While it’s never great to see a fighter get injured prior to a fight, sometimes, the shuffling that ensues can only lead to someone getting the opportunity of a lifetime, which is what is happening to UFC Middleweight, Chris Weidman.
Coming into the UFC, Weidman has long been considered one of the best prospects at 185 lbs. and has so far proven his worth inside the Octagon, winning his first three fights in impressive fashion. With the injury to Mark Munoz and the shuffling of Michael Bisping to fight Chael Sonnen, Weidman got the call to take on Demian Maia in his biggest fight to date.
Grappling fans caught a glimpse of the impressive fighter when the former Hostra University wrestling stand-out competed in the Abu Dhabi Submission Wrestling World Championships, with only about a years worth of formal training. Despite losing to world champion Andre Galvao on points, 4-0, the Two-time All-American gave forth a spirited effort, hanging with the BJJ black belt and nearly catching him twice in the match.
Following up his ADCC performance, Weidman continued his success in MMA by capturing the Ring of Combat Middleweight title for the New Jersey promotion. Following another successful outing in the promotion, Weidman signed with the UFC and made his debut at UFC Live: Sanchez vs Kampmann, filling in for the injured Rafael Natal to take on veteran Alessio Sakara on two weeks notice. Weidman proved his worth, dominating Sakara on route to a unanimous decision to earn his first victory inside the UFC.
Weidman would win his next two fights, taking out Jesse Bongfeldt and Tom Lawler, both via submission in the first round at UFC 131 and UFC 139 respectively. Weidman will take a big step in his next fight as he takes on the former challenger for the Middleweight Title and BJJ World Champion, Demian Maia.
Maia has gone 3-1 since losing his bid for the Middleweight Championship against current champion Anderson Silva. His lone loss came against Munoz and his wins were over Jorge Santiago, Kendall Grove and Mario Miranda. While going from a top rated fighter like Bisping to a new-comer like Weidman might not seem like much, Weidman does present a tough task for the Brazilian.
Training with Ray Longo and Matt Serra, Weidman’s transition into MMA has been a relative smooth one. Because of his wrestling background, Weidman has seen a nice transition with his Jiu-Jitsu game and with Ray Longo as his striking coach he’s seen improvements in the stand-up. Still, the young fighter’s primary abilities are to put people on their back and work his grappling game from there. Because of this, it presents a unique challenge for all involved.
Maia might arguably be the best jiu-jitsu practi0neer in the UFC’s Middleweight division, and while his striking has improved through out his time as professional fighter, Maia’s bread and butter has been his grappling game. Where does this challenge come from against Weidman? With Weidman being a two-time All-American, he presents the ability to keep the fight in a position he would like it. His challenge; is he willing to go to the ground with the best BJJ fighter he’s fought in his career. While competing and holding his own at ADCC is commendable and, in all honestly, an amazing accomplishment, grappling in ADCC and MMA, can in fact be two different worlds.
What this fight does present is an interesting match-up between a top-ranked veteran and a hungry lion, both looking to cash in on the moment. While Maia might be favored going into their UFC on FOX bout, Weidman can present challenges for Maia, even as a young fighter in the sport. For Weidman, this opportunity could sky-rocket him up the rankings and could answer any questions left about the Middleweight’s future in the sport.