Martin on UFC: The Spider declares he is back

Anderson Silva celebrates defeating Stephan Bonnar at UFC 153 in Rio de Janeiro. (AP/Felipe Dana)

By Adam Martin,

It’s official.

New UFC middleweight champion Chris Weidman will put his newly-won belt on the line for the very first time on Dec. 28 in Las Vegas against the same man he won it from, pound-for-pound great Anderson Silva, when the two meet in a rematch that headlines a UFC 168.

The news of the rematch was announced by UFC president Dana White on ESPN this past Saturday, with White saying that Silva didn’t like tasting defeat for the first time in seven years and that he’s motivated to win back the title he lost at UFC 162.

A belt that he defended a UFC record 10 times before he was caught with a Weidman left hook in the second round of their match and knocked out for the first time in his career.

In addition to White’s comments, Silva appeared in a 23-second video declaring that he was back.

“I back,” Silva stated. “Trust me. I back.”

Hearing these words out of Silva’s mouth, you’d have to imagine he’s taking this rematch with Weidman a lot more seriously than he did the pair’s first fight, a bout that culminated with him getting knocked out cold after keeping his hands by his waist, taunting Weidman, and embarrassing himself after he was KO’d by a fighter he had a clear standup edge against.

But it wasn’t even just the knockout that indicated Silva didn’t find Weidman a credible opponent, even though many sharp people in the MMA world and many of the sport’s top fighters went on record as picking Weidman for the upset.

During the fight week for UFC 162, Silva joked around with Weidman, even letting the challenger hold his belt at the traditional pre-fight press conference photo op. Then, at the weigh-ins, Silva appeared to press his lips right up against Weidman’s.

He also kissed Weidman on the cheek during the fight.

It was just a weird performance by Silva all around. Sure, he’s clowned around against other fighters before, but that was against guys like Forrest Griffin, Stephan Bonnar, Thales Leities, Patrick Cote and Demian Maia, fighters who were all clearly inferior to him. When he took on credible opposition like Vitor Belfort, ChaelSonnen and Rich Franklin, though, Silva didn’t mess around at all.

And that’s the Silva that I think we can all expect in the rematch.

Knowing now just how powerful Weidman is, I don’t think Silva is going to keep his hands down as much (hopefully not at all) and I don’t think he’s going to be as passive as he was in the first fight. Yes, Silva is a counter striker, but counter strikers still throw strikes, and at UFC 162 Silva barely threw any strikes of note outside of a few hard low kicks on Weidman’s lead leg.

This December, though, things should go a lot differently as I expect Silva to not fool around and instead come out guns blazing right out of the gate and look for a first-round stoppage victory, or how he fought against Belfort, James Irvin, and Nate Marquardt, to name a few of his opponents.

This isn’t to say that Weidman isn’t going to offer Silva a hell of a fight. Actually, I expect the new champ to do everything and anything in his power to retain his belt and prove that the first fight was not a fluke. And he very well could win yet again because he’s a supremely talented fighter in every facet of the game and also has a huge youth advantage on the elder Silva.

But regardless of what happened in the first fight, it was clear to me that Silva did not fight up to his potential. But if he does fight to the best of his ability in the rematch, he can definitely win his belt back.

This time, though, let’s just hope he keeps his hands up.

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