In 2013, a single moment transformed Chris Weidman’s life and career. Fighting the unparalleled Middleweight king Anderson Silva, Weidman entered a 9-0 contender that hadn’t fought in almost a year. Most onlookers knew that Weidman was highly talented though which made his early success via takedown not particularly surprising. Nonetheless, for the last seven years Silva had always found a way and it seemed inevitable that he’d do the same here. The Brazilian fought to his feet and whilst his taunting was outlandish, it wasn’t really anything new and as round one ended, the MMA world awaited a trademark Silva onslaught sooner rather than later.
It never came though and Silva continued to tease and mock Weidman for the next minute before suddenly, everything changed in a stunning instant. Left defenseless due to his own insane but bizarrely admirable arrogance, Silva swayed directly into Weidman’s left hook. He was floored and seconds later this fight was over. In a single moment Chris Weidman had not only become the UFC Middleweight champion but also taken out MMA’s most feared and revered icon with just one punch. With the American flag proudly draped over his shoulders, it seemed a star had been born in the new champion but with the dramatic finish came doubt.
Silva had been such a dominant titleholder for so long and much of the public just couldn’t accept the shocking result. There was a common opinion that just one rash decision had prevented Silva from eventually vanquishing Weidman and that he would be champion as soon as a rematch was made. It’s far too common that victors in MMA are stripped of any credit as the focus shifts on to the loser but whilst I disagreed with much of the post-fight commentary, this particular result certainly was a complex one. Either way, a rematch was quickly booked for December and the intrigue was understandably sky-high.
I think everyone watched that fight with an anxious edge, there was just such tension due to what had happened only five months earlier. That tension only grew early too when Weidman dropped Silva with a right hand in the clinch before dominating the round from top position. It seemed that the writing was on the wall but Silva had done astonishing things before and that kept the raucous audience invested. The chance of a comeback finish would soon end though as a Silva low kick was checked and left his leg horrifically shattered. It was a tragic sight to see the legendary ‘Spider’ writhing in agony but he wasn’t the only loser in that fight.
Though Weidman had certainly lost a lot less on that fateful night, he certainly wasn’t a winner in public opinion. He had dominated all of the action up to the end but didn’t have the chance to finish the fight in a fashion befitting of a spiritual passing of the torch. It didn’t matter what Weidman had done up to that point, many would continue to clutch onto Silva’s past triumphs in belittling what the American had achieved. This rematch needed finality and rightly or wrongly, the casual viewer didn’t get that here. Regardless, Weidman was now the champion and next defended his belt against former Light Heavyweight champion Lyoto Machida.
This time the finish wouldn’t come in an instant. In fact, it wouldn’t come at all but Weidman still did enough to take the decision win in an entertaining back and forth battle. Now solidifying his spot as champion, Weidman would next take out another Brazilian superstar, overcoming an early flurry to quickly batter and finish Vitor Belfort. However, ‘The All-American’s fledgling title reign would in many ways end as it started, with one single pivotal moment. Defending his belt against Luke Rockhold, Weidman was having success after two competitive rounds and the fight seemed even going into the third. In the heat of the battle though, a rash decision would prove costly.
An ill-advised spin kick left Weidman exposed and he was quickly dragged to the ground by his eager contender. From there it was all downhill as Rockhold brutalised the champion with ground and pound, bloodying his face and almost drawing a stoppage in the third. Though brave in continuing, Weidman’s night soon ended in the fourth as Rockhold closed the show, forcing a finish with more harsh strikes. Weidman’s title win was undeniably impacted by the then champion’s questionable decision-making and ironically, it had been his own mistake that led to the loss of his belt. For all of the details and intricacies, the fight’s direction was clearly altered by that failed spinning kick, that much was clear.
Injuries would unfortunately prevent Weidman from getting his rematch and the recently dethroned champion would have to wait eleven months before making the walk once again. Luckily, it would come at home in New York City on the first ever MMA event at Madison Square Garden. Unluckily, his opponent was Yoel Romero. Nonetheless, it was highly competitive and once again the fight seemed even after two. Just like last time though, the fight would be drastically changed in just one moment, even if under very different circumstances this time. Under thirty seconds into round three, Romero landed a brutal flying knee, closing the show and finishing Weidman in the blink of an eye.
Just five months later and Weidman returns this Saturday night at UFC 210, taking on elite contender Gegard Mousasi. It’s incredible to think that in such little time Weidman went from an undefeated champion to a struggling contender riding a two fight losing streak. Either way, this fight is clearly a vital one in Weidman’s immediate future and could even decide whether or not he maintains his status as a contender in the Middleweight division at all. Weidman’s story is a great example of how, in MMA, single moments can change fighter’s careers and lives for better and worse. The question is will history repeat itself and if so, for better or worse?