Noah A. Murray – USA TODAY Sports
Former UFC middleweight pack leader, Chris ‘The All American’ Weidman makes his first walk at 205 pounds this weekend in a UFC Fight Night Boston headliner, against undefeated light heavyweight striker Dominick ‘The Devastator’ Reyes.
1-3 in his last four outings at middleweight, decorated grappler Chris Weidman makes a leap to the light heavyweight division for the first time this weekend, in an attempt to end his recent mixed-martial-arts woes. The 35-year-old rose to prominence via his iconic slaying of then middleweight kingpin Anderson Silva back in 2013, going on to successfully defend the championship on three separate occasions before his first professional loss.
A UFC 194 defeat to Luke Rockhold ultimately led to a spiral of blemishes for the New York native, dropping defeats to the talented Yoel Romero and Gegard Mousasi, before rallying to stop Kelvin Gastelum. Despite seemingly returning to his best, Weidman was stopped by Jacare Souza last time out in quite brutal fashion. Remaining the #8 ranked contender at 185 pounds, every former opponent besides Mousasi is ranked above him, with surgeries and form leading The Serra-Longo product to make the decision to test the 205 pound waters. Weidman recently told how he plans on handing Reyes his first professional loss, before leapfrogging the rest of the contenders in a bid to take the light heavyweight title from Jon Jones.
Regardless of his current run, the rise of Chris Weidman to perennial contender six years ago was quite special. The two-time NCAA Division I All-American wrestler entered the promotion as an undefeated all rounder during the legendary reign of the aforementioned Anderson Silva and immediately got off to a winning start.
Displaying his eye-catching grappling against Jesse Bongfeldt and then Tom Lawlor after a debut triumph over Alessio Sakara, Weidman landed a standing guillotine and then a slick D’Arce both in the opening round. Paired with Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu ace Demian Maia next, Weidman managed a comfortable decision against the Brazilian. In what resulted in a title opportunity, Weidman stopped fellow grappling talent Mark Munoz with a short counter elbow followed by ground-and-pound.
Ahead of his premier clash with Brazil’s Silva, the consensus remained, Weidman was another lamb to the slaughter, with ‘The Spider’ confident as ever ahead of an eleventh successful title defense. Silva fresh from a stunning performance over TUF alumni Stephan Bonnar, began the night with his confident, shucking head movement and invited Weidman to engage. Taking the invitation, Weidman stuck Silva with a jab with the charismatic Brazilian pretending to stumble, until he actually met the canvas as Weidman followed up with a combination.
In the subsequent immediate rematch, the re-run was almost as iconic and earth-shattering as the first meeting. Dropping Silva with a short hook in the clinch, Weidman was warned of the punishing leg kicks of Silva which he had absorbed in the opening clash. Checking a rather heavy inside leg kick from ‘The Spider’, the Brazilian broke the tibia and fibula in his left leg, with the bout coming to a shocking conclusion.
Weidman clashed with another Brazilian next, taking on precise karate practitioner and former UFC light heavyweight champion Lyoto ‘The Dragon’ Machida. Utilizing his superior grappling, Weidman scored three takedowns and narrowly edged out the now Bellator star in terms of total strikes. Machida’s compatriot Vitor Belfort awaited Weidman next, with pre-fight controversy the narrative come UFC 187 fight night. During the ceremonial weigh-ins, Weidman questioned the testosterone levels of Vitor, who had failed a drug-test in the run up to his initial scheduling with Weidman, leading to Machida acting as replacement. Despite struggling with Vitor’s striking in the early goings, Weidman scored a double-leg, established full mount and finished with a heavy barrage of ground-and-pound, displaying fantastic killer-instinct, something Vitor rose throught the ranks with.
An ill-fated wheel kick attempt from Weidman in his next title defense against Luke Rockhold, proved career altering. In a tightly contested co-headliner, Weidman was takedown down off the back of the spin, with Rockhold landing punishing strikes from mount. Once more securing the takedown in the fourth round, Rockhold mounted again, and this time forced Herb Dean so step in a call a halt to the action. Weidman dropped his first professional defeat and as a result, the UFC middleweight championship.
Inconsistency has ruled the last four years of Weidman’s career. In his first return since losing the title, Weidman suffered a devastating third round flying-knee knockout against perennial contender Yoel Romero. A similarly damaging stoppage followed, as Weidman dropped a loss to Gegard Mousasi, after eating multiple knees in the clinch. ‘The All American’ did return to the win column momentarily as he stopped recent interim title chaser Kelvin Gastelum. Recovering from a late first round knockdown, Weidman managed so pick up a third round arm-triangle submission over the Rafael Cordeiro trained striker.
In his light heavyweight debut, Weidman jumps straight into the deep-end, tasked with handing Dominick Reyes his first ever loss. Reyes, who has a dangerous striking arsenal and a keen eye for the stoppage, is yet to tackle a quite seasoned grappler like Weidman in his five fight Octagon run. The Baldwin native has notched four separate submissions in his career, really dominating from top control with kimura’s and arm-triangles, as well as a smothering striking output from mount. The key to success for Weidman lies in his ability to set the pace of this fight. He must utilise his superior grappling to land the all important takedowns, and when he has Reyes on his back, he must keep him there.