UFC middleweight champion Chris Weidman validated himself as champion on Saturday night with a impressive unanimous decision win over Lyoto Machida in the main event of UFC 175.
There are many that believe Machida posed the toughest style matchup for Weidman compared to the other contenders in the division and I would agree with that sentiment. However, there are three contenders remaining that are the toughest fights for the “All American”.
In order below:
- Luke Rockhold: Stylistically, Rockhold brings more to the table than the other two fighters I’m going to mention below. He can match the reach of Weidman and is a huge middleweight while being capable on the ground or standing. He also has the cardio to go all five rounds which could be a weakness of Weidman, who appeared to slow down quite a bit in the latter rounds with Machida on Saturday night. Another important aspect will be the takedown defense of Rockhold which checks in at 70%. Rockhold is riding a two fight winning streak since suffering a KO loss against the ‘juiced up’ Vitor Belfort last year. He probably is a win or two away from earning a title shot, but does pose the biggest threat to Weidman at this point.
- Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza: Souza matches up with Weidman quite well himself. He’s in the number two spot because he’s a bit older than Rockhold and doesn’t matchup as well physically with Weidman when compared to Rockhold. Souza’s biggest advantage would be on the ground, but he has improved his striking game tremendously over the years, and has in fact finished two of his last six opponents via TKO/KO. His cardio could be a question mark in a five round fight against Weidman who applies a ton of pressure. I also do not believe that Souza could take Weidman down and keep him there to take advantage of his world class ground game.
- Vitor Belfort: Belfort will likely earn the next shot at Weidman if he can pass the appropriate drug tests after failing one earlier this year. However, Belfort is the least likely of the three contender I’ll mention to beat Weidman in my opinion. He’ll be off the ‘sauce’, he’s past his prime, and he’s fairly one dimensional in his approach. He basically has a puncher’s chance in defeating Weidman, and we’ve seen Weidman take big strikes without going down. The other facet would be Belfort’s historically average takedown defense which checks in at 51%. Belfort is well versed in submissions, but offers very little off his back regarding offensive submission(save for the armbar attempt against Jon Jones). Belfort’s cardio has always been an issue as well, which would be exploited by Weidman if Belfort didn’t score the early KO.
The only other fighter that some may think belong on this list is Gegard Mousasi. Mousasi is a good fighter, but lacks the takedown defense to pose much of a threat against Weidman. His cardio is questionable as well, and frankly I think would not pose a huge threat to Weidman. Weidman’s steady pressure and ability to take Mousasi down if need be would be too much.