UFC’s Anderson Silva a slight favorite in Chris Weidman rematch
Anyone who has even a passing interest in mixed martial arts probably has an opinion on the Anderson Silva-Chris Weidman rematch set for Saturday night at MGM Grand in Las Vegas.
Can Weidman again knock out Silva, the 38-year-old former Ultimate Fighting Championship middleweight champion, who held the title for more than six years? Will Weidman decide this match on the canvas, after making Silva look so uncomfortable there in July?
UFC President Dana White has kicked around the debate for quite a while, ever since watching Weidman’s knockout punch and scheduling the rematch a week later. “Anderson Silva knows exactly what he’s up against this time,” White said. “It’s hard for me to ever count out the greatest of all time.”
Silva is a slight 3-2 favorite to win at MGM Resorts’ sports book.
The pay-per-view card also includes the women’s bantamweight championship fight between Venice’s Ronda Rousey (7-0) and challenger Miesha Tate (13-4), a rematch of a 2012 Strikeforce fight won by Rousey by first-round armbar.
In the first Weidman-Silva fight, the previously dominant champion engaged in theatrics, dancing and egging on Weidman by playfully sticking his chin forward.
Weidman, a strong wrestler, surged and decked Silva with a second-round punch, finishing the champion on the mat.
“It was a combination of things that led to that mistake,” said Silva, of his first career UFC loss after holding the belt since October 2006.
During the bout, there was a distinct impression that Silva wanted no part of a ground fight against Long Island’s Weidman (10-0).
Weidman, 29, noticed that too, and it’s why he expects to again beat Silva, this time by submission. “I want to go in there and get the finish … shine and show the world what I could do and prove myself,” Weidman said.
Silva (35-5, 16-1 in the UFC) has proven he can beat skilled wrestlers and said he’ll be as mentally sharp as ever after a rigorous camp.
He is the most accurate striker in UFC history, landing 67.5% of his punches, and his kicks have also produced knockouts. Silva’s supporters believe that without the goofing around, Silva is unbeatable.
“The time of the fight, you’ll see,” the Brazilian-born Silva said through an interpreter. “I will be better. I’m always improving myself.”
Silva remained coy, answering “maybe” when asked if he’d repeat any of the Ali-like theatrics he flashed in the loss.
“When I go inside the ropes to fight, I’m not joking, because there’s danger,” Silva said. “Some days, you have a good day for working, some days you have a bad day for working. The last fight was my bad day.
Weidman, with the confidence of a champion, answered, “There’s really no excuses for me to lose.
“I just feel like a lot better and complete fighter … everybody saying it was a fluke. It’s just more motivation to prove those guys wrong,” he said.
The Rousey and Tate rematch doesn’t carry the same intrigue as the main event.
Rousey is an 11-1 betting favorite over Tate. But their personal feud drew interest as they coached opposing sides in the UFC’s “The Ultimate Fighter” reality television series.
Rousey claims she was unfairly portrayed as the villain to Tate’s sweet girl on the series.
“I’ve prepared for the worst-case scenario,” Rousey said. “I’m constantly talking her up, that she’s going to be in the best shape of her life, that she’s going to have a perfect game plan. I’ve spent this whole camp focusing on every single weakness I could possibly have. I assume she’s going to be … a perfectly trained athlete … that’s going to fight me for a five-round brawl.”
Rousey hasn’t fought since February and has since co-starred in “The Expendables 3” with Sylvester Stallone, and she’ll also appear in “Fast & Furious 7.”
Tate said that Rousey is vulnerable, in part because of her layoff and the distractions of stardom.
“A lot of people build Ronda up to be this invincible person, but I don’t see it that way at all,” Tate said. “I see a lot of holes in her game and I see a lot of ways that she can be exploited. Just because it hasn’t happened yet doesn’t mean it won’t ever happen.”
Rousey said her conditioning is fine after a six-week training camp that included workouts on the film set, such as running the hills of Bulgaria with her “Expendables” co-star, boxer Victor Ortiz.
“She expects me to go out and make stupid mistakes and gas out,” Rousey said. “I’ll be better prepared.”
Where: MGM Grand, Las Vegas.
TV: Pay-per-view, $59.95, high-definition. Early prelims on FS1.
Time: Early prelims, 5 p.m.; PPV undercard starts 7 p.m.
Main event: Chris Weidman (10-0), Long Island, N.Y., vs. Anderson Silva (33-5), Brazil, for Weidman’s middleweight belt.
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