Perhaps Anderson Silva has some work left to do at 185 pounds after all.
Mere days after “The Spider” extended his unfathomable reign atop the Ultimate Fighting Championship’s middleweight division, the undefeated Chris Weidman announced his arrival as a legitimate threat to his throne. The 28-year-old Baldwin, N.Y., native cast aside Mark Munoz with a vicious second-round knockout in the UFC on Fuel TV 4 main event on Wednesday at the HP Pavilion in San Jose, Calif.
However, it was not just the manner with which he dispatched Munoz that had people -- including Weidman himself -- calling for a matchup with the middleweight king. A physically gifted wrestler with developing standup and an exquisite submission game, Weidman carries with him the skill set that seems tailor-made for dethroning Silva.
Weidman beat Munoz in every imaginable facet, as he upped his record to a perfect 5-0 inside the Octagon. The Serra-Longo Fight Team representative grounded the NCAA wrestling champion with surprising ease, nearly submitted him on more than one occasion and then shredded him with a savage standing elbow.
Weidman burst on the global scene in 2009, when he qualified for the prestigious Abu Dhabi Combat Club Submission Wrestling World Championships after only eight months of formal training and pushed seven-time Brazilian jiu-jitsu world champion Andre Galvao to the limit in a memorable match. A four-time collegiate wrestling All-American at Nassau Community College and Hofstra University, he now finds himself on the doorstep to mixed martial arts superstardom.
If a showdown with Silva does come next, Weidman will face an incredible hurdle. The 37-year-old Brazilian has won 16 consecutive fights, 15 of them inside the Octagon, 10 of them title defenses. Silva took out Chael Sonnen in their emotionally charged rematch at UFC 148 on Saturday in a performance that had some pondering whether or not the champion should consider moving to the light heavyweight division. However, Weidman’s flawless performance against Munoz has given rise to renewed hope that “The Spider” still has viable options at his natural weight, even as his title reign heads towards the 2,100-day mark.
In wake of UFC on Fuel TV 4 “Weidman vs. Munoz,” here are six other matchups that need to be made:
Mark Munoz vs. Hector Lombard-Tim Boetsch loser: One has to wonder where Munoz goes from here. At 34, his best days may be behind him. Still, the relative lack of depth at 185 pounds works in his favor, along with his wrestling pedigree and buzzsaw ground-and-pound. Lombard and Boetsch will throw leather at UFC 149 in Canada in a little more than a week. The winner moves up the middleweight food chain. The loser should get Munoz.
James Te Huna vs. Forrest Griffin: Te Huna has quietly compiled a 4-1 mark since entering the UFC in February 2010, losing only to the world-ranked Alexander Gustafsson. The 30-year-old New Zealand native wields frightening power in his hands, and it was on full display in his unanimous decision victory against Joey Beltran in the co-main event. Griffin, fresh off a win over the retiring Tito Ortiz, has spoken candidly about his willingness to test some of the up-and-comers in the 205-pound division. Te Huna certainly fits the description.
Aaron Simpson vs. Jon Fitch: Simpson and Fitch were originally scheduled to meet at UFC on Fuel TV 4, but an injury resulted in Fitch’s exit and paved the way for Simpson’s unanimous verdict over Kenny Robertson. Provided both men are healthy, a Simpson-Fitch matchup still makes sense.
Francis Carmont vs. Constantinos Philippou: Outside of Weidman, perhaps no man did more to raise his profile in San Jose, Calif., than Carmont. The Tristar Gym representative dominated Karlos Vemola, ultimately finishing the Czech with a rear-naked choke 1:39 into the second round. A physical specimen at 6-foot-3, 185 pounds, Carmont has blossomed as he entered his competitive prime, rattling off eight consecutive victories. Philippou, Weidman’s heavy-handed Serra-Longo Fight Team stablemate, could provide the Frenchman with a worthy test.
T.J. Dillashaw vs. Raphael Assuncao: Dillashaw has a lot going for him. The still-developing 26-year-old Team Alpha Male representative needed a little more than half a round to submit Englishman Vaughan Lee with a rear-naked choke. The UFC has brought along Dillashaw slowly since he reached the final of “The Ultimate Fighter” Season 14, but perhaps the time has come to take off the training wheels. Assuncao, a former featherweight, has posted back-to-back wins since moving to 135 pounds.
Rafael dos Anjos vs. Melvin Guillard: The 27-year-old dos Anjos showed off new dimensions to his game in capturing a unanimous decision from Nigerian striker Anthony Njokuani. He hounded Njokuani in close quarters, crowding him with punches and takedowns and notching his sixth win in eight appearances. The Brazilian may never find his way into the highest levels of the lightweight division, but he has proven himself a rock-solid performer at 155 pounds. The enigmatic Guillard righted himself at UFC 148 and seems like a logical next stop for dos Anjos.