Chris Weidman: The Invisible Champion

Invisibility will always remain a superpower most of us dream of acquiring.

As a kid, I remember pulling a blanket over my head and walking around my house pretending to be unseen.

I would creep up on my mom, peer around the corner at my dad or run around like a banshee with wings.

But as magnificent and pure as that was, being invisible in today’s world doesn’t necessarily equate to immediate awesomeness.

From coffee lines to UFC supremacy, we are often better seen for what we are—no false representations, transparent masteries or undiscovered potential.

Because whether we’re ordering an iced latte with sugar and milk (my girlfriend’s favorite) or defending the UFC middleweight throne in succession, it’s almost always beneficial to be noticed.

I guess that’s why champion Chris Weidman remains such an anomaly in the current state of mixed martial arts.

In hindsight, Weidman is everything we could ask for.

He’s humble, a true sponge in the gym, capable of handling himself on the mic and an undefeated titleholder who has shown nothing but excellence inside of the Octagon.

Not to mention the 30-year-old is young enough to prolong his current dominance and put the middleweight division back on the proverbial map since you-know-who was overtaken.

For Weidman‘s stock, one which is currently in a state of limbo, everything seems to add up.

But for some reason, he remains the UFC’s invisible champion.

He’s the very same champion who rewrote the history books by snuffing out Anderson Silva’s every move on two separate yet monumental occasions.

He’s the same polarizing athlete who recently stood and exchanged with Lyoto Machida, a former light heavyweight champion who is regarded as arguably the best counterstriker of all time.

Yeah, he’s that guy. The one who has racked up five UFC finishes, three title-fight victories and has a perfect takedown defense.

For some unforeseen, uneducated reason, Weidman has flown under the radar like a sixth-grader at varsity tryouts.

People might point out the fact that his titanic finishes of Silva were sparked by an unknown source of fortunate timing and calculation, but that sort of argument is a farce.

Others might point out the fact that Weidman hasn’t defended his title as many times as other standout kingpins like Jon Jones, Cain Velasquez, Jose Aldo and even Demetrious “Mighty Mouse” Johnson.

The rest of the pack will remark over the New Yorker’s lack of natural ability, citing striking imperfections, a lack of technicality and the aforementioned knack for being in the right place at the right time.

Is it fair?

Not one bit.

But this business is built around images, not necessarily skill sets or resumes. Just look at Conor McGregor’s popularity, which came even though he hasn’t fought anybody within the featherweight division’s Top 10, let alone defeat them.

In any case, Weidman‘s image is somehow faded. Like a flickering flashlight in a room of lamps, his presence has not completely manifested itself.

However, that’s subject to change, especially if he can decisively knock off Vitor Belfort and defend his title for the third straight time at UFC 181 on Dec. 6 in Las Vegas.

If he can do that then there will be no denying his superstar bravado. There will be no more excuses, no more silly proclamations regarding his in-cage effectiveness and no lackluster assaults on his future potential.

With one more victory, Weidman will finally be recognized for what and who he is: one of the best pound-for-pound middleweights this sport has ever seen.

 

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Andrei Arlovski Blasts Alistair Overeem Following Injury to UFC Champ Jon Jones

Alistair Overeem isn’t a popular guy lately.

Not that he’s ever won a popularity contest with MMA fans, but Overeem has left fans with a sour taste in their mouths following the news that he injured UFC light heavyweight champion Jon Jones in preparation for Jones’ fight against Daniel Cormier at UFC 178.

Although the injury was pegged as accidental by nearly everyone involved, former UFC heavyweight champ Andrei Arlovski believes differently. He spoke with Sports.ru (h/t Bloody Elbow’s Karim Zidan), and the interview was translated by MixedMartialArts.com.

“Now I know that Overeem injured Jon Jones simply because he injures everyone he trains with,” Arlovski said.

Arlovski shared his own story about how “The Reem” sent him to the hospital following a round of sparring:

Couple of days ago I sparred with Overeem and learned such outcome by my own experience. Usually sparring partners don’t try to inflict a real damage to each other. But Overeem at one moment kneed me really hard in the stomach. In a real fight I could have been KO’ed after that.

I rushed to a hospital to make sure that my ribs are not broken.

Luckily, Arlovski wasn’t seriously injured, and his scheduled fight against a returning Antonio “Bigfoot” Silva will go down as planned.

Arlovski’s statements echo those made by Overeem’s former training partners at the Blackzilian camp in Florida. According to Bloody Elbow’s Karim ZidanGilbert Burns claimed Overeem was “arrogant” and left after blowing out the knee of Guto Inocente during their training sessions.

The injury to Inocente was also caused by an Overeem takedown.

