UFC middleweight Chris Weidman faces the biggest and most-profile test of his young MMA career when he takes on a man many if not most observers believe to be the best fighter of all time in UFC middlweight champion Anderson Silva in the main event of UFC 162 tonight.
Before he gets there, though, there is another middleweight and one former middleweight turned welterweight who believe they can offer Weidman advice. Admittedly, neither man defeated Silva. No one inside the UFC ever has. But they did face him and have at least some sense of what it's like to be in there with an all-time great.
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"Don't play into Anderson's game. Fight your fight. Anderson Silva is mortal and any mortal can be beaten," Chris Leben told Ariel Helwani on Monday's The MMA Hour. "He's human. He can make mistakes. He can be knocked out. He can be submitted just like anyone else. I think the biggest thing is a lot of guys have already beaten themselves before they step in the cage with him."
Leben was quickly stopped with strikes in the first round of Silva's UFC debut in June of 2006. Leben told Helwani he believed Silva to be dangerous, but didn't consider at the time of their bout that Silva would go to the heights he eventually reached.
"I get asked that question quite a bit, believe it or not," Leben said. "Obviously the answer there would no, not really. We knew - my coach at the time being Matt Hume, who had been ringside for several of Anderson's fights - I knew he was a dynamic, explosive striker. I knew the losses he had had kind of made him underestimated. We knew it was going to be a tough fight going in, but I don't think anybody could have ever guessed that he was going to do the amazingness that he has done."
Now a welterweight, Patrick Cote knows a thing or two about facing Silva. Cote crossed paths with 'The Spider' in October of 2008, this time for in a title bout. The fight ended abruptly when Cote suffered a knee injury in the third. While most observers had Silva easily winning the fight, it wasn't a violent affair and Cote did his best to hang with the champion.
So, Cote's advice for Weidman?
"To be patient because if you start to chase or to run after him, he's going to make you look bad because his footwork is so good," Cote told Helwani also on Monday's The MMA Hour. "And he's very accurate. That's the hardest thing to deal with with Anderson Silva. He's so accurate. He doesn't throw something for nothing. Just be patient and grab the opportunity to maybe close the distance and put him on his back. But if he's too anxious and he tries to run after Silva, Silva is going to make him look bad for sure, like he did against [Stephan] Bonnar; like he did against Forrest Griffin. Both guys wanted to go too fast forward and we saw what happened.
"I think [Silva] can finish everyone in this division, for sure," Cote continued. "But, like I said, once again, if Weidman is patient and waiting for the right time and the right opportunity to close the distance, I think he has a chance, but you know what? Silva is so hard to get in close because his footwork, his range and accuracy is so good, too."
For his part, Cote respects Weidman and his ability as well as some of the unique talents he possesses. But forced to make a pick about who will emerge victorious, Cote leans toward the sure thing.
"I'll go with Anderson Silva," he said. "This guy is just one of a kind. He's amazing. I don't think Weidman will have the stand-up skills there with Anderson Silva to be able to get up close to wrestle him and put him on his back and go for submission or use his wrestling. If he's able to do it, I think Silva will be in trouble, but he has to be close. He has to close the distance. I don't think it's going to happen."