At one time, Chris Weidman was on top of the world.
Back in 2013, the Long Island native shocked the masses when he knocked out then long-reining middleweight champion Anderson Silva, a man many consider to be amongst the best fighters to have ever graced the UFC octagon, with a picture-perfect left hook at UFC 162.
Five months later, Weidman once again had his hand raised against Silva at UFC 168, winning the rematch after “The Spider” suffered a gruesome broken leg in a fight that Weidman was dominating.
Following back-to-back victories over Silva, Weidman continued to cement himself as a legitimate champion, defending his title against Lyoto Machida at UFC 175 and then again against Vitor Belfort at UFC 175.
Since then, however, it’s been a rough road for “The All American”. After an ill-advised spinning back kick attempt led to a TKO loss against Luke Rockhold that cost him his title at UFC 194 in 2015, Weidman has lost four of his last five with all four of those losses coming by way of stoppage against the likes of Yoel Romero, Gegard Mousasi, Ronaldo Souza, and Dominick Reyes.
In search of a fresh start, Weidman moved up to the light heavyweight division last October, but the jump up in weight didn’t pan out for him, as he was dropped and finished by Reyes in the first round of their main event bout. And now at age 36, the New Yorker finds himself at a bit of a crossroads as he prepares to return to the 185-pound division in hopes of putting together one last title run.
On Saturday, Weidman will enter the octagon for the 16th time, as he’s set to take on Omari Akhmedov in the co-main event of a UFC Fight Night card from the UFC Apex in Las Vegas, Nevada. And although this fight will mark the first time Weidman is fighting an opponent ranked outside of the division’s top-10 in nine years, it certainly won’t be an easy task.
Akhmedov, a 32-year-old Russian, is 20-4-1 in his MMA career and 8-3-1 in the UFC. 12 of his professional victories have come by way of stoppage and he’s currently riding a three-fight winning streak after moving back up to middleweight that includes wins over Tim Boetsch, Zak Cummings, and Ian Heinisch.
A well-rounded fighter, Akhmedov is skilled on the feet and possesses fight-ending power, while also being a strong grappler thanks to an accomplished background in combat sambo and as evidenced by his five submission victories. While he may not have the name value just yet, there’s no denying that the Russian is a tough out at 185 pounds.
Ultimately, this bout appears to be a must-win for Weidman. Given his age and his recent skid, it’s likely that his best days are behind him and that the end is near. Because of that, the New Yorker once again finds himself with his back against the wall.
Should he come out on top on Saturday night, Chris Weidman will take a positive step towards re-inserting himself into the thick of things in the middleweight division. Another loss, however, may tell us that the end is coming sooner rather than later for the former champion.