Another former teammate, Anthony “Rumble” Johnson said virtually the same thing as Arlovski, per Fighters Only‘s Nick Peet (h/t MMA Mania’s Adam Guillen Jr.). The surging light heavyweight contender said if UFC matchmaker Joe Silva offered him to fight Overeem, he’d do it in a heartbeat.

Overeem did have a very public fallout from the Blackzilians so it’s to be expected that they might not have the nicest things to say about him. But it’s an entirely different matter when those kind of statements come from Arlovski, a current member of the Jackson’s MMA team.

Former opponent and now teammate Travis Browne has already set the law down on what he (and likely the rest of the team) expects from Overeem joining their ranks.

Of course accidents happen all the time during training, and knee injuries are common during grappling sessions. But Overeem has been in the game long enough to know his own strength, his limits and how to conduct himself in a professional manner behind closed doors.

He’s had a negative reputation for years from fellow fighters and fans. Outside of eliminating world hunger, it’s not likely to change. The only one who knows if the incident was completely accidental is Overeem, and he will likely continue with the “it was an accident” story.

Accident or not, injuring the best fighter in the world—the face of the Jackson’s MMA and one of the few major marketable stars currently in the UFC—isn’t the way to endear yourself to the promotion or your new teammates.

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Following Eddie Alvarez Signing, Whom Should Bobby Green Be Matched Up With?

Understandably, most were excited about the news that Eddie Alvarez had signed with the UFC and will meet Donald Cerrone at UFC 178 on September 27, per Brett Okamoto of ESPN.com. Lightweight contender Bobby Green probably wasn’t among those pleased, though.

With Alvarez being paired up against Cerrone, Green is left without a scheduled bout. Green was originally booked to meet Jorge Masvidal at UFC 178, but he later had his adversary switched to Cerrone only to see that matchup fall apart with the UFC snatching up the former Bellator MMA lightweight champion.

Having won his first four UFC fights and eight in a row overall, Green has earned a bout with another top-10 lightweight contender. A matchup with Cerrone gave him that, but UFC matchmakers will now have to find another noteworthy combatant to stand across the Octagon from Green.

Luckily, in a stacked 155-pound class, options are abundant for the Strikeforce veteran.

Currently, Khabib Nurmagomedov and Michael Johnson are the top-10 lightweights available to be booked. However, the winner of an August 23 bout between Benson Henderson and Rafael dos Anjos will also soon be freed up. Additionally, inactive contenders TJ Grant and Nate Diaz are out there and could soon be looking for fights.

Because he was ready to go next month, Green will probably be looking for a quick turnaround. For that reason, some of the potential opponents mentioned above can probably be eliminated right away.

Nurmagomedov injured his knee during July and is expected to be out of action until 2015. Similarly, Johnson underwent shoulder surgery recently and isn’t likely to be back inside the Octagon very soon as he recovers. Furthermore, Diaz has been disputing his contract, and little progress has been made toward him returning to competition.

While Grant has had a long road back from a concussion, he has said he hopes to return in the coming months, per Dann Stupp of MMA Junkie. The winner of the UFC Fight Night 49 main event between Henderson and dos Anjos would also be a very appropriate foe for Green as he looks to climb the lightweight rankings.

It has been 15 months since Grant last competed, so he could probably use a tuneup bout before competing against somebody like Green. For that reason, via process of elimination, I expect Green to meet the winner of Saturday’s contest between Henderson and dos Anjos, assuming that person emerges healthy.

Although Green would be a slight step down for either man, he might end up being the best option out there for them as well.

With two losses to 155-pound champion Anthony Pettis, Henderson won’t be getting a title shot any time soon. Should he upset Henderson, dos Anjos will probably still need another win or two before getting a title shot, as it would appear likely Cerrone and Alvarez will be battling to be next in line for the winner of an upcoming title fight between Pettis and Gilbert Melendez.

Green had some tough luck in losing his bout with Cerrone, but the disappointment might prove to be worth it should it result in a bout with a former titleholder like Henderson.

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Dan Henderson vs. Wanderlei Silva: The Very Best Novelty Fight the UFC Can Make

The UFC’s novelty circuit is alive and well.

Truly, don’t cry for it. Yes, it lost Rich Franklin earlier this year. Then it lost Chael Sonnen just as Uncle P. was riding in to reinforce it. It was robbed of Chris Leben before he even got there. Vitor Belfort is still getting title fights.

I know it looks bleak, but there’s still much to celebrate. Michael Bisping is visiting the tour with his upcoming bout against perennial novelty Cung Le. Will he be there to stay? We’ll soon have our answer. Roy Nelson and Mark Hunt will throw down this September in the biggest circus bout of 2014. Big guys. Big fists. Big personalities. Big paydays.

