Anderson Silva - Chris Weidman
When you look back at Anderson Silva’s last fight against Stephan Bonnar at UFC 153, it’s difficult not to see the double-edged sword of his existence. On the one hand, Silva is the undisputed king of the UFC. He has a record reign that stretches for six going on seven years, has finished 15 of his 17 opponents, and is undefeated in the Octagon. Silva [33-4] will in all likelihood go down as the sport’s greatest of all time when he chooses to retire.
On the other hand he fought Stephan Bonnar, who he outclassed, toyed with and frankly could have beaten one-handed. The middleweight division is dearth with credible fights right now. It’s not “The Spider’s” fault that there is no one left to fight outside of a superfight with Georges St-Pierre or Jon Jones — it’s that he’s beaten anyone who’s even sniffed around the division. The Silva of today is a victim of his own success.
So when the Brazilian meets Chris Weidman [9-0] this Saturday at UFC 162 from the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, it’s easy to see why so many people are desperate to hype the matchup in which the undefeated Goliath might finally take the most unceremonious and unlikeliest of falls. Weidman after all is undefeated in the UFC and is the number one contender for the middleweight crown. A wrestler, with a strong pedigree and in theory more than a match for Silva.
But how much of a credible threat actually is Weidman? His biggest bout to date has been against Mark Munoz on UFC on Fuel TV 4. Apart from that fight, the fact remains that this limited exposure has ensured Weidman is still all but unknown come Saturday. It also proves that no matter how much you build someone up, they need to have the resume to back it up. Weidman has a great wrestling game, which many think is the one weapon that can trouble Silva. But when it’s been tested against the likes of Demian Maia, Alessio Sakara or Tom Lawlor, you wonder how tested it’s really been. Many point to Chael Sonnen’s dramatic scrap with Silva as evidence for Weidman’s credentials.
But here is the caveat.
If Sonnen’s wrestling game, which is arguably one of the best in the sport, came close but ultimately failed to beat Silva, what chance does Weidman actually have? Fans may want to see an upset or dramatic spectacle, but it might not be in the Octagon this Saturday night.
Frankie Edgar - Charles Oliveira
Frankie Edgar might be one of the few fighters in the sport who can keep on losing but gain added respect and opportunities in doing so. It’s been nearly two years since Edgar last tasted victory, but that hasn’t made him any less of an attractive and dangerous prospect.
One only has to look back at Edgar’s defeat to Jose Aldo at UFC 156. Sure he lost, but by giving Aldo the toughest contest of his career Edgar [15-4-1] instantly established himself as a force in the featherweight division.
Now though Edgar has to work his way back into title contention, and he’ll do so on Saturday night against Oliveira. Oliveira [16-3] is quick but will likely have his hands full against Edgar, who probably doesn’t remember the last time he had to fight a three round bout. Edgar will likely prove relentless if not all that devastating for Oliveira who has a 4-3 record in the UFC. Oliveira’s hope will be getting Edgar to ground while Edgar will rely on being able to control the entire tempo of the contest. On Saturday expect Edgar to remember how to win again and seek out a rematch with Aldo.
Cub Swanson - Dennis Siver
One man Edgar may face before scrapping in a much-anticipated rematch with Aldo is Swanson. That is assuming Swanson gets by the Russian-born German Siver. Swanson [19-5] has won the last four of his fights, and has done so against some very able opponents in the shape of Ross Pearson, Dustin Poirier, George Roop and the aforementioned Oliveira. He’ll be favorite against Siver despite the German notching two victories since stepping down the 145 pound division. Siver has shown his strength with a resounding defeat of Nam Phan at UFC on Fox 5, but sheer physicality may not be enough to get past the speed and athleticism and versatility of Swanson.
Igor Guryashkin is a freelance journalist whose extensive work on combat sports has been featured in ESPN The Magazine and ESPN.com. He splits his time between New York and Louisville. Follow him on Twitter @IGuryashkinESPN.