Each week, ESPN.com MMA writer Brett Okamoto, ESPN Insider senior editor Mike Huang and a guest panelist tackle five topics that are buzzing in the world of mixed martial arts.
This week, UFC lightweight contender Gilbert Melendez joins the panel.
Gilbert Melendez: It could be his experience and the fact that he's fought 205-pounders and he's coming down in weight. But just as much, his advantage could be his striking. He's a very elusive fighter, and he can control the distance and the pace really well.
Brett Okamoto: Basically, it's the same advantage he has against any opponent -- counterstriking. If Weidman stands with Machida, he will invite trouble. Machida is a ridiculously fast at 185 pounds, and his current striking coach, Rafael Cordeiro, has been working on getting him to string counters together in longer combinations. The "Dragon era" never really took off like we thought, but Machida is still awesome on the feet.
Mike Huang: Surprise. Seemingly, Machida's elusive style will force Weidman to stalk Machida. However, if he engages early, he could catch Weidman off guard and land a nice punch somewhere. It's totally possible considering Machida's striking and counterstriking accuracy. He's so precise. The other thing most overlook is Machida's jiu-jitsu. Because of his formidable striking, people forget that he's a terrific jiu-jitsu artist and could catch Weidman if they find themselves on the ground at some point.
Melendez: We can evaluate him highly. They were very awkward fights -- getting the knockout in the first fight when Silva was showboating, and using his knee in a freak accident to snap Silva's leg in the second fight. But along with showing his confidence, I believe Weidman was on his way to winning that second fight anyway because he dropped the former champion in the first round. After assessing it all, I think Weidman is getting better with each fight, and his championship is well-deserved.
Okamoto: He is the best middleweight in the world at this moment. You have to give him credit for that. After Weidman defeated Silva the first time, we all needed to be convinced he could do it again. Silva had his hands down, Chris. Clearly he didn't take you seriously. But then Weidman came back and dropped Silva in the first round of the rematch and finished the fight with a checked leg kick in the next round. He was better than Silva twice and deserves to be the champion.
Huang: Fairly and with no prejudice. I understand why fans and the media still question it -- the victories seemingly came more from what Silva did wrong. In Weidman-Silva I, Silva was clowning and got caught. In Weidman-Silva II, Silva threw an ill-advised leg kick that Weidman checked with his knee, breaking Silva's leg. But flip that around. It was Weidman who connected with Silva's jaw regardless of clowning, and it was Weidman who trained days with Ray Longo to develop that check specifically for Silva. So let's give Weidman his due -- he took and defended the belt. Silva did not give it away.