We have a great co-main event this weekend at UFC Fight Night 174, as former UFC Middleweight Champion Chris Weidman takes on the No. 11 ranked UFC middleweight contender Omari Akhmedov. Though Weidman’s still fighting a top fifteen talent, this is his first fight against someone not at the very top of the division.
Weidman came to the UFC back in March of 2011, and picked up a unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27) victory over longtime UFC veteran Alessio Sakara. He followed this up with back-to-back submission victories over Jesse Bongfeldt (standing guillotine choke) and Tom Lawlor (D’Arce choke) to cap off his 2011 year. We instantly saw how incredible of a wrestler he is, and really how good of a grappler in general he is. He’d only had a handful of fights and he was one of the most skilled middleweights in the world already.
Next, Weidman fought the premier grappler in the entire sport, Demain Maia. He was scheduled to face Michael Bisping initially, but Mark Muñoz was scheduled to face Chael Sonnen and had to pull out. Bisping in turn took the fight with Sonnen, leaving Weidman to fight Maia on eleven days notice. He defeated Maia via unanimous decision (29-28, 30-27, 29-28), and then fought Mark Munoz that summer, and this was really his coming out party.
Munoz is a stud wrestler himself, having won the NCAA Division I National Championships in 2001, and he also placed third the year prior. Weidman handily out-wrestled him and dominated the fight, securing a KO finish in round two. The elbow he caught Munoz with is one of the most beautiful counters any of us will ever see in mixed martial arts. Munoz went to throw an overhand, while Weidman weaved it and landed a nasty elbow as Munoz was coming in. He threw it just like an overhand, he just didn’t extend his arm, and man it was pretty to watch.
Munoz was on a four-fight win streak and very close to title contention himself, and Weidman just dominated him. This brought his record to 9-0, and he was now next in line for a title shot against the greatest of all time, Anderson Silva.
He didn’t get his shot until exactly, to the week, one year later, but he didn’t pass up on his opportunity to shine once he did. Silva did pick him apart for the majority of the fight, aside from Weidman’s takedown in round one. Silva’s leg kicks were starting to hurt him, as he said after the fight, Silva was doing great, but he got far too arrogant and got caught. It was still shocking, Silva was the one guy that could mock his opponents, the best fighters in the world and get away with it, but not this time. Weidman defeated Silva via KO at 1:18 of round two to become the new UFC Middleweight Champion.
Weidman gave Silva an immediate rematch, given the fact Silva was 16-0 in the UFC with fourteen finishes and ten title defenses, but this one was even worse than the first, for Silva that is. Weidman dominated the entire fight this time around, badly hurting Silva in round one. Silva went back to his leg kicks, something that was working for him in their first encounter, but Weidman checked the last one beautifully, thus folding Silva’s leg in half. This gave Weidman the TKO victory at 1:16 of round two. Now that the Anderson Silva chapter was over, and now that he got his first title defense out of the way, it was time to see him against other No. 1 contenders.
His second title defense came against former UFC Light-Heavyweight Champion Lyoto Machida, and man what a fight this was! Weidman easily won the first three rounds, but Machida rallied in round four and almost knocked Weidman out. He had him hurt badly, but Weidman was able to stay composed enough to continue. He was able to hold on through round five and was awarded the unanimous decision (49-45, 48-47, 49-46) victory.
Next came a fight with Vitor Belfort, who was on a three-fight KO streak over Michael Bisping, Luke Rockhold, and Dan Henderson. The thing is, he was allowed to take TRT at that time, but it was banned before he fought Weidman. This effected everything of course. Belfort had a moment in the fight where he had Weidman’s back against the fence teeing off on him, but it was very short lived, Weidman was fine the whole time. Weidman ended up taking him down, mounted him, and got the TKO finish at 2:53 of round one.
