Chris Weidman’s immediate future can be summed up in one word: rematch.
As much as Anderson Silva dismissed the notion following his loss to Weidman Saturday night at UFC 162, no part of me believes the UFC will let the opportunity slip by. It’s most likely to take place in February as the main event of the Super Bowl card scheduled for Newark, New Jersey.
That’s as close as Weidman is going to get to the "I’ll give Anderson the rematch in Madison Square Garden" proclamation he made well before the fight even took place, and we heard Saturday night the new champion is absolutely game for giving the former champion a chance to reclaim the title.
Not only do I think the UFC will push hard for this fight, but both Weidman and Silva should be angling for a second bout as well.
For Weidman, his greatest triumph is currently taking a backseat to ridiculous accusations of Silva throwing the fight, and the usual "well, it would have been different if…" rhetoric that tends to follow these kinds of fights. His ability to maintain his composure and stick to the game plan are being diminished (or at least under-discussed), and nothing would silence those conversations and cement this performance as a truly valid result than doing it again eight months from now.
It hasn’t started yet, but I fully expect the "yeah, but he wouldn’t be able to do it again; look at Matt Serra" conversations to start in 5, 4, 3, 2…
While Silva said he’s no longer interested in pursuing the belt, I bet that changes once he’s a couple days removed from this fight. As the loss sinks in, and the reflection begins, I just can’t see the man who has been so dominant for so long simply walking away from his pursuit of greatness after a loss like that.
I think Anderson will want to find out if he can beat Weidman. Remember, it’s been a long time since Silva felt the sting of defeat, and if he watches that fight back, I just can’t see him not getting fired up for a rematch. Give him some time to relax and reflect on this loss, and my bet is we’ll see the former champion chasing down a second meeting with Weidman before too long.
Here’s how I would matchup the rest of Saturday night’s UFC 162 winners going forward:
Frankie Edgar vs. Ricardo Lamas
The former lightweight champion got a much-needed win over Charles Oliveira on Saturday night, halting his three-fight losing streak and keeping himself very much in the thick of the title chase in the featherweight ranks.
Edgar is one of the biggest names in the division, and as such, he’s a tremendous asset; someone capable of filling a main or co-main event role on any platform, and a guy who can elevate the exposure of the man he’s sharing the cage with on any event. Oliveira got a spike in recognition from standing opposite Edgar this past weekend, and that’s why Lamas should be the next man he faces.
Personally, I thought Lamas had earned a title shot with his brutal finish of Erik Koch back in January, and believed he should have been the man tabbed to step up and face Jose Aldo when Anthony Pettis bowed out. That wasn’t the case, and I don’t think he’s going to be given the winner of the upcoming battle between Aldo and Chan Sung Jung either, so a matchup with Edgar is his best chance to put himself into a title fight.
Either way, this fight would produce a title challenger. If Edgar wins, he’s beaten a fighter that was on a tremendous roll and posted back-to-back victories. If Lamas is victorious, his winning streak moves to five, with the last victory coming against a former champion and former title challenger in the most high-profile fight of his career.
As much as I think Edgar should have to do more than win one fight before getting back into a title eliminator fight, I understand the logic of keeping him close and fully expect Joe Silva to pair him off with a top contender like Lamas next time out.
Tim Kennedy vs. Tom Watson/Thales Leites winner
As he fought on the main card and defeated a man with a famous last name, I think there will be a desire to rush Kennedy up the rankings and into a bigger fight than beating Roger Gracie really commands.
The former Strikeforce title challenger looked solid in earning a unanimous decision victory on Saturday. All this win does is put him in the middle of the pack in the middleweight division and, considering he made "I’m not happy about my pay" comments prior to even setting foot in the Octagon, I can’t see the UFC being in any rush to hustle him up the competitive ladder.
Leites and "Kong" are set to square off early next month at UFC 163 and the winner seems to be in the right range to share the cage with Kennedy next time out. Leites has gone 6-1 since departing the UFC, and won three straight, while Watson would carry a two-fight winning streak into the cage should he get by the returning Brazilian.
There are just too many other fighters in line ahead of Kennedy at this point – including two that have already beaten him – for this victory to carry him too much further up the rankings.
Mark Munoz vs. Michael Bisping
"The Filipino Wrecking Machine" returned in full force on Saturday, built from a solid first round to dominate Tim Boetsch over the final two frames, earning a unanimous decision win in the process.
The main event result certainly helped Munoz, who lost to Weidman last July. I also think it hurt Bisping, who was my "I know you’re not going to like this, but" pick to face Silva next had "The Spider" emerged victorious. Considering how things played out, pairing Munoz and Bisping atop the marquee when the UFC returns to Manchester in November makes all kinds of sense.
For starters, Bisping headlining in his hometown is a no-brainer and, while he’s only one win removed from getting knocked out by Vitor Belfort, "The Count" remains a constant presence in the division and one of the few non-UFC champions with a big enough name to carry an event.
Secondly, Munoz remains a step behind the likes of Belfort and Ronaldo "Jacare" Souza at this point, so lining him up opposite Bisping feels right in terms of the rankings; they’re both top-10 fighters but outside of the top five.
Coming off a great performance like the one he turned in Saturday night, Munoz is at his highest point to date in the UFC and capitalizing on that in order to further clear things up in the suddenly intriguing middleweight division feels like the right next step to take.
Cub Swanson vs. Chad Mendes
This one is contingent on Mendes getting through Clay Guida at UFC 164, but seems to be the most logical pairing for these two featherweights.
Swanson has won five straight, earning finishes in four of those contests, to establish himself as a legitimate threat in the 145-pound weight class. While these two have fought in the past, we’re nearly three years removed from that meeting and a lot has changed for both men in the time since.
As great as Mendes has looked over his last three fights, his loss to Jose Aldo is still fresh enough that he’s not going to be ushered into a rematch on the strength of a four-fight winning streak where Guida is the biggest victory of the bunch. He needs to beat someone that has been making waves in the division in order to better position himself and Swanson fits the bill.
For "Killer Cub," this is a chance to get one of his losses back and show just how much he’s improved since losing a wrestling-based decision to Mendes back in the WEC. More than anything, Swanson’s confidence has been key to his recent run.
Now that Swanson has worked his way up the rankings, all that remains for him are rematches. With Aldo tied up with title obligations and his loss to Ricardo Lamas coming inside of the last two years, Mendes makes the most sense.