Could a stunning transition in Ultimate Fighting Championship power be on the brink Saturday night at MGM Grand in Las Vegas?
Middleweight champion Anderson Silva, who has worn the belt since 2006, will defend his title in a pay-per-view main event against Chris Weidman (9-0), a wrestling-schooled, jujitsu-trained fighter.
MGM Resorts has Silva at the shortest price as a favorite in years at the sports books, minus-250 (just more than 2-1).
“It’s all coming from the fans,” MGM Resorts Sports Book director Jay Rood said. “We opened Anderson at 3-1, but everyone is betting on Weidman. They think he’ll be a tough test.”
And UFC President Dana White texted The Times recently to say a bunch of fighters in his stable are picking Weidman as well.
“Every fighter out there that I’ve talked to and every fighter we’ve interviewed thinks Weidman is going to beat Anderson,” White said in a UFC release. “All the pros think this is the biggest challenge Anderson has ever faced in the UFC. These are the guys who know the sport, the pros, and they are all saying Weidman could really shock the world.”
Weidman told The Times Tuesday he believes he’ll produce the upset.
“The fighters are referring to my wrestling and submission ability, along with my jujitsu skills,” Weidman said. “Anderson’s been exposed by a wrestler before, Chael Sonnen. I’m like Chael, and with the jujitsu, it’s a nightmare situation for Anderson.
“This is my opportunity to win the belt, to do the thing I’ve always wanted to do.”
Weidman, with recent victories over Demian Maia and Mark Munoz, said though he’s not expecting Silva, at age 38, to slow down, “Me being younger is a positive thing.
“It’s a tough matchup for him, and it was a hard fight for me to get,” Weidman said. “He knows it’s a tough matchup for him. The UFC shoved it down his throat and forced it to happen.”
Silva, a superb multi-discipline artist, has won fights impressively with his hands, elbows and feet in continually defending his belt.
But Sonnen, reflecting the views of several fighters, said, “I think Weidman takes Anderson down at will, I think he blows past Anderson’s guard and I think he finishes him. Taking Anderson down isn’t a hard thing to do. Chris will get to Anderson’s head, hurt him with ground and pound, and submit Anderson within three rounds with a D’Arce choke or similar. Weidman is a younger version of me -- and a better version when it comes to aspects like top game.
“I took Anderson down repeatedly, and while I punched him all night, I don’t have the submissions Weidman has. Weidman is going to have the same success I had with a ground attack but then he’s going to choke Anderson. The seven-year reign is over. That’s genuinely what I feel.”
UFC welterweight champion Georges St-Pierre said, “I believe it’s a bad matchup for Anderson Silva. Very bad, style wise. Anderson’s weaknesses are Weidman’s strengths. I’ve trained with Weidman, and his wrestling is on another level. Not only is Chris Weidman going to beat Anderson Silva, I believe he’s going to finish Anderson. I believe it’s not going to last too long, this fight. This fight will shock a lot of people.”