Less than six months removed from one of the biggest upsets in UFC history, former middleweight champion Anderson Silva has honed his mental focus for his rematch against Chris Weidman in UFC 168.
The 38-year-old blamed himself for the second-round knockout suffered at UFC 162 back in July, and many critics hounded Silva for his histrionics, strutting and taunting Weidman in the first bout. It was the first knockout sustained by the Brazilian in his illustrious career.
The rematch will once again take place at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas on Saturday, Dec. 28, and Silva attributed his first loss in seven years to a “bad day” at work to the Los Angeles Times.
“When I go inside the ropes to fight, I’m not joking, because there’s danger,” Silva said. “The last fight, I have the fault of Weidman winning.
“... Some days, you have a good day for working, some days you have a bad day for working. The last fight was my bad day.”
Undefeated with four career knockouts, Weidman is taking his first title defense just as seriously as his first meeting with the always dangerous Silva.
"I still feel like I have everything to lose in this fight," Weidman said on Tuesday to MMA Fighting. "Like I said before, I need to win this fight to solidify me as champion, and to achieve my other long-term goals I need to win this fight. I put a lot of pressure on myself. This is just the same mentality as the last one."
Even as the reigning champion, Las Vegas odds have pegged the 29-year-old out of New York as a +135 underdog. But Weidman’s trainer Ray Longo went so far as to say his fighter will force Silva to submit.
Such a bold prognostication could be out of reach for Weidman, considering Silva has submitted only twice in 38 professional fights and his unorthodox style combining several styles of martial arts with boxing has provided him with plenty of expertise to escape or avoid any of Weidman’s holds.
Longo has said training for the rematch will be very similar to the first bout, employing the kicking tactics and methods of welterweight Stephen Thompson.
"Yeah, [Stephen Thompson]'s here right now. He's been here the past week or two," Longo also said to MMA Fighting. "He's awesome. He's always a big help. His father's awesome. He's awesome. They know how to work. His kicks are good. His kicks are probably some of the best I've ever seen. He's very fast. Again, great sparring partner. Great guy. Yeah, big addition."
Prediction: It’s difficult to bet against Silva, who appears more far more focused for the rematch and has never lost two consecutive fights. Weidman could be less aggressive, and just parry Silva’s attacks while trying to win on points. The fight should go the full five rounds, but with Silva winning back the belt in a decision.