Nov 12, 2016; New York, NY, USA; Chris Weidman (red gloves) reacts after losing to Yoel Romero during UFC 205 at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports

From Good to Great: Where Chris Weidman Fell Short As An All Time Great

This weekend, Chris Weidman returns and takes on the heavy hitting Uriah Hall in a rematch. The two fought on the regional scene in 2010, a fight in which Weidman won by TKO. But this time, Weidman is on a major skid, being 2-5 in his last 7. Luckily enough, Chris Weidman won his last fight against Omari Akhmedov. But my real concern is the lack of evolution in a mixed martial artists career and how that’s led to some of the best fighters ever taking so much unnecessary damage.

Weidman was one of my favorite fighters at one point. He dethroned Anderson Silva, beat (aging) legends Lyoto Machida and Vitor Belfort. Then he threw that damn wheel kick. It marked the end of the Chris Weidman I loved and he faded away into my memory as a once great fighter.

We’ve all seen this story before in mixed martial arts. Weidman, Anderson Silva, Chuck Liddell, BJ Penn, the list goes on. Time after time, legends fight past their ability to keep doing so and take much unnecessary damage. Is there a solution to this aside from a pension program similar to what’s just been implemented by BKFC? I really do not know. But I do have boxing to look to…

Chris Weidman and Boxing: Taking Notes

Boxing is notoriously picked on by MMA fans for tune up fights and can crushing. MMA fans are relentless and want to see the best fight the best. But in boxing that’s not the case. But that methodology in boxing provides some unique opportunities that MMA doesn’t have.

I’ll be discussing two of the most popular fighters today in this section and focusing on late-career changes. You know them very well: Muhammad Ali and Floyd Mayweather.

Ali and Mayweather are two of the best boxers of all time. And while they aren’t the only two to have late career style changes, they are absolutely the most notable. Both Ali and Mayweather started their career and made a name doing one thing and ended completely different fighters.

Early in his career, Muhammad Ali was a fast heavyweight. Lightning fast, in fact. Watching his early fights against names like Sonny Liston saw the heavyweight simply be much quicker than his sluggish heavyweight foes. Ali also had phenomenal cardio.

But, as history would have it, Ali refused to enlist in the draft and go to war in Vietnam. He was banned from boxing for three years in the middle of his prime. Those three years took a toll and when Ali returned, he suffered his first loss to Joe Frazier and lost a decision to Ken Norton. Ali was a step behind the competition having not fought since 1967. It was 1970 now and the game had either sped up or Ali slowed down, perhaps both.

Ali needed to change. He still had decent cardio but couldn’t gas pedal like he used to. He was still fast but not as fast. What did he do? He became more cerebral of a fighter. After the Norton loss, Muhammad Ali took on a Norton rematch and a rematch with Joe Frazier with more tactical approaches. But it wasn’t until George Foreman that we saw the Muhammad Ali that took game planning to a new level. You know the history, rope a dope was born.

On a more recent note, Floyd Mayweather was a lightning fast boxer with decent punching power. By no means was he a knockout artist like some pro-Mayweather fans will want you to believe. But Pretty Boy Floyd fought on the front foot much, much more.

Mayweather’s catalyst to change styles wasn’t due to Father Time perhaps. More to his body breaking down and specifically his hands breaking. Floyd Mayweather was chasing Rocky Marciano’s 49-0 record and knew if he kept breaking his hands in fights, he’d eventually lose, something his brand wanted none of.

Thus, Floyd Money Mayweather was born. Mayweather became a defensive mastermind. Again, he had these building blocks before the change. But now, he leaned more into them instead of other facets of boxing.

MMA you Not Void of This

MMA isn’t void of this career path. Fighters like Georges St-Pierre, Henry Cejudo, and Justin Gaethje are all examples of fighters who have significantly changed how they fight to reach a new level. But this is much harder to do this in MMA. Why?

I believe the way the UFC has set itself up by “the best fighting the best” really hampers that. I’m not here to argue that this is bad and the UFC should start allowing tune up fights, even though they somewhat are already. But it changes how a career is managed.

In boxing, there’s much less to focus on as compared to MMA. Given the time to fine tune those skills in a fight that’s not sparring, but something where the opponent wants you put away, gives boxers that opportunity to sharpen the tools in the belt.

Chris Weidman wasn’t given this break. He fought Luke Rockhold, Yoel Romero, Gegard Mousasi, Kelvin Gastelum, Jacare Souza, and Dominick Reyes; a killers row. Weidman didn’t make the effort to really change his approach with what’s changed in his body, which is his chin.

Don’t forget how great he was either. Chris Weidman dethroned the longest lasting champion in history. He was in the running for a super fight with Jon Jones as well.

Chris Weidman will likely go down as a great fighter, but not an all time great in the echelon of Jon Jones, Khabib Nurmagomedov and Georges St-Pierre. But that’s okay. That’s how the sport is. He’s still an accomplished fighter and wrestler. But without changing and with Father Time looming, Chris Weidman will go down as just a champion.

See Muhammad Ali beat George Foreman after he was banned from boxing below.


author avatar
Blaine Henry
Your friendly neighborhood fight fan. I watch way too many fights and my wife lets me know it.