LAS VEGAS – For the last year, whenever the name Chris Weidman was spoken in mixed martial arts circles, Anderson Silva's was sure to quickly follow.
But after winning a Fight of the Year-type bout over Lyoto Machida on Saturday in his second title defense to retain his middleweight championship before 10,088 fans in the main event of UFC 175 at the Mandalay Bay Events Center, Silva may finally be in Weidman's rearview mirror forever.
"I don't know about that," Weidman said after taking a unanimous decision by scores of 49-45, 49-46 and 48-47. "And I don't mind having Anderson Silva attached to me as long as it does, because he's the greatest of all time."
Weidman has a long way to go before he's even in the conversation for that kind of moniker, but he's established himself conclusively as the best middleweight in the world. He's beaten Silva in back-to-back bouts and now Machida in a grueling, hard-fought battle.
He's now 12-0 and likely to face Vitor Belfort next, assuming Belfort can get his licensing issues with the Nevada Athletic Commission resolved, which is no sure thing. Belfort failed a random drug test in February and is expected to appear before the commission on July 23 to argue for his license.
But while Belfort won the fights that will get him the title shot with the benefit of a therapeutic use exemption for testosterone replacement therapy, Weidman did it the way it's supposed to be done.
He worked feverishly to get better, believed fervently in himself and kept a low profile. He's no media darling like Ronda Rousey, the women's bantamweight champion who stopped Alexis Davis in 16 seconds in the co-main event.
Rousey is popular because of her enormous talents, her cover-girl looks and quick wit.
Weidman isn't going to make a living as a stand-up comic, but he's shooting way up the must-see list because he is routinely exciting and delivers those wow moments in virtually every bout.
He did it Saturday at far less than his physical best. Most fighters go into a bout banged up to some degree, but Weidman was battling several issues.
He was supposed to fight at UFC 173 in May, but had to back out of that card because he required knee surgery.
He had more knee issues in camp and didn't strike with his hands during the last two weeks because he suffered ligament damage.
"To be honest with you, I think it was probably my worst camp ever, but we got the job done," Weidman said. "For two weeks, I haven't been able to hit pads. I had to go to the doctor's to make sure it wasn't broken."
"With my knees, I might have started a little fast in camp and my knees weren't where they should have been. I pushed through and I refused to make excuses why I shouldn't win this fight. But if I'm being honest with myself, it was probably my worst camp, as far as everything was going wrong."
He faced plenty of adversity on Saturday. Machida repeatedly kicked him to the body and left a massive welt on his rib cage on the right side of his body.
After Weidman swept the first three rounds on all three judges' cards, Machida stepped up the pace in the fourth. He began to attack more than to move laterally and cracked Weidman with several combinations.
Weidman began to bleed from the mouth and seemed totally fatigued.
"Maybe I should have started quicker," Machida said.
Rousey proved the merits of starting quickly. She raced out of her corner as become her style. She hit Davis with a punishing right hand that, for all intents and purposes, ended the fight.
Rousey followed the right with a knee to the body, then judo-tossed Davis violently to the ground. She grabbed Davis in a headlock and blasted her with a series of punches that forced referee Yves Lavigne to stop it just 16 seconds in.
Joe Rogan asked Rousey after the fight whether she'd be willing to fight at UFC 176, scheduled for Aug. 2 in Los Angeles. Rousey noted that she had a cyst on a knuckle on her right hand that required nine stitches to fix after the fight. She also said her right knee needs minor surgery because, in her words, there is some "junk floating around" in there.
That led White to go ballistic at cageside with the producers in the television truck who asked Rogan to ask Rousey that question.
"I wasn't upset with Joe Rogan; I was upset with the truck for telling him to tell Ronda that she is going to fight again [in August]," White said. "It wasn't true. It was some [expletive] that people made up back there."
Rousey will probably appear on the New Year's Eve card after she allows her hand to heal, has her knee surgery and takes some time off.
Weidman joked that he wanted to fight on that same card.
"Let's stick together," he said, turning toward Rousey at his right. Then, bumping microphones that were adorned with a Bud Light logo, he smiled and said, "Cheers."
It was that kind of a night for Weidman, who had much against him and managed to come through with another convincing victory.
He may never equal Silva's greatness or have the star power of Rousey, but Weidman is doing just fine on his own.