April 7, 2017

UFC 210: Chris Weidman's Career Is At A Vital Crossroad

By Raphael Garcia

In professional sports, coaches are there for an athlete’s greatest triumphs and worst failures. Former UFC Middleweight Champion Chris Weidman has experienced both in his relatively short UFC tenure. While speaking with Ariel Helwani on Monday’s edition of The MMA Hour, Weidman’s coach, Ray Longo, provided some strong insight into the current state of his athlete as he prepares to face Gegard Mousasi in the co-main event at UFC 210:

"If you think about it, there was only one way to go. You can’t keep going up and up and up. So we plateaued a little bit before. I think that’s going to be the mantra. That’s behind us, and we really had to go back to what got us there and really just move forward."

“Plateaued” is a strong word to use. Weidman is in the midst of a two-fight losing streak. He dropped the UFC middleweight title to Luke Rockhold at UFC 194. The rebound fight came a year later, but Weidman was unable to rebound, as he was stopped in vicious fashion by Yoel Romero in the third round at UFC 205.

For Weidman, dropping two fights isn’t the only concern; it’s also the fact that the “All-American” has a frequent injury problem that is cutting into his professional career. Since joining the UFC in 2011 he’s fought just under two fights per year, on average. The injuries that have kept him out of the cage, such as his recent neck issues, are the type that would cause major concern for any athlete, let alone one who steps into the dangerous world of mixed martial arts. Longo recognized those issues during the interview and referenced the team getting back on track as they prepared for this fight: 

“Who knows, I mean I think maybe we all got scattered a little bit. But we’re all back. I really put a lot into this camp myself as a coach, and I got a lot of help from a lot of other people, which I appreciate. I’m really psyched for this fight...He really, this was a time to get selfish, and just concentrate on your training. And I think the kid went beyond where we’ve been in a while, and I think it shows. If you talk to him I think you’ll see a different guy talking, and obviously if you look at him, the hard work just pays off.”

Weidman is going to need that hard work to defeat the surging Mousasi, as “The Dreamcatcher” is enjoying a four-fight win streak. Not only is Mousasi winning fights, he’s also doing so in an emphatic way and being much more vocal about his performances. A win over Weidman will go a long way for Mousasi towards obtaining a number one contender’s ranking, which has eluded him since he joined the UFC in 2013.

Saturday night at the Keybank Center in Buffalo, New York, Anthony Johnson and Daniel Cormier will square off for the light heavyweight title in the UFC 210 main event, but the stakes of the co-main event are high as well. Chris Weidman seeks to polish up a career that has lost some of its luster after two decisive losses, and Gegard Mousasi seeks to steal the former champion’s shine as he establishes himself as a top middleweight contender before stepping into free agent waters. With so much riding on the matchup, let’s hope that Weidman’s team of coaches can keep him laser-focused on the task at hand.

UFC 210: Cormier vs. Johnson 2 takes place April 8, 2017 at KeyBank Center in Buffalo, New York.

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