UFC 194 contains an extraordinary title fight in the middleweight division between Chris Weidman(13-0) and Luke Rockhold(14-2). When looking over a fight of this caliber one must quickly identify the advantages and disadvantages of each athlete. In the minds of UFC and mma fans as of now, Weidman holds a narrow edge. That’s due to his consistency of defending his championship crown which he has accomplished three times now. Former Strikeforce Champion Luke Rockhold provides a formidable challenge so each man carries unique qualities that can make them successful. This is a not an article about reach, top control or overall speed and endurance. This is an article that enmcompasses so much more looking at the entire match up. The numbers for the two are very similar. The physical attributes of these two are both begging to be in the light heavyweight division. Luckily for us we have a glimpse of what that looks like. One common foe is the basis for what this article was created and that person is Lyoto Machida. A perennial contender is both middle and light heavyweight divisions he has recently fought each with the two past years. By analyzing the performances of both competitors against the same fighter it highlights some of the trends you can expect. Who holds the upper hand between Rockhold and Weidman will be delivered on December 12th, so this serves as fitting conversation piece.
Chris Weidman is a man who set himself on a path for greatness and has never looked back. The UFC middleweight champion may not be as polarizing as it’s other stars but in the cage he is the real deal. His consistent dismantling of opponents has made mma fans take note.Only Machida took him to the distance in one of his title defenses. Still there is a good and bad side to his approach in the cage that could find some openings for Luke. Weidman may be perfect in his record and while great, it does not mean he can’t be beat.
Being the champion always holds an early advantage for any fighter. Mainly because if the fight was to go to a close decision the question is did the challenger do enough to steal the title away. Usually it’s not the case. Weidman is a stalker in the octagon which generally leads to a pressure most athletes aren’t ready for. Being such a great wrestler it allows Chris to move forward and welcome any exchange his opponent offers. On the feet Weidman has shown that against a gifted striker he too can bring a variety of attacks. Against Lyoto Chris surprised many fans of the sport by throwing a nice number of leg kicks. Anytime you deal with such a crafty fighter the lighter on your feet you can be the easier it is to match distance. So instead of throwing his patent overhand right (which is also something to consider in this fight) he used his feet. Weidman is a fighter that has the uncanny ability to find success no matter where the fight goes but so does his opponent which is what makes this such an exciting fight.
His undefeated recorded and staying perfect could cause some slight concern anytime Chris steps in the cage. While it’s not a complete disadvantage it’s one thing that could remain in the back of a fighter’s mind that could make them overly cautious. Weidman’s approach is anything but that. As mentioned before he has no issue getting in close and making the fight a slugfest. The issue lies with how exposed he leaves his head. Against Machida in the beginning and end of the fight Lyoto found a lot of openings. To the point where some questioned if it was a younger Machida some of those hits could have really damaged Weidman. Chris seems like one of those fighters who needs to be hit to get going and against Rockhold that may not work out in his favor. If this fight goes to the ground Weidman is a monster on top but he can’t get too overconfident. Rockhold is as slick as they come off the back and has finishing ability from that position. Chris is a finisher but that aggressiveness on top could steer him towards trouble.
Like Chris Weidman, Luke Rockhold has all the skills and abilities to make you believe he was created for this sport. Training with some of the best fighters in the world has turn the gifted striker into one of the most complete mixed martial arts fighters in the world. With that being said Rockhold does carry two losses on his record. While one is too far back to remember his battle with Vitor Belfort is worth mentioning only for one reason. TRT or not Belfort took the fight to Luke and never allowed him to get comfortable. Against Machida he was dominate as both southpaws stood and traded. The fight was won on the mat but there was some openings that Lyoto found early that could hurt him against Weidman.
Luke Rockhold’s movement is so special that it could be what cancels out Weidman’s pressure. Luke has outstanding footwork and has the unique ability to find his range early against any opponent he faces. Rockhold can change levels with his kicks which keeps fighters guessing and could nullifying the takedown attempts from Weidman. If Chris was to take him down we mentioned before that Rockhold has a guard that is just as deadly. If Luke can damage Chris early by finding a few openings he could easily sway the pace of this match. Rockhold is the better striker in this match up which gives the most obvious advantage. If he can stay moving and not allow Chris to cut off the octagon he should have no issues finding the chin of Chris with his feet or hands.
The reason the Belfort fight was mentioned is more to do with the pressure than the TRT. How Belfort fought on TRT is how Chris fights all the time. So how will Luke deal with Chris staying in his face? Right now it does not look to promising. We know Weidman is going to move forward and continue to the entire night. If Luke does not find his distance early he could be in for a close range dogfight against a guy with tons of power. One overhand right could seal the fate of the slightly taller competitor. Luke has outstanding kicks but one too many could see him on the mat more than he wants. Knowing he has to take the belt from the champion could hurt him if he ends every round on the his back. No matter how good his guard is if he is consistently taken down that could sway the minds of the judges. Not too many fighters are as confident as Luke and dealing with a workhorse like Weidman could spell trouble. If Rockhold feels like he’s damaged Chris early he better finish him. Chris recovers extremely well and finds his way through adversity pretty easily. The entire fight can be dictated on what Luke does when the opportunities present themselves.
On paper this match is closer than what some are predicting. It will come down to the execution of both fighters and whose game plan is more effective. The longer the fight goes the more adjustments will need to be made. It’s hard to determine who truly holds the upper hand which is why many are choosing the champ. That is a safe and understandable bet. The only thing we know for certain is on December 12th at UFC 194 this fight has the chance to be special. With that knowledge the only guaranteed winners are the fans. Remember folks as my friend and DJ Matt Jones said “ Rockhold is good, but Weidman is for the children!”