UFC 162: Is This The End Of Anderson Silva’s Championship Reign?

UFC 162: Is this the end of Anderson Silva’s championship reign?

When fight fans head to bed on Saturday night, the UFC middleweight division could look dramatically different or the exact same as it has for nearly seven years.

As much as that is true in theory every time Anderson Silva steps into the cage to defend his middleweight title, in reality, it has been quite some time since “The Spider” faced a challenger with as realistic an opportunity to defeat the man with the 16-0 record in the UFC cage as Chris Weidman.

Saturday’s UFC 162 main event is the first time since Silva faced Dan Henderson – in March 2008 – that he hasn’t been an overwhelming favourite with oddsmakers. He’s still favoured, mind you, but plenty of people – including prominent fighters like Georges St-Pierre – are picking Weidman to unseat the champion this weekend in Las Vegas.

Will it happen? We’ll find out Saturday night on pay-per-view.

Anderson Silva (33-4-0) vs. Chris Weidman (9-0-0)

Weidman has long been considered the future of the 185-pound weight class; a promising talent with the make-up to wear championship gold for an extended period of time.

In order for him to fulfill that destiny in his first attempt to win a UFC title, all the unbeaten Long Islander will have to do is defeat the greatest fighter in the history of the sport. That’s all.

Silva has posted an incredible 16-0 record since debuting in the UFC with a first-round knockout victory over Chris Leben in June 2006. A little under four months later, he won the middleweight title, and he’s barely been challenged since.

The one exception is Silva’s first fight with Chael Sonnen, where the trash-talking “Gangster from West Linn” used his superior wrestling to control the Brazilian legend on the ground for the first 23 minutes of the scheduled 25-minute fight. Of course, Sonnen then made a tactical error on the ground, allowing Silva to lock a triangle choke and earn the win.

But the blueprint put forth by Sonnen is what has so many people believing Weidman could be the man to unseat the man who has sat atop the middleweight division through 10 title defenses, the most in UFC history.

The 29-year-old is a bigger, stronger, faster, and more skilled version of Sonnen — an All-American wrestler with superior submission skills and more powerful striking. Where Sonnen simply maintained positional control and did little damage when he had Silva on the canvas, Weidman will be searching for submission holds and pouring on the ground-and-pound.

That being said, almost everyone who has stepped into the cage with Silva believed they were “The One,” only to be rebuffed by the champion, usually through some combination of video game-slash-Matrix moves that make it clear that Neo is in the cage, and in this world, he goes by the name of Anderson Silva.

I have been waiting almost a year for this fight – 360 days to be exact, since the night Weidman knocked out Mark Munoz – and now that it’s here, I’m like a 6-year-old on Christmas morning.

You’re going to want to watch this because either history is being made or the greatest fighter of all-time is once again going to show he’s on a whole other level than everyone else.

Frankie Edgar (15-4-1) vs. Charles Oliveira (16-3-0)

Edgar, the former UFC lightweight champion who lost to champion Jose Aldo in his featherweight debut back in February, looks to halt his current three-fight losing skid against the promising Brazilian prospect Oliveira in his first non-title fight in nearly four years.

Oliveira had an impressive start to his UFC career, making a quick climb up the lightweight rankings before hitting a rough patch, and opting to relocate to the featherweight division. He was stopped by Cub Swanson (more on him shortly) last time out, but remains a multi-talented up-and-comer, and is certainly capable of pulling the upset and extending Edgar’s losing streak to four.

This is a bout, however, where Edgar is heavily favoured and expected to win.

“The Answer” may have three consecutive losses on his resume, but the middle defeat in the trio was a questionable decision. Even if you simply take the results as they stand, Edgar has been facing the best of the best over his last seven fights, and if he can hang tight with the likes of Aldo and lightweight champion Benson Henderson, he should be able to get the better of Oliveira in the co-main event.

Roger Gracie (6-1-0) vs. Tim Kennedy (15-4-0)

The fourth member of the first family of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu to compete in the Octagon, Gracie is a 10-time BJJ world champion, and an intriguing prospect in the middleweight division.

His long limbs (Gracie is 6’4”) only make his world-class submission skills even more potent, and though he’s relatively inexperienced when it comes to MMA, Gracie has been training alongside the likes of Anderson Silva and Lyoto Machida of late, and those are two pretty solid teachers to learn from.

Kennedy makes his UFC debut in a precarious position, as last week, the US Army Green Beret voiced his frustrations with the UFC pay set-up… before ever having fought in the UFC. He’s since apologized, but having come up short in a pair of championship attempts in Strikeforce, and having already bitched about the bosses, a loss to Gracie would put the military sniper in the crosshairs.

Mark Munoz (12-3-0) vs. Tim Boetsch (16-5-0)

Munoz transformed himself from a 260-pound man battling depression and the frustration of being injured into a chiseled, 200-pound specimen in advance of this fight, going from “Obese to A Beast” as he put it.

“The Filipino Wrecking Machine” (great nickname!) hasn’t fought since losing to Weidman last July, but was right in the thick of the title chase prior to that fight. He says it has been some time since he’s been completely healthy, and we’ve yet to see his complete arsenal in the UFC cage. If that’s the case, Boetsch could be in trouble.

Like Munoz, Boetsch enters off a loss, dropping a hard-fought battle at UFC 155 back in December. It was an ugly fight where Boetsch was cut due to an accidental headbutt, and worked through an inadvertent eye-poke as well; really not how you want your four-fight winning streak to come to an end.

A former light heavyweight, Boetsch is a bear of a man who employs what he calls “Redneck Judo,” a less refined, more rough-and-tumble version of the Japanese martial art. “The Barbarian” was quietly making his way up the middleweight ladder prior to dropping his last outing, but like Munoz, he can get back into the thick of the chase with a win here.

The fact that both men are looking to rebound from shaky performances on a card where their division is in the spotlight should result in this being an explosive encounter.

Cub Swanson (19-5-0) vs. Dennis Siver (21-8-0)

Speaking of explosive encounters…

These two featherweights (145-pounds, people) should team to deliver one of the most electric encounters on the card – and yes, I’m including the main event in there when I say that.

Swanson has been locked in as of late, winning four consecutive contests, three by way of knockout, to climb into the title conversation. A powerful, technical boxer with a black belt Brazilian jiu-jitsu game at his disposal as well, “Killer Cub” has finally seemed to tap into the potential many saw in him earlier in his career, and now that he’s putting it all together, he looks scary-good.

After an unsuccessful start in the UFC at welterweight, the 5’6” Siver moved to lightweight and had some success. Given his size, featherweight is the ideal spot for the German kickboxer, and his first two fights in the division have shown that. Following a decision win over former contender Diego Nunes in his debut, Siver dominated Nam Phan in his second outing in the 145-pound ranks back in December.

I was sitting cageside that night in Seattle, and it looked like a sparring session where Phan was just there for Siver to beat up.

Both men are talented strikers, and Siver’s kickboxing base means a wide assortment of spinning techniques will be on display. The winner moves one step closer to a title shot, and kicking off the main card on one of the best (if not the best) event of the year will have these two poised to put on a show as soon as the cage door closes.

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