As soon as Dana White wrapped the belt around Chris Weidman’s waist after finishing Anderson Silva for a second time, the entire fight world knew what the champion’s next task was going to be. Weidman will next defend his belt against former UFC Light Heavyweight champion Vitor “The Phenom” Belfort in one of the most anticipated bouts of the upcoming year.
The match-up is very intriguing for many reasons, and we’ll analyze every angle of the fight below.
Vitor Belfort is one of the most dangerous strikers in MMA today. Belfort possesses dynamite in his hands, and is currently riding a three fight knockout streak over the likes of Michael Bisping, Luke Rockhold, and Dan Henderson. Chris Weidman entered the UFC as not much more than a wrestler, but has greatly developed his striking game. Weidman showed vastly improved striking with a standing elbow knockout of Mark Munoz, and finished one of the best strikers in MMA history, Anderson Silva, twice on the feet. However, Belfort is a far more dangerous striker than Munoz and moves forward in a way that Anderson Silva does not, which gives Weidman a challenge unlike any he has ever faced.
Belfort should have an edge in striking over Weidman but don’t count the champion out on the feet.
In the same way that Vitor Belfort is one of the best strikers in MMA, Chris Weidman is one of the best wrestlers in the sport. Weidman showed dominant wrestling in his bouts with Anderson Silva, Mark Munoz, Tom Lawlor, and Alessio Sakara. His fight with Munoz was particularly impressive as he was never taken down by the Oklahoma State wrestler, and went two for two in takedowns of his own.
Belfort has struggled with strong wrestlers in the past, which makes this an area of the fight that he must focus on during his preparation. The last two good wrestlers Belfort faced both gave him fits in their respective fights. Jon Jones was able to take Belfort down on his only takedown attempt in their entire fight, and Belfort was laos taken down often by Anthony Johnson in their bout. If Belfort wants to win this fight, he must not let Weidman dictate where the fight takes place.
Chris Weidman’s wrestling advantage over Belfort is huge, but things are much more evenly matched when the fight gets to the mat. Weidman has only won three of his fights via submission but has shown great transitions and a wide variety of submissions. We’ve seen Weidman choke out Jesse Bongfeldt and Tom Lawlor, but his first fight with Anderson Silva was his best performances on the mat. Weidman was able to keep dominant top position over Silva the entire first round, and threatened the all-time great with a kneebar.
Belfort meanwhile is a black belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and has shown small samples of it in his fights with Jon Jones and Anthony Johnson. After being taken down in the first round by Jon Jones, Belfort almost submitted the light heavyweight king with an armbar from the bottom. In his fight with Anthony Johnson, Belfort showed an ability to get back to his feet when taken down, and capitalized on a gassed out Johnson, submitting him towards the end of the first round.
If the fight goes to the mat it will likely be courtesy of a Chris Weidman takedownm but Belfort can more than hold his own there. I still give Weidman an edge in grappling due to his wrestling transitions combined with solid Jiu-Jitsu, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Belfort was able to threaten with submissions from the bottom.
2014 is already shaping up to be a solid year for MMA but the bout between Weidman and Belfort is one of the best of the year so far. Let’s see if our analysis comes true come fight time!