The Film Room: Chris Weidman

By Kevin Wilson Oct 17, 2019
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Former middleweight champion Chris Weidman returns to the Octagon for the first time in nearly a year to take on rising contender Dominick Reyes in the main event of UFC on ESPN 6. Weidman is just 1-4 in his last five fights, but a win over a promising young contender would put him right back into the thick of the title picture six years after winning the 185-pound belt from Anderson Silva.

Weidman isn’t called “The All American” just because he likes apple pie and baseball; he was a two time All American wrestler out of Hofstra University and is one of the best grapplers in the division today. We have seen many wrestlers move to mixed martial arts and not be able to get fights to the ground because they don’t know how to use their striking to set up shots at the hips. Weidman, on the other hand, is a master at using his punches to compliment his wrestling. Since right-handed wrestlers like to shoot for takedowns from a southpaw stance, Weidman’s most-used setup is a straight right punch from orthodox into a southpaw stance before immediately shooting at the hips. This is done to hide the stance switch and give the opponent something to think about before having to defend a takedown, which can overload their reactions and make the takedown easier to land.

Weidman almost always punches into his takedown attempts, but he has shown he can get the fight to the ground without any setups. Reyes has become a rather patient fighter who likes to use his length to outstrike opponents from the outside. He will give foes a healthy dose of feints before coming in with a quick combo and resetting back at range. This has worked for Reyes thus far, but I think this plays right into Weidman’s style of grappling. Reyes heavily relies on setting the range of a fight and struggles when he is forced to fight backward or against the cage. Weidman is a master at cage cutting and forcing prey to the cage, which will give Reyes less room to strike and defend the takedown.

Cage cutting is an odd skill that most people don’t pay too much attention to, but its incredibly important for someone like Weidman. Lyoto Machida is known as one of the most difficult fighters to back to the cage, yet Weidman routinely cut him off and forced him to fight off the fence. Notice how he paws with his lead hand while feinting the right to see how Machida reacts to it. Eventually, Weidman timed his movement and reactions to these feints and forced Machida to the cage anytime he wanted. Also notice how he is not following Machida’s movement and is always one step ahead.

Once on the ground, Weidman has some of the most relentless ground-and-pound in the division and possesses underrated submission skills. Early in his career, before he was comfortable on the feet, Weidman was a pure wrestler in MMA and won three of his first seven fights via submission. Now that he is more comfortable striking, he mostly uses his grappling as a crutch when he cannot get the job done on the feet. However, as he ages it would be beneficial to go back to his grappling roots, especially against a dangerous striker like Reyes.

Many fans were unfamiliar with Weidman before his win over Silva in 2013, but those who followed his early career knew he was a world-class grappler. But nobody expected him to turn into the intelligent and tactical striker he is today. When striking at distance, Weidman favors his kicks, especially since there is no fear of being taken down. He mixes up his kicks beautifully from head to toe and recently developed an effective front kick to the body that slowly drains the opponent’s cardio and allows him to set up his punches and takedowns. His kicks can be a bit sloppy as he drops his hands and leaves his torso upright when throwing them, but overall they are some of his most effective attacks, especially when targeting the body.

Since joining the Ultimate Fighting Championship, Weidman has vastly improved his hands. Although he often overextends his punches and keeps his hands rather low, he has a beautiful lead hook and right straight that he can land on the lead or on the counter. Something to watch for in his striking is how he will use a level-change feint to get his opponents to drop their hands to defend the takedown before coming up with a right hand between their guard. This is something Khabib Nurmagomedov has done his entire career and I hope we see more of it from Weidman in the future. Weidman has lost 4 of his last 5 fights but he hasn’t looked washed up in those performances. He was arguably beating Yoel Romero, Jacare Souza and Luke Rockhold before getting knocked out and the Gegard Mousasi fight had a controversial stoppage. Weidman is still only 35 and primed for a career resurgence with a win over Reyes, but another loss will probably send him into retirement. Now that is the true highs and lows of this sport. Advertisement


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