Baldwin's Chris Weidman knocks out Anderson Silva to win title at UFC 162
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Explaining the magnitude of this moment requires simplicity: Chris Weidman defeated Anderson Silva.
By way of a second-round knockout, the undefeated middleweight from Baldwin beat the greatest mixed martial artist in the 20-plus year history of the sport.
Weidman stood inside the octagon at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, UFC 162 complete and the middleweight title belt strapped around his waist on Saturday night. In this moment, the one he visualized for years, he is the new champion.
In nearly every interview Weidman gave leading up to this fight -- more than a hundred stories were written just this past week alone -- he was rock-solid in his consistency. Weidman, 29, believed he would beat Silva. He said it anytime anyone asked. Never in a disrespectful way, though. There was no "bulletin board material." Part of it was being confident in himself -- if he isn't, who else would be? -- and part of it was believing in the possibility of this moment since that day four-plus years ago when he decided to compete in MMA at 185 pounds. Silva was already the champ then, and in Weidman's mind, he had to believe he could beat the top fighter in his weight class before he even reached the top of that mountain.
He reached that precipice on March 6 when UFC chairman Lorenzo Fertitta told him inside the halls of the Capitol Building in Albany that Silva agreed to the fight. On Saturday night, in the fight capital of the world, Weidman stood alone on that plateau.
Silva appeared to toy with Weidman throughout the first two rounds, daring Weidman to hit him. Weidman connected with a left hook to send Silva to the mat. Weidman started pounding on Silva on the ground before the ref called the fight at 1:18.
"It got to the point where he was putting his hands down and kept talking," Weidman said on the post-fight show. "I'm like, 'You know what, I just want to punch this guy in the face right now.'"
Weidman earned $24,000 in show money, plus another $24,000 in win money, while Silva earned $600,000 for the fight, according to the prize money reported by the UFC to the Nevada State Athletic Commission. That does not include any fight night bonuses, sponsor money or cuts of the pay-per-view money. It also does not include any discretionary bonuses the UFC often pay to fighters for performance.
"I tried to induce Chris to play my game, and that didn't work tonight," Silva said.
UFC 162 did more to elevate Weidman's profile than it did to increase his bank account's average daily balance for July. This was his first time headlining a pay-per-view fight, the first time he had the spotlight - and UFC marketing machine - aimed directly at him. Such exposure - and during UFC's International Fight Week - can only boost the promotional power and marketability of his name.
Many fighters and media had picked Weidman to win. Oddsmakers installed him as an underdog but some of the closest odds ever against Silva (33-5).
But make no mistake: this victory for Weidman, his 10th in as many tries, is a monumental upset. Not necessarily in terms of winning the actual fight, but rather in the fighter he defeated: Anderson. Silva.
It had never been done in the UFC before. Silva's last true loss came 3,109 days ago -- a third-round submission to Ryo Chonan in Pride on Dec. 31, 2004. Silva lost via disqualification for an illegal kick against Yushin Okami at Rumble at the Rock on Jan. 20, 2006.
Weidman was still in college then, earning two-time All-American wrestling honors at both Hofstra and Nassau CC.
"Everyone always says, 'Don't stand up with Anderson Silva,'" Weidman said after the fight. "That's the wrong game plan, but I said screw it. This guy has opened his mouth and I'm gonna try to shut it for him. I got him."
This is the second time a fighter from Long Island won a UFC title. Matt Serra pulled off the biggest upset in UFC history when he knocked out Georges St-Pierre in 2007 to win the welterweight title. GSP is among the three best pound-for-pound fighters in the world now -- and then.
A common thread between both life-altering victories: trainer Ray Longo. Also, Serra was Weidman's first trainer in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and remains a coach and mentor.
Weidman debuted in the UFC in March 2011 after accepting a fight against Alessio Sakara on less than three weeks' notice. He won that fight, and the four after that. He gained momentum in January 2012 after beating Demian Maia by decision, a fight he took on 11 days' notice to literally help pay the bills and had to drop more than 30 pounds in that time frame. But it wasn't until Weidman knocked out Mark Munoz in July 2012 that he became a top-five middleweight.
That was Weidman's last fight until Saturday night against Silva, a 360-day layoff. Weidman was scheduled to fight Tim Boetsch last December in a title eliminator but pulled out in November when he torn the labrum in his shoulder while training and had to have surgery. And that was a month after the bottom floor of his new home was destroyed by superstorm Sandy, forcing him, his wife Marivi and their two children to move into his parents' house while they renovated.
That home has been restored. Perhaps there's room somewhere for that championship belt.