Following a June packed with welterweights feuding over a “sidepiece,” a multi-city tour to hype up the year’s biggest fight and huge star-making knockouts by Gennady Golovkin and Adonis Stevenson, some boxing fans may be looking forward to the lack of televised world class boxing that July and August will bring. Other boxing fans are surely thinking that Wealth TV’s Saturday airing of the Tony Thompson-David Price rematch, Showtime’s July 19 showcase for Mickey Bey and Badou Jack, HBO2’s July 27 tape-delay broadcast of China’s Zou Shiming’s second professional bout and NBC Sports Networks’ August 3 telecast featuring Curtis Stevens, Tomasz Adamek and Eddie Chambers will not hold them over until Abner Mares and Leo Santa Cruz kick off the huge fall season of boxing on August 24. Either way, boxing fans may be looking for something to do this Saturday night. If so, I have an interesting suggestion… it may be worth it to check out UFC 162.
There really is no need to get into the tired conversation about which combat sport is better or is more financially successful at this point. The bottom line is that both boxing and mixed martial arts have their issues but are doing big business. They are also completely different sports that feature world class athletes with various backgrounds, personalities and training regimens. That said, like baseball and soccer, for example, the two sports may share some fans while there is a whole set of other fans who watch one sport and do not watch the other. Those boxing fans who do not regularly watch MMA may find viewing Saturday’s main event between UFC middleweight champion Anderson Silva (33-4) and challenger Chris Weidman (9-0) particularly interesting.
Simply put, Silva and Weidman’s bout shares a lot of traits with the upcoming Floyd Mayweather – Saul “Canelo” Alvarez bout. Like Mayweather, Silva is the undisputed “pound for pound” champion of his sport. They are both highly skilled and usually win their fights going away. While Silva does have 4 losses on his record, the numbers are comparable to Mayweather’s 44-0 because Silva has not lost in the UFC. Silva and Mayweather also are often accompanied to their fights by celebrities: Mayweather has been led to the ring by 50 Cent, Justin Beiber, Mark Cuban, Triple H and others while Silva has entered the octagon flanked by Steven Segal. On the negative end, both fighters also receive similar criticisms in that for all their technical brilliance, their fights can often be described as boring because they do not take unnecessary chances in order to finish their opponents. They are also criticized for taking on lesser challenges instead of stepping up to participate in the biggest fights possible – just like Mayweather has to constantly answer why he would not fight Manny Pacquiao, Silva must constantly address the failure to consummate a bout with pound for pound rival Georges St. Pierre.
On the “B” side of the fights, Weidman and Canelo share similarities. They are both young up and comers who have only arrived on the worldwide stage in the past few years. While somewhat inexperienced, both Weidman and Canelo are skilled in their craft. They also both appear to have solid chins. It is those qualities that lead experts and oddsmakers to believe that they have a very good chance to pull of the upset despite not being as athletically gifted as the favorites. Moreover, while Canelo is already a star in Mexico and you cannot really call Weidman a star yet, it is obvious that the UFC’s management is positioning the Long Island native for a potential headlining run in New York once the state legalizes mixed martial arts.
The most important reason a boxing fan should be interested in Silva-Weidman is that this main event should be competitive. This is not like other pay per view main events put forward by the UFC this year. Matches like St.Pierre against Nick Diaz and Jon Jones versus Chael Sonnen were more akin to Mayweather’s May outing against Robert Guerrero… Diaz, Sonnen and Guerrero all had absolutely no chance to win and everyone knew it. Canelo and Weidman both have a chance. They are facing aging superstars (Silva is 38, Mayweather is 36). Canelo has advantages in size and punching power while Weidman’s specialty is wrestling (he was an All-American amateur wrestler at HofstraUniversity) which in the MMA world, is a stylistic “kryptonite” for Silva’s disciplines, Brazilian Ju-Jitsu and Muay Thai striking.
If you are still looking for other reasons to check out Silva-Weidman, there are other less serious reasons. One is that the bout features an American underdog facing a foreign champion on July 4th week. The other, and this is more sad than funny, is that Silva has amped up conversations about his previously communicated desire to face Roy Jones, Jr. in a boxing match. UFC management once claimed they would veto such a bout but Dana White has seemed to soften his stance on that issue and Jones will be in attendance Saturday night. The marquee of Jones-Silva may jump out at you but the thought of the aging legend who has proved to be a completely shot fighter who is not even a shell of what he once was facing an MMA fighter who, in all honesty, is practically an amateur as a boxer is quite ridiculous. The “fight,” if you can call it that, would likely be a mess. Silva-Weidman, on the other hand, should be competitive, skillful, exciting and, most importantly, fun.