When you're showcasing the greatest fighter on your roster, you're not risking that much. When you're placing him opposite a man some believe to be a sincere threat to that greatest fighter, you're risking quite a bit, some might say. I'd argue just the opposite.
Silva is a bonafide star and draw at this point, although one can make the case that on his own his drawing power diminishes to a noticeable degree when not paired with the appropriate foil. Even if true, the point is this: he's an ultra valuable commodity for the UFC. That's particularly true as long as he's winning, which he's done flawlessly for the better part of seven years.
But MMA is a game where limits and age and rust show up unannounced and unexpectedly. The best you can hope for is a graceful exit and the opportunity to pass the torch to the youth. Weidman, if he wins (and that's a big if), at least has the benefit of relative youth. He's only 29. There's time for him to do more work while he's in his physical prime. In other words, should Silva stop winning (which I'm stating only as a hypothetical), at least it's not to someone at 34 or 35 whose upside is limited.
This is all speculation. Even if Weidman loses, he's hardly some promotional darling. It's not real skin of the UFC's back to see him join the ranks of the Spider's victims. If he loses, it's because Silva kept winning. As we stated before, that's an outcome the UFC is all too happy to accept.
Weidman isn't necessarily the right ingredient or spark to maximize interest in seeing Silva compete, at least not yet. But Silva has enough of his own gravity to make UFC 162 a financial and promotional success. The best part is no matter which way the screw turns, the UFC has the latitude to make effective use out of any outcome.
At stake: making history or becoming part of it. In some sense, there isn't much to say about the stakes here. They are at once crystallized into a single achievement, i.e. becoming (or remaining) a champion and wearing a belt. On the other hand, the stakes feel so enormous as to almost be outside the boundaries of written description.
Is this a night that MMA's most impressive win streak comes to an end? Then yes, the implications are innumerable for both fighters. Weidman will have done the impossible and made a claim to being one of the best fighters in the world. Is this an evening where the world's best works his incredible yet almost routine magic? If so, then it's just another day at the office.
Either way, though, Silva's legacy is intact. There is a case to be made that Weidman possesses the skills of other Silva foes, but without many of their fatal flaws. But, at the time of this writing, that's really just a guess. If true, it would mean Silva has faced every conceivable sort of challenge there is at 185 pounds. If not, well, it's going to be a short night for the Long Island native. It's just hard to see how a resume as impressive as Silva's can be impugned with a loss at this stage in his career even to an opponent Weidman is presumed to be. One wouldn't undercut the other, although it would be part of his larger record.
But that record is so incredible, so long, so nearly impossible to mimic, a loss - should it even happen, which is highly debatable - still couldn't undo all that he's built. This night is about Weidman. Either he makes history or becomes a part of it.
At stake: getting back on the horse. Both fighters desperately need a win here, but none more so than Edgar. Three consecutive losses, even if controversial, are incredibly draining a fighter's mental well being. Winning isn't just essential for career success; it's also about the process of validation. That's particularly true when coming off the worst career slump of one's career in the case of Edgar. Oliveira has been inconsistent, too, and needs to right the ship or earn a signature win over someone with a scalp as prized as Edgar's. Neither guy is that far away from a title shot, but first things first: get back on the winning track. One fight at a time, one round at a time. Tonight is about the win. The rest will fall into place later.
At stake: a place to shine. This is a fun fight between two credible albeit categorically different fighters. It's also a fight whose true significance is for the fighters themselves. In other words, a win offers the victor (arguably) bigger paydays, better placement on card and more visibility, generally. None of that is guaranteed, but that's the usual pattern over time. A loss probably wouldn't result in either fighter being cut, although with Kennedy's statements on fighter pay, I wouldn't rule it out. The point is that there aren't huge divisional implications here. This is about preserving or earning a better space to occupy in the UFC.
At stake: a place in the queue. Munoz and Boetsch are very talented middleweights, but we must also acknowledge both have clear limitations insofar as being the best in the world is considered. Boetsch has the more impressive resume on paper, but his two best wins at middlweight were a hail mary come from behind victory and ultra lackluster win. Munoz seems to be the better athlete, but is 35 years of age now, coming off of the worst win of his career and a depression that had his weight ballooning up to 260 pounds.
What they're fighting for is some validation at the weight class despite what they've already achieved. They've both come close to climbing the ranks to the top only to be badly derailed. One of them needs to and will prove tonight they're deserving of a second look when it comes to contender talk. Even if they have their own limits, the winner can argue they can make another run at things with the right approach and a healthy future.
At stake: being a real featherweight contender. Swanson is on a roll. For a guy choked out by Jens Pulver and blasted to smithereens by Jose Aldo, he has managed to stay healthy and turn things around. He's not just beating credible opposition; he's annihilating them. Siver isn't quite the destroyer at featherweight that Swanson is, at least not yet. But the drop from lightweight appears to be working and he, too, is defeating opposition that merits a tip of the cap. The issue for these gentleman is moving forward and becoming something more; something a promoter can use and well, promote. These two are on the precipice of being real contenders in this weight class. An impressive victory tonight will be all the evidence the UFC needs that the winner is capable of great heights.