home was repaired, with Chris doing a lot of the work himself. It was a difficult year by any standard, but to be thrust into the spotlight that comes with facing the aura of Silva led many to declare he just wasn’t ready for the big show. But Weidman felt great about his chances, something he shared with us leading up to the fight on the Power MMA Show.
“I’m not fighting Anderson Silva’s legacy. I’m fighting Anderson Silva the man. I’m gonna beat him and take the belt”, he said.
Once the octagon door closed and the fight to began, the former All-American wrestler wasted little time in backing up his words and making a statement to those who doubted his abilities. After a powerful takedown early in the first round, Weidman never took the foot off the gas as he threw everything from punches to a handful of submission attempts in an attempt to rip the belt away from the champion, including an ankle lock that almost submitted Silva.
But Silva showed why he was considered the greatest of all time, and after finally escaping from his young opponent’s grasp, he began to visibly taunt Weidman as he put his hands on his waist, daring his opponent to hit him. As the round progressed, a confident Silva actually put his back to the cage while motioning his opponent to stand up and fight.
As the bell sounded and the two men walked back to their corner after the first, Weidman looked visibly upset at Silva’s antics.
“It pisses me off when someone does that to me and I knew sooner or later, I’d get him,” Weidman said.
As the bell for round two sounded, Silva picked right back up where he left off, dancing around the cage and showing very little respect for Weidman’s striking ability. But with one devastating left hook followed by vicious blows to the champion, the confident Weidman not only proved his doubters wrong, but also showed just how human his legendary opponent actually was.
Silva’s eyes began to roll into the back of his head as Weidman continued to bring the thunder down on his opponent’s unprotected skull until referee Herb Dean determined he had seen enough. As the crowd erupted in a collective gasp, Weidman stood proud as the first new UFC middleweight champion in more than seven years.
“I felt I was destined for this,” said Weidman. “I imagined doing this many times in my head, but it’s surreal.”
Draped in an American flag with his father Charlie — who had just filled in cornering his son when Coach and UFC legend Matt Serra was unable to make it due to health reasons — standing beside him in the cage, Weidman raised his hand in the air as UFC President Dana White strapped his new golden belt around his waist.
“The last year of my life was the most frustrating in my life,” said Weidman. “I was ready for all his tricks and all his taunting. I wasn’t afraid to strike with him. I knew I had to be ready for the fight to stay standing, I knew I couldn’t rely on a fight on the ground. If he wants a rematch, I look forward to it.”
Silva, to his credit, was gracious in defeat as he declared Weidman the new number one fighter and revealed he planned on taking some time off from the cage.
“Chris Weidman is now number one,” said Silva. “My time with the title has ended. I’ve changed my life for my family and myself. I am happy with my work.”
But while Weidman and White were more than willing to discuss an immediate rematch for the greatest champion the company had ever known, Silva surprisingly wasn’t amongst those calling for his belt back.
“I don’t fight anymore for the belt,” Silva to the crowd after being handed his first loss in his illustrious UFC career. “I’m tired. I’ve fought for a long time. My (plan) for the belt is finished tonight. Chris is the new champion.”
White, of course, took Silva’s statement with a grain of salt as the former champion has become notorious for toying with the UFC and the media, and declared Silva-Weidman II will soon be in the works.
“I guarantee you there’s nothing more he wants than that rematch with Chris Weidman,” White said at the post-fight presser following UFC 162.
If the UFC does manage to book the rematch, it will most likely be scheduled for UFC 168 in Las Vegas on December 28, which would move Ronda Rousey vs. Miesha Tate’s women’s Bantamweight title fight to the Super Bowl weekend show planned for February 1 in New Jersey.