UFC 175: The Fight To Watch – Machida vs. Weidman

UFC175-FOXSPORTS-16x9The UFC has made its event surrounding Independence Day one to remember, sticking two title bouts on the same card for the first time since UFC 169 in February of this year. The organization’s seventh Pay-Per-View event of 2014, UFC 175, will take place Saturday at the Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas.

The card is headlined by a battle for the middleweight belt between the undefeated Chris Weidman and former light heavyweight champion Lyoto Machida. Another undefeated champion, Ronda Rousey and her latest (likely overmatched) challenger Alexis Davis precede the middleweights as the co-Main Event. I’ll spend plenty of time gushing about Rousey on Thursday during my full card preview, but once again her opponent is probably going to be outclassed. It’s no contest; the One to Watch for UFC 175 is the Main Event, Weidman vs. Machida.

Background

If ever there was a time when the UFC as an organization would be rooting for a certain fighter to win a bout, it would be this one. MMA’s most popular league has a vested interest in seeing Chris Weidman retain the middleweight belt now and for years to come. With its two most bankable stars of the last half-decade, Georges St. Pierre and Anderson Silva currently out of commission, the UFC has tabbed Weidman as one of its next big Pay-Per-View draws.

Weidman stepped into that role after he ended Silva’s reign of terror in the middleweight division with a staggering knockout in their first fight at UFC 162 almost exactly a year ago. He was able to defeat Spider a second time five months later when he blocked a kick and broke Silva’s leg in the process. Now “All-American” Weidman stands alone as the only undefeated male champion in the UFC, a title that the organization hopes he can hold for a while.

Still, there are many who are quick to dismiss Weidman’s championship pedigree, considering his two wins against Silva could both be construed as “lucky” in some contexts (although this writer wholeheartedly disagrees). In the minds of countless fans, Weidman still needs another big victory to validate his time atop the division.

A victory over Machida would certainly accomplish that task for the Mineola, New York native. The Dragon, who held the light heavyweight title for a year in 2009 and 2010, dropped down to the 185-pound division last October. He has looked solid in his first two fights at the lower weight class, easily dispatching No. 13 Mark Munoz and No. 7 Gegard Mousasi and earning a title shot earlier than expected when Vitor Belfort pulled out of a potential matchup with Weidman. The 36-year old Machida presents a very real threat to Weidman’s supremacy over the middleweight division and a win would make him just the third fighter in UFC history, along with BJ Penn and Randy Couture, to hold belts in two divisions.

The Matchup

This is a bout in which it is very clear even before the first punch is thrown what the two fighters’ strategies will be. Weidman, as his nickname implies, was a two-time All-American wrestler while in college at Hofstra University and his grappling is so dominant that he has outdone even such accomplished mat artists as Mark Munoz and Demian Maia. His sublimation of Munoz is especially impressive considering the Filipino Wrecking Machine was a former Division I wrestling champion himself.

Machida’s takedown defense is superb, as he has blocked 83 percent of his opponent’s takedown attempts, according to UFC.com. He will need to muster every ounce of that ability to prevent Weidman from taking this fight to the ground. The Dragon wants to stay on his feet and pound Weidman with his unique Karate-style striking technique.

Machida is a black belt in Shotokan Karate, one of the few UFC fighters to have success while using the martial art as a main weapon. His striking is varied and technically sound in almost every way. He would love to land his signature move, the Crane Kick, which he also used to knock out Randy Couture in 2009, but he will be content to batter away at Weidman for five rounds if necessary.

It is also important to note that Machida is a teammate of Silva’s on the Casa Preta (Black House) Team in Brazil. It’s likely that Machida has more knowledge of Weidman going into the fight than a typical first-time opponent would. It will interesting to see how he uses that knowledge to game plan for the champion.

Tale of the Tape

Chris Weidman (C)

 

No. 3 Lyoto Machida

30

Age

36

Mineola, New York

Birthplace

Salvador, Brazil

Baldwin, New York

Fights out of

Los Angeles, California

11-0

Record

 

21-4

185

Weight

 

185

6’2"

Height

 

6'1"

 

They Said It

“I just put my focus on my fight, on my technique. For sure, I want to be the third guy with two belts in different class [sic], but my focus is on different things now. I can beat him (Weidman) 100 percent.” –Lyoto Machida

"I'm expecting a very confident Lyoto Machida, but I'm going to break his will."

Chris Weidman