Chris Weidman couldn’t have started his mixed martial arts career any better than he did.
The Long Island native and former Hofstra University wrestling standout put together a 4-0 record in the New Jersey-based Ring of Combat promotion from 2009-10. Three of those four victories came by way of stoppage and before he knew it, he received the ever so coveted call from the UFC.
The circumstances surrounding that call from the UFC, however, weren’t exactly ideal. Needing a replacement for an injured Rafael Natal, the UFC was looking for Weidman to take on Alessio Sakara on just two weeks’ notice at UFC on Versus 3 in March 2011. And to make matters worse, the now 35-year-old Weidman was nursing a rib injury at the time.
Chris Weidman Rises up the Ranks
Despite the cards seemingly being stacked against him, Weidman accepted the fight and ended up scoring a one-sided unanimous decision victory. Following that victory, the “All American” continued to work on his skills under the tutelage of trainers Ray Longo and Matt Serra.
Between 2011-12, Weidman continued his winning ways, putting together a four-fight winning streak. That stretch included three stoppages and victories over notable names like Demian Maia and Mark Munoz. The win over Munoz was specifically brutal, as Weidman connected with a perfectly placed elbow as Munoz was coming in to finish the fight in the second round.
At that point, Weidman had amassed a 9-0 overall professional record and a 5-0 UFC record, which was enough to earn him a title shot against the legendary Anderson Silva.
UFC Title Shot
Prior to the fight, which took place at UFC 162 in July 2013, Silva held a perfect 16-0 UFC record. He had defended his 185-pound title a then-record 11-straight times. He was also widely considered to be the best pound-for-pound fighter in the world.
In other words, Silva was at the peak of his powers when Weidman was granted the shot against him. Many felt as if the odds were stacked against the Long Island native. Those hardcore fans in the know, however, felt as if Weidman had the style to dethrone “The Spider”.
Given his aggressive pressure-based wrestling style, many felt as if Weidman would be able to take Silva down and score damage. Certainly a plausible idea. Few, however, expected Weidman to knock out one of the sport’s most notorious strikers.
That’s exactly what happened though. Weidman landed a left hook right on the button in the second round that ended Silva’s reign. It is important to note, however, that Silva was clowning, fighting with his hands down and showing little regard for Weidman’s skils. But in the end, a win is a win. Weidman was the new middleweight champion.
Title Reign and Middleweight Downfall
The All-American followed up his initial win over Silva with another victory in their rematch just five months later. The fight ended in gruesome fashion, as The Spider broke his leg on Weidman’s shin in the second round. Weidman was dominating Silva in the first round and nearly finished the fight, however.
Despite his success up until that point, Weidman’s title reign was short-lived. In his second defense, he edged Lyoto Machida in a five-round war. Then, he dominated a deteriorated Vitor Belfort with a first-round TKO.
Since then, however, Weidman’s career has taken a turn for the worse. He’s battled a plethora of injuries and has gone just 1-4 in his last five fights. Four of those losses have come via stoppage. It’s important to note, however, that he was taking on the division’s elite. He was also competitive in many of those bouts.
But, the reality stands that Weidman is now a 35-year-old fighter who has taken a lot of damage over the last few years. It’s for that reason that he’s now moving up to light heavyweight.
And, he hasn’t been given an easy task, as he’ll take on the rising Dominick Reyes in the main event of UFC on ESPN 6 tomorrow night in Boston.
UFC Boston and a New Beginning for Chris Weidman
Stylistically, this appears to be a dangerous fight for Weidman. Reyes is currently 11-0 with six T/KOs to his credit.
The Long-Islander remains a high-level wrestler with a strong top game. Even on the feet, Weidman has always shown competent offensive boxing and a decent kicking game. His defense, however, has seemed to be his Achilles’ heel and his chin has become questionable.
Perhaps the move up in weight will give Weidman new life, however. After all, he was never a small middleweight. And, given the current landscape of the 205-pound division, a win over Reyes would put Weidman right in the mix for a title shot.
Another loss, especially another stoppage loss, however, could continue to spell the end of what once was an incredibly promising career.
Weidman will surely be hoping for the opposite. Tomorrow night in Boston – just a few hours from his home on Long Island – Weidman will be gunning for one thing. A fresh start and a new beginning in a new weight class.
Perhaps, the beginning of another title reign even lies ahead for the All-American.