Former UFC middleweight champion Chris Weidman is making the move up to the 205-pound light heavyweight division, and needs an opponent. After a 1-4 run during his last five fights, a change of scenery is in the cards.
Yeah, Chris Weidman hasn’t tallied consecutive wins since his final two UFC title-defenses in 2014-15. But, it’s not like he’s been fighting no-name opponents. Following his title loss to (new light heavyweight) Luke Rockhold, the first loss of his career, Weidman was stopped by Yoel Romero and current Bellator MMA middleweight title-holder Gegard Mousasi in his next two bouts.
Weidman answered the first losing streak of his career with a dominant submission victory over Kelvin Gastelum. Then, due to injuries, wouldn’t get back in the Octagon for another 15-ish months. In his long awaited return, Weidman would once again battle one of the best 185ers in the world, earning a Fight of the Night bonus en route to a KO loss to Jacare Souza at UFC 230.
Speaking with Mike Bohn of MMA Junkie, Weidman explained why now was the time to leave the middleweight division behind. He’s looking to fight in October, but doesn’t sound fixated on any specific opponent for his light heavyweight debut.
“One side of me is like, ‘Listen, I’ve fought 10 or 11 top-five guys in a row.’ Is it the smart thing to fight a guy who is not on that level?”, Weidman said. “Probably, but I like to take risks. High risk, high reward. The better the guy, the more people doubting, and I think that’s what truly motivates me and excites me.”
Regardless of his rough recent run, Weidman getting a top-10 opponent in his 205-pound debut makes sense. Top-five? Maybe not. Then again, it’s not as though the UFC’s light heavyweight division boasts much depth throughout its official rankings. Whoever the promotion matches Weidman up with will tell us something about his initial standing in the division. Either way, a relatively quick rise to the title picture is there for the taking with a couple of consecutive wins.
So, who could (and should) the promotion match Weidman up against in his light heavyweight debut?
Featuring a handful of up-and-comers (Johnny Walker, Aleksandar Rakic, and Dominick Reyes) as well as some former middleweights (Anthony Smith, Thiago Santos, and Luke Rockhold) there are some interesting potential options for matchmakers Sean Shelby and Mick Maynard.
While those bouts sound fun, the promotion pitting Weidman against guys on the rise in, or already at the top of, the division would be a bit of a surprise. Weidman may be wanting a “high risk, high reward” kind of matchup, but getting a top-10 opponent in his 205-pound debut is plenty risky. Even if the bout doesn’t sound the most exciting on paper.
At the top of our list of recommendations, we’d offer up Volkan Oezdemir. On a three fight losing streak of his own, the former title-challenger is in a weird place. He was recently slated to fight Ilir Latifi at UFC Stockholm, but due to an injury to Latifi, the bout was cancelled. An interesting clash of styles, with a lot on the line for both fighters, Weidman-Oezdemir does more for the division than your average UFC light heavyweight fight.
If a styles clash isn’t the right move, maybe a wrestler-on-wrestler matchup with Corey Anderson works. On the other end of the spectrum, Anderson has been on a roll of late. He went 3-0 in 2018, earning impressive wins over Latifi, Glover Teixeira, and Patrick Cummins. Despite those wins, Anderson still seems to lack a marquee victory. Maybe a shot at a former UFC champion would help.
For Weidman, Anderson offers an opponent that will give him light heavyweight cred with a win, while offering far less challenges on the feet than his recent opponents at middleweight. Anderson has two finishes in his 13-fight UFC career, both TKOs via punches, with the last coming against Sean O’Connell in 2016. The risk may be a bit lower than Weidman would like. But, a victory over Anderson would undoubtedly insert him into the top-10 of the UFC light heavyweight rankings.
Glover Teixeira is having a great 2019 thus far, too. The 39-year-old Brazilian has won his last two fights, submitting Karl Roberson and Ion Cutelaba earlier this year. He’s one of the most well-rounded fighters in the light heavyweight division, and like Anderson, would immediatly give Weidman respect at 205-pounds with a win.
There’s also a bout at UFC 239 that Weidman and the promotion could have their eyes on. The man who took Weidman’s middleweight title, Luke Rockhold, it scheduled to fight sixth-ranked 205er Jan Blachowicz. Weidman getting a crack at the winner of that bout might be a bit much, but what about the loser? Whether it’s a rematch with Rockhold after his own light heavyweight debut, or a battle with Blachowicz coming off of back-to-back losses, the match-up would make sense and potentially fit Weidman’s wants as well.
Let us know what you think of Chris Weidman’s move up to light heavyweight! Is he headed toward a title shot, or asking for more KO losses to be added to his record? Who do you want to see him matched up with in his light heavyweight debut? Comment below, on Facebook, or reply on Twitter!