Success always comes at a price, and that old saying holds true for UFC middleweight champion Chris Weidman.
Weidman (11-0-0, 5 KOs) inserted himself into MMA’s history books with his victory against former middleweight champion Anderson Silva (who set a new UFC record for the most successful consecutive title defenses during his reign with 10) at UFC 162, winning via TKO early in the second round.
He followed that up with another impressive performance at UFC 168, dominating Anderson Silva on the ground before a freak leg injury ended the contest during the second round.
Weidman’s wins against the longest reigning champion in the Ultimate Fighting Championship’s history didn’t come without controversy though. Many fans attributed Weidman’s first victory against Silva to the latter’s excessive showboating, while the freak injury robbed both men of the opportunity to determine who the better mixed martial artist was.
Fortunately for Weidman, there are a few tough tests waiting for him in the UFC’s middleweight division, tests that will prove — once and for all — if he’s indeed a truly special MMA fighter or just some guy who got lucky against an aging legend.
Weidman is set to be face Belfort (24-10-0, 17 KOs) next on May 24 at UFC 173. Vitor has been on a tear ever since Anderson Silva introduced him to the bottom of his left foot, putting “The Phenom” away with a front kick early in their UFC 126 encounter.
Belfort bounced back from the loss to Silva with wins against Anthony Johnson and Yoshihiro Akiyama, then he came closing to handing light-heavyweight champion Jon Jones his first legitimate loss inside the Octagon at UFC 152, almost finishing “Bones” with an armbar during the first round.
He ended up falling short against Jones, but he’s looked invincible since then, raking up brutal knockout victories against Michael Bisping, Luke Rockhold, and Dan Henderson.
Frankly, there isn’t a scarier guy than Vitor in the UFC’s middleweight division right now.
If Weidman gets past Belfort, Lyoto will be up next.
Simply put, Machida (21-4-0, 8 KOs) is every wrestler’s worst nightmare. “The Dragon” is one of the most effective strikers in mixed martial arts, and he’s extremely difficult to put on his back. Just ask Rashad Evans, Randy Couture, and Ryan Bader, three decorated wrestlers who failed to score a single takedown against Machida during their tilts.
To make things even worse, Machida has a nasty habit of making his opponents pay for every takedown attempt, often landing hard knees or crosses while defending takedowns.
Chris Weidman displayed decent striking skills during his bouts against Anderson, but he’ll likely find himself in serious trouble if he’s unable to put Machida on his back if the two ever meet inside the Octagon.
It wouldn’t be a stretch to say Machida is the toughest test that awaits Weidman in the UFC’s middleweight division.
Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza
As if getting past Belfort and Machida isn’t difficult enough, if Weidman successfully defends his belt against these two, he’ll still have to deal with Jacare.
Souza (20-3-0, 14 submissions) is an elite-level grappler, and he’s one of the few people in the middleweight division that can compete with Weidman grappling wise.
“The All-American” already has a win against one elite BJJ specialist, Demian Maia, but defeating Souza is a completely different story.
Jacare brings explosiveness, athleticism, and a Judo black belt with his excellent submission skills, a combination of skills that might prove to be too much for Weidman.
Without a doubt, the road ahead for Chris Weidman is a rocky one, but, if he emerges from the gauntlet with the UFC’s middleweight title around his waist, his status as one of the true elites in MMA will be unquestionable.
David is a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and boxing practitioner who has watched and studied MMA for the past 9 years. Send him your questions @davidkingwriter.