12 Jul 2012 07:04:55 AM
(A replay of Weidman’s incredible standing elbow and the savage ground-and-pound finish, via fueltv.)
With so many contenders clogging up the upper echelon of the UFC middleweight division — all with their hands out for a title shot — Chris Weidman had to do something extra special to get noticed in his fight against Mark Munoz last night. Because let’s face it: Until now, his name wasn’t setting off alarm bells with many casual fans. Sure, the Serra-Longo-bred wrestler/grappler was 4-0 in the UFC, but his personality wasn’t “colorful” enough to create hype around his fights (à la master salesmen Sonnen, Bisping, Mayhem), and if your most impressive performance in the Octagon is a submission win over Tom Lawlor, you still have a long way to go, right?
So this is how you make your name in the UFC. Step 1) Utterly dominate an opponent who was himself thought to be one of the next challengers to the middleweight title. Step 2) Finish the fight in a way that immediately clinches a spot on future “Best Knockouts of 2012″ lists, both for its technical brilliance (the Spider-esque timing of that standing elbow!) and for its hard-to-watch brutality (uh, you gonna stop this one any time soon, Josh?). Step 3) Call out Anderson Silva after the fight — hell, go ahead and say you can submit him — just four days after Silva re-cemented himself as the most untouchable 185′er in MMA history.
And so, a main event that was not officially a #1 contender’s match might turn out to be one after all. Sure, there are bigger names than Weidman in the title hunt — and maybe he’ll have to fight somebody like Alan Belcher or the Lombard/Boetsch winner before he gets the opportunity — but no matter what the future holds for him, Chris Weidman is a star now. In one fight, he went from being a semi-anonymous contender to the name on every UFC fan’s lips.
Meanwhile, Mark Munoz drops down the ladder where hungry middleweight up-and-comers like Constantinos Philippou and Francis Carmont are on their own heat-seeking paths to contendership. In other words, the UFC middleweight division has never been deeper and more exciting — which makes it the worst possible time to take a high-profile loss, especially one in which you weren’t competitive for a single moment of the fight. We haven’t seen the last of the Filipino Wrecking Machine by any means, but it’s going to take him a long time to claw his way back to where he was before Wednesday night.
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