UFC middleweight title: Chris Weidman vs. Lyoto Machida
Weidman, an excellent wrestler who has taken to submission grappling and striking well, solidified his place in history by ending the long reign of all time great Anderson Silva with two straight wins. However, many questioned those wins because the first came when Silva was clowning and the second came on a checked leg kick. It’s not fair given how well Weidman fought in those fights and how good he is, but the sentiment exists. Machida is an opportunity to further prove how good he is. But it is a terrible challenge. Machida is one of the trickiest fighters in the sport to deal with and he has always done best against wrestling background fighters like Weidman. Machida is seeking to win titles in two different weight classes in the UFC, something that would put him in truly elite company. This also has the nationalistic angle, with Machida looking to avenge his countryman and friend Silva against the American champion. Brazil and the US are the two top countries for MMA fighters and the rise in popularity of the sport in Brazil has led to many Brazilians traveling to America to cheer on fellow Brazilians in what has become the sport’s top friendly national rivalry.
Round 1. Weidman throws a few kicks early. The third leg kick lands a little but none do damage. He pursues Machida, with Machida circling and just watching. Weidman goes for a takedown but Machida blocks it emphatically. Weidman lands a few heavy punches to the chin of Machida and temporarily stuns the Brazilian. Machida recovers and continues to circle. Machida cracks Weidman with a really hard straight punch, his best early blow. Weidman takes it without trouble. Weidman catches a front kick but can’t do anything with it. Weidman misses a head kick and takes a knee to the body late. 10-9 Weidman.
Round 2. Brazilians in the crowd are now singing. I’m not sure what. Weidman charges in looking to land but Machida just backs away. Machida lands a hard left hook and a low kick. Machida lands another low kick a little later. Weidman is having trouble getting a good range or cutting off Machida. Machida lands a big overhand on Weidman. Weidman shoots and gets a takedown with a minute left. He lands a few punches and a couple knees as Machida gets back to his feet. Very close round. 10-9 Machida.
Round 3. Weidman lands a nice lead hook early.Weidman shoots for a takedown but can’t get it. Machida throws a head kick but has it blocked. Weidman goes for another takedown but is stuffed. Weidman goes for it again and this time lands it hard. Machida goes into full guard quickly. Machida stands up and is able to avoid a choke in the process. Weidman lands a few hard punches by the cage to Machida. He lands a few more moments later and has Machida in trouble. Machida is wobbly as he backs away. Machida is also cut. Weidman shoots and gets a takedown. Weidman lands some punches and then slams Machida down as Machida tries to get back up. 10-8 Weidman.
Round 4. Machida looks tired and beat up. He does land a nice kick to the body. They trade in the middle, with each man landing. Weidman shoots for a takedown a minute and a half in. He gets Machida down for a second but Machida is able to pop back up. Machida lands a hard hook and some big punches by the cage. he moves in looking to finish but Weidman seems fine. Machida lands a couple more hard punches and backs Weidman by the cage. He stuffs a takedown. The crowd begins to loudly chant for Machida. Machida charges in more wildly than I’ve ever seen, throwing big punches from all angles trying to finish. He eats a big counter knee in the process but lands a heavy hook at the bell. 10-9 Machida. He needs a finish in the final round.
Round 5. Machida lands some big punches early and blocks a takedown. Weidman mises a kick and gets punched in the face. He eats another but his chin continues to hold up very well. Weidman goes for a takedown. Machida blocks it and hits Machida with a huge punch up the middle. He pursues with more shots and has Machida’s cut opened up. He hits a head kick on Machida and a punch. Machida answers back and they trade power shots. Both men begin to trade wild punches. Neither is using the same defensive caution and both are thus connecting a lot. Weidman gets a takedown with 90 seconds left and looks to work into mount. Machida rolls over and Weidman takes his back and flattens him out. Machida gets up with 30 seconds left and lands some big punches. He backs Weidman by the cage and just tees off but it is too late. What an amazing, electric fight that was. 10-9 Weidman, 48-46 Weidman.
Winner: Chris Weidman, unanimous decision (49-45, 48-47, 49-46).
That was a really great fight, the sort of fight where both men come out stronger than they went in. Weidman showed what a good fighter he was while Machida showed the heart to switch up his usual style and make a huge effort to finish late.