But perhaps the most heartening news is that the circuit still has two of its very best standard-bearers: Dan Henderson and Wanderlei Silva. Neither age nor trauma nor the banning of TRT will stay them from the completion of their appointed rounds.

In fact, Silva challenged Henderson just three weeks ago. Hendo accepted. And you know what? That’s a good thing, because this is a fight that needs to happen. 

For the uninitiated, novelty or “fun” fights basically involve pitting big-name but past-their-prime fighters against each other in a bout that has no larger implications whatsoever but attracts interest because of the name value involved.

Franklin made money this way for years. Ditto for Forrest Griffin and the still-enduring-in-some-form Tito Ortiz, whose 2012 rubber match with Griffin might be one of the most notable (and depressing) examples of the subgenre.

So, you can see how Hendo and Wandy fit the mold like fingerless gloves. Both men are surefire Hall of Famers. Their combined age (81) is almost as impressive as their combined professional record (65-24-1-2). Both are decorated ex-champions. Both have one-name recognizability.

As with all the best novelty fights, the entertainment factor is strong, if schadenfreude-tinged, with this one. Silva is the most aggressive fighter in the history of big-time MMA, and none of his 38 years are slowing down his will to finish—even if his fists, feet and, uh, neurotransmissions are a touch more lethargic these days.

Henderson is the walking embodiment of a puncher’s chance, using his Olympic wrestling pedigree as a simple deterrent, a preventive measure that forces opponents to expose themselves to his curtain-closing right hand.

And MMA fans are a nostalgic bunch. They will all surely remember (or at least pretend to remember) the Pride days, when Silva won the open-weight grand prix and Henderson held belts in two different weight classes, among other accomplishments. They’ll also remember that these two have twice fought before, with Silva prevailing by decision back in 2000 and Henderson capturing revenge and the middleweight title with a first-round knockout in 2007.

But none of that is what makes this a must-book. All joking aside, the fact is, both of these guys could probably stand to hang up the gloves. It’s not like either of these MMA celebrities are without prospects after fighting. Their prospects in the cage, though, are dimmer than ever. Henderson has lost four of his last five. Silva is 4-5 since joining the UFC in 2007.

This will be Silva’s 50th pro fight, and there’s clear symmetry in a rubber match. Despite their age, both these men are capable of inflicting a big knockout. Could they send the other permanently out of the cage?

No one roots for a fighter, much less a Hall of Famer, to leave under duress. But this novelty stuff, as fun of a diversion as it can be, is beneath these guys. No one’s suggesting it’s not their decision to make. However, you like to see people make good decisions when possible. Especially in a sport that common sense and, increasingly, hard science tell us has a very negative and decidedly snowballish effect on brain health and safety.

Given these factors, it stands to reason that playing out the string as a shell of your former self is something better avoided in MMA. Nevertheless, that’s solidly where these two are, for reasons that are hard for us outsiders to discern. What will make them see the light? Maybe this is finally it.

Scott Harris writes about the serious and silly aspects of MMA, sometimes both at the same time, for Bleacher Report. For more of this sort of thing, follow Scott on Twitter.

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War Machine to Be Extradited to Nevada for Alleged Christy Mack Assault

Embattled ex-Bellator welterweight War Machine will be extradited back to Nevada prior to standing before a jury of his peers regarding the alleged beating of porn star ex-girlfriend Christy Mack, as well as her new love interest—Corey Thomas. 

The Associated Press, via the Boston Herald, reported this afternoon that War Machine, formerly Jon Koppenhaver, waived extradition in Ventura County Superior Court—agreeing to transfer back to Nevada before his case is heard.

Prosecutors in Las Vegas filed multiple felony battery, assault and coercion charges that could get Koppenhaver a total of more than 25 years in prison if he is convicted. He also faces a misdemeanor lewdness count involving the groping of Mack,” the report stated.

Although he has already pleaded his innocence in the matter, the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department’s report on the matter tells a different story (report contains NSFW and graphic descriptions).

In short, authorities said that Koppenhaver beat Thomas until he was bleeding “profusely,” which is when the pro fighter focused his attention on Mack—punching her in the face and kicking her in the ribs once she hit the ground. 

While War Machine will have his day in court to explain what happened in Mack’s home on August 9, her injuries are indisputably very serious and very real.

War Machine has previously served jail time for a particularly violent bar brawl in San Diego that took place in 2010, per TMZ Sports

As TMZ Sports also revealed, War Machine is currently facing seven criminal charges for his alleged assault—five of which are felonies. 

The Associated Press reports it is unclear if War Machine has retained legal counsel in this matter yet.

 

John Heinis is a featured columnist for Bleacher Report. He is also the MMA editor for eDraft.com.

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