By the Numbers
Weidman has received a lot of praise in his short but storied career. He defeated Uriah Hall early in his career at Ring of Combat and assembled a package of wins over Tom Lawlor, Demian Maia, and Mark Munoz on his way to a title shot. After making the reigning pound for pound king look a fool TWICE, he's stepping up to his second largest challenge to date. Weidman is a smart fighter, an NCAA Division I wrestler, and about as American as you can get without eating hot dogs. The two fighters look eerily similar on paper with Weidman having the slightly higher submission percentage and Machida eating slightly fewer shot than Weidman. Weidman also lands a higher output of strikes per minute, so this stat almost negates itself. Neither fighter is particularly interested in being taken down either. Weidman has stuffed all of his takedowns, Machida doesn't even do them, and Machida stops 80% of the ones attempted on him. The match looks even on paper, so look for the particular striking style of each fighter to play a big role in this one.
What's at Stake
Machida is the kingslayer of the UFC. He is currently the only fighter in UFC to have defeated two former champions that have held belts at two different weight classes (BJ Penn, Randy Couture), and he briefly held the light heavyweight title. Defeating Weidman would add him to the short list of champions from multiple weight classes and cement a position somewhere in the top ten pound for pound category. Machida is arguably in his prime right now, so this fight is as much about taking home the championship belt as it is cementing a legacy in the sport. If it comes to a loss for Machida and depending on how it happens, he could continue down his path as a middleweight or possibly push back up the still questionable light heavyweight division. Either way, he will continue to remain a top ten force.
Machida is the first in a growing list of killers coming for Weidman's title. Belfort, Rockhold, Souza, and many others are solidly filling vacancies in the rankings once held by contenders of the month. Though there are comparisons to be made, Machida is a different type of threat than Silva. Machida comes with his own set of accolades and his own unique style that is hard to mimic in training. Defeating Machida earns Weidman a higher spot in the top ten, but this will be the fight that determines if we continue to look at Weidman fights from the perspective of how he will beat his opponents versus how his opponents will beat him.
Road to Victory
Speed. This match will be decided in a fraction of a second with the most subtle of motions whether it ends in KO or decision. Machida is an expert at moving in, scoring his points, and getting away. Weidman has shown fantastic prowess on his feet. He exposed Anderson Silva's head movement in their first fight and took away Silva's leg kicks and leg in their second. The way he slips Munoz's punch and comes through with the elbow that led to the knockout shows that he has great presence in the cage. Weidman is the more aggressive of the two, a trait that has been the factor in many decisions going against Machida. As we've said many times, MMA is not karate, and Machida really needs to develop his style into something more aggressive to win the close decisions. He absolutely cannot go in and fight an indecisive points battle in a championship bout. Weidman's best shot is cutting off the cage, eliminating Machida's outs, and grinding him down against the cage. Machida is hard to take down, but we've seen him backed up and in difficult spots before.