Known for conquering the once-unconquerable Anderson Silva, Chris Weidman is no longer the fighter he was during his nearly two-year reign as the UFC’s middleweight champion, and heading into his meeting with veteran contender Gegard Mousasi at UFC 210 on April 8th in Buffalo, “The All-American” is in serious need of a statement-making win.
We thought, or maybe just hoped, that we’d finally see the old Weidman when he stepped into the Octagon to face Yoel Romero at last November’s UFC 205. But Romero simply wasn’t having it, ending the fight with a vicious, knockout-victory in the fourth round of a middleweight melee that left Weidman bloodied and undeniably beaten.
Since, Weidman’s stock has dropped even further down the UFC’s middleweight exchange. In a Rocky Balboa-like twist of UFC fate, the division has belonged to 38-year old Michael Bisping since last June—a middleweight who wasn’t even thought of as a legitimate threat to Weidman during his time at the top. And aside from Romero, and possibly former champ Luke Rockhold, the weight class that was once so incredibly entertaining is now starving for proven star-power.
But it isn’t just the fact that Weidman has lost each of his last two fights, it’s the way he’s lost. At UFC 194 in December of 2015, Rockhold took Weidman’s belt by laying an unforgettable beating on the then-undefeated up-stater in a fight that probably should’ve been stopped before veteran ref Herb Dean had finally seen enough. Since eating Romero’s knee, some folks have even suggested that it’s time for Weidman to start fighting a few of the UFC’s lesser-known middleweights in an attempt to rebuild his confidence.
While Mousasi isn’t a household name, and has been under appreciated by the masses for far too long, he is one of the more experienced middleweight contenders. But let’s be honest, he won’t present Weidman with the same type of test he faced against Silva, Vitor Belfort, and Lyoto Machida while they were at least at or near their prime. Nevertheless, a win over Mousasi—especially in front of what will amount to his home crowd in Buffalo, would still give Weidman what he needs to remain relevant in the promotion’s murky middleweight title picture.
Understandably, Weidman was never interested in taking a tour of the UFC’s middleweight basement, and shortly after his upcoming fight with Mousasi was announced in late January, the former 185-pound king told “The MMA Hour” exactly that.
“I want to get that belt back and fighting the toughest guys in the division is the way to do that,” said Weidman. “I don’t take that last loss and think ‘I need to beat some guys who aren’t on my level to get my confidence back.’ I know exactly what I did wrong and what I have to do differently, so I don’t need to fight any guys to get my confidence level up. I’m just as confident as I was. I feel like Mousasi is a great fight for me to get back on my winning ways and get close to fighting for the title again.”
“I want the best guys, I want the guys that……I mean, when have I ever fought a guy who wasn’t a top guy? And Mousasi would be almost a step down from the level of guys I’ve been fighting,” said Weidman.
With Weidman’s history of ill-timed injuries, you can’t blame those who’ve chosen to take the “I’ll believe when I see it” approach to his fights. But injuries aren’t Weidman’s biggest problem right now, and a third straight loss on April 8th would definitely knock the former champion further down the middleweight rankings and possibly out of the division’s title discussion for good.