Anderson Silva has won 17 consecutive bouts, 16 of them in the UFC. | Photo: Zuma Press/Icon SMI
When middleweight champion Anderson Silva meets Chris Weidman at UFC 162 on Saturday in Las Vegas, many believe he will be facing his toughest Ultimate Fighting Championship opponent to date. Though Silva was reluctant to face the lesser-known Weidman a year ago, he has since changed his tune, and fighters, trainers and fans alike have generally supported the legitimate threat Weidman poses. To get a better view, I ran through the 10,000 or so data points on these two fighters to see how they truly match up.
The Tale of Tape shows two fighters that are evenly sized, and both have above average reach for their division. The most glaring item on the tape is that Silva is now 38 years old, which means he will give up a sizable nine-year Youth Advantage to Weidman. This will be the most significant age differential of Silva’s career in the UFC, and he will be on the wrong side of it. However, Silva’s unmatched experience in UFC title fights will likely be an asset against Weidman’s short trip to first-time title contention.
Countering Weidman’s Youth Advantage is Silva’s versatile stance. A natural southpaw, Silva can and does switch stances often during fights. It is not a huge difference, but orthodox-stance fighters tend to perform poorly in a variety of metrics when facing left-handers.
One of the last items on our enhanced Tale of the Tape is the layoff. Analysis has shown ring rust to be a real factor for fighters with a layoff of 12 months or more. Weidman is essentially right at that cutoff, and a shoulder injury resulted in surgery and forced him out of a December bout with Tim Boetsch. The bottom line is that Weidman will need all the youthful resilience he can muster to bounce back on the UFC’s biggest stage against the crafty and dangerous veteran champion.
Now, let us dive into performance metrics, starting with striking.
I have done the math, and the answer is clear. In addition to holding various records for accuracy and knockdowns, Silva is statistically and punch-for-punch the most dangerous striker to ever compete in the UFC. He outperforms in all skill metrics on offense and defense, not by just a little but by a lot. In a more macro sense, he is simply efficient in delivering damage; his 68 percent Significant Striking accuracy is also the highest in UFC history.
In comparison, Weidman is above average with his jab accuracy, generally outworks his opponents and has striking defense that is quite good. In terms of his power striking, he lags the division in accuracy and ranks in the middle of the pack in his knockdown rate. He throws exactly the average mix of power strikes, as compared to Silva, who throws slightly more heat.
The only areas that give a small advantage to Weidman are in pace and clinch defense. While few people are predicting Weidman will get the best of the experienced muay Thai practitioner in the clinch, the pace factor may be a real advantage. Weidman is more likely to control the cage and push the pace, and he normally operates at a higher overall rate of striking than Silva. He may use this to his advantage to win standup points with volume by exploiting Silva’s need to guard against takedowns. That brings us to the ground game, where this gets more interesting.
The highest performing stats on the ground go to Weidman. He attempts a little more than two takedowns per round, which is well above average, and lands them with a success rate that is nearly twice the average. While Silva’s own takedown success rate is similarly high, it only takes into account four career attempts in the UFC. Historically, he has rarely attempted to go to ground.
On defense, Weidman’s perfect mark in takedown defense rounds out his superior wrestling metrics, but Silva is no slouch, having defended takedowns at an above average rate against 57 total attempts from his opponents. All things considered, it would be surprising if “The Spider” ends up in top position, but a healthy Silva should not go down easily.
Once on the ground, Weidman has been dominant, with more frequent position advances and a strong ratio of striking from his ground-and-pound work. He is also more likely to attempt submissions, with two finishes to his credit in his compact UFC fight history.
While Silva’s jiu-jitsu credentials should not be underestimated, it does seem like grappling gives Weidman the greatest chance for success, at the least to win rounds. Many have suggested he can implement the Chael Sonnen game plan of pushing forward, relentlessly going for takedowns and then trying to work a conservative ground-and-pound attack. Based on the numerous rounds Sonnen won against Silva with this recipe, it sure seems like a good approach. In fact, in several key ground performance statistics, Weidman actually has been superior to Sonnen, which means he is well-equipped to utilize this strategy.
The Final Word
The current betting line favors the Silva (-265), with the comeback for the challenger Weidman at +225. That means the market is giving Silva a 73 percent chance of keeping his belt at UFC 162.
Labeling Weidman as Silva’s most dangerous opponent yet in the UFC is debatable based on his performance stats, but it is definitely not true based on betting lines throughout Silva’s career. In six different UFC matchups, Silva has been pegged at lower odds than he is now, including the one time when he was an underdog in the UFC against then champion Rich Franklin. That Silva’s chances for success have been lower, according to the market, against Franklin (twice), Chris Leben, Nate Marquardt, Dan Henderson and Vitor Belfort puts at least part of this question to rest. With that said, there are still a few days for the hype machine to take effect, and the line could easily migrate back towards the challenger.
Either way, the fact remains that the leading candidate for the “Greatest of All-Time” tag gets older and closer to retirement with each appearance, all while his foes continue to elevate their games. Silva’s running record for most title defenses also means the middleweight division is ever hungrier for an upset and new blood. Perhaps no other mixed martial artist possesses the same weapons Silva embodies, but there may be more complete and stronger fighters on the horizon, and Weidman seems to fit the bill.
What do you think? Are there any specific metrics you believe give Weidman a better chance than the current market predicts? Are there any specific factors that will determine the outcome of this matchup?
Next month, we will turn our attention to UFC 163, where “The Korean Zombie” Chan Sung Jung invades Brazil for a shot at Jose Aldo’s featherweight title.
Note: Raw data for the analysis was provided by, and in partnership with FightMetric. All analysis was performed by Reed Kuhn. Reed Kuhn, Fightnomics, FightMetric and Sherdog.com assume no responsibility for bets placed on fights, financial or otherwise.
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