Since this however, Weidman’s gone 1-5, losing his next three straight. He lost his title to former Strikeforce Middleweight Champion Luke Rockhold via TKO in round four, he was viciously KO’d by Yoel Romero with a thunderous knee in round three, and he was TKO’d by Gegard Mousasi in round two. He was doing well in the Mousasi fight, taking him down at will, but he couldn’t continue after some knees landed to his head. He thought they were illegal, given he had his hand down, but the rules were different and he didn’t understand.
At this point, he’d gone from 13-0 to 13-3, he needed a win badly. His next fight came against Kelvin Gastelum, a fight he dominated throughout. Though he got dropped early on, he ended up scoring seven takedowns on Gastelum, and eventually sunk in the arm-triangle choke to get the finish at 3:45 of round three. This was his last victory however, as he got KO’d by Jacare Souza in round three of their back-and-forth battle, and he also got KO’d by Dominick Reyes in round one of their light-heavyweight main event. He’s not just losing, he’s being viciously finished each time he loses. However, Akhmedov may not be someone that’d knock him out. Maybe he is, we’ll see.
Akhmedov does have good striking, he picks a lot of his opponents apart, but he’s more of a volume striker. He came to the UFC in late 2013, where he KO’d Thiago Perpetuo in round one in his debut. He then dropped down to welterweight, where he went 4-3, being submitted by Gunnar Nelson, and TKO’d by both Sergio Moraes and Elizeu Zaleski dos Santos in round three.
He returned to Middleweight four fights ago, where he had a draw with Marvin Vettori, before winning unanimous decisions over Tim Boetsch, Zak Cummings, and Ian Heinisch. He’s riding a six-fight unbeaten streak right now, going 5-0-1 since November 2016.
Chris Weidman (14-5) vs. Omari Akhmedov (20-4-1)
This is the perfect match up to see where each man is at in their careers. We’ll see if Akhmedov has what it takes to continue climbing up the ranks, fighting tougher, more skilled opponents, while it’ll also tell us whether it’s time for Weidman to retire or not. Many people in the MMA community believe he should’ve hung ‘em up a while ago, but he’s still been fighting the very best in the world. If he has a couple fights with lesser competition, he may look great again.
That’s not to say Akhmedov isn’t elite, he is, but he is lesser competition than everyone Weidman’s fought since Lawlor. Starting with Maia, Weidman has been fed all of the top contenders. Despite his inexperience, Weidman has always had all the tools to make him great, even when he was just 4-0 making his UFC debut. This is of course because of his extensive wrestling background, he became the first junior college wrestler in history to be a New York State Collegiate Champion.
He also became a two-time All-American once in an NCAA Division I school, and placed third at the 2007 NCAA Division I National Championships as a senior. He also took sixth place the year prior. Less than two years later, he made his professional mixed martial arts debut, and just six years later, he was awarded his Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt under Matt Serra and Renzo Gracie. His striking didn’t take long to come along either, he’s a very well rounded fighter, his chin has just been tested too many times at this point.
Akhmedov is an International Master of Sport in Combat Sambo and Hand-to-Hand-Combat, while he’s also a 2nd-degree black belt in Hand-to-Hand-Combat. It took him a little while to come along in the UFC, but as mentioned above, he hasn’t lost in almost four years, and he’s been fighting good fighters the whole time.
With the former champion standing 6’2” with a 78” reach, and the No. 11 ranked contender standing 6′ with a 73” reach, maybe Weidman will be able to keep his distance, until he decides to shoot and take it to the ground. There aren’t many people in this sport at all that can stop his single leg, and he’s also got a lot of other effective takedowns in his arsenal.
Weidman even beat Ryan Bader in a wrestling match 10-7 back in 2006, which is insanely impressive. Bader was one of the top light-heavyweights in the UFC the entire time he was there, and one of the best wrestlers in the whole promotion as well. Now he’s the Bellator Heavyweight and Light-Heavyweight Champion.
How do you see this epic co-main event going?