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Injuries have made Chris Weidman something of an afterthought in the Ultimate Fighting Championship’s middleweight division—a weight class he once ruled.
Weidman will return to the cage for the first time in more than a year when he confronts Ronaldo Souza in the UFC 230 co-main event this Saturday at Madison Square Garden in New York. The 34-year-old former middleweight champion snapped a three-fight losing streak with a third-round arm-triangle choke submission on Kelvin Gastelum at UFC on Fox 25 in July 2017 but has not fought since. Weidman’s stellar resume includes victories over the great Anderson Silva (twice), Lyoto Machida, ,and Demian Maia. Ten of his 14 professional wins have resulted in knockout, technical knockout, or submission.
As Weidman prepares to take on Souza, here are five things you should know about him:
1. His MMA success was born out of the fires of amateur wrestling.
After a standout career at Nassau Community College, Weidman went on to become a two-time NCAA All-American wrestler at Hofstra University in Hempstead, New York, going 51-21 while twice finishing in the top 10 nationally. Two of those victories came at the expense of future Bellator MMA champions Phil Davis and Ryan Bader. Weidman was one of eight Hofstra wrestlers named to the Colonial Athletic Association’s Silver Anniversary Wrestling Team in 2009.
2. Only cream-of-the-crop opposition has tamed him.
The three men who have beaten Weidman — Gegard Mousasi, Yoel Romero, and Luke Rockhold — own a cumulative record of 74-13-2 and boast 63 finishes between them.
3. He was no flash in the pan.
Weidman spent 888 days as the UFC middleweight champion and successfully defended the title on three different occasions. It stands as the second-longest reign in the division’s history behind only Silva’s historic 2,457-day stay at the top.
4. Though he has enjoyed success in all phases of MMA, the “all-American” remains committed to his base.
A protégé of longtime Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt Matt Serra and striking guru Ray Longo, Weidman remains a wrestler at heart. According to FightMetric data, he ranks second among active UFC middleweights in takedown accuracy (51.4) and second in total takedowns (36).
5. He has proven to be a quick study.
Just three months after he began his formal Brazilian jiu-jitsu training, Weidman won his first Grappler’s Quest tournament — his weight class and the absolute division — and submitted all 13 of his opponents in doing so. He later qualified for the 2009 Abu Dhabi Combat Club Submission Wrestling World Championships in Barcelona, Spain, where he pushed seven-time Brazilian jiu-jitsu world champion and eventual tournament silver medalist Andre Galvao to the limit before losing on points. Weidman went on to reach the quarterfinals in the absolute division, emerging as one of the tournament’s breakout stars.