Chris Weidman’s move to light heavyweight was inevitable, so who should he fight first?

The career of former Middleweight Champion Chris Weidman (14-4 MMA) has fell off in recent years. The “All American” has lost four of his last five fights, albeit against elite-level middleweights. He’ll look to revive his career with a move to light heavyweight.

The Highest of Highs

Early in the 35-year-old’s UFC career he looked phenomenal, amassing a 13-0 record which included one of the biggest upset victories in MMA history, when he knocked out Anderson Silva and he won the rematch in even more devastating fashion.

Back-to-back title defenses over Lyoto Machida and Vitor Belfort solidified him as the man at 185lbs. The Weidman reign came to an end however, with an ill-fated failed spinning back kick that saw Luke Rockhold capitalize during their 2015 title fight. Rockhold dominated Weidman with heavy strikes from top position and forced the stoppage in round four.

The Toughest of Times

The road back to the middleweight strap has been harrowing to say the least. His title defeat was followed by a horrific KO loss to Yoel Romero, who almost decapitated Weidman with a flying knee at UFC 205. Then Gegard Mousasi piled on the misery by stopping Weidman even earlier in their match-up at UFC 210 in April 2017.

A submission win over top contender Kelvin Gastelum had looked to revive the “All American’s” middleweight career but that resurgence was ended by Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza. “Jacare” added a fourth KO loss to the record of Weidman triggering a long talked about move to light heavyweight for the former Middleweight Champion.

On his 20lb move to light heavyweight Weidman said:

“I’ve had that belt wrapped around me four different times… The weight cuts are tough, and I kind of want to see what my body is like without depleting itself.”

An exciting addition to an increasingly stacked division, we look at a few options for Weidman’s first foray at 205lbs.

The Smart Fights to Book

At 35-years-old it’s all about the right fights at the right time for Weidman. One bad piece of matchmaking could bring an end to his storied career. It’s important he eases his way into the light heavyweight division, hence this first selection.

Misha Cirkunov: The #15 ranked Latvian represents a perfect introduction to 205. A great chance to test the water against competitive but beatable competition. The 32-year-old has big wins over Nikita Krylov and Pat Cummins, he’s certainly no push over. However, he has fallen short against the upper echelon guys suffering quick KO defeats to Volkan Oezdemir and Johnny Walker. If Weidman has aspirations of being a contender at 205lbs, he’ll make quick work of Cirkunov and introduce himself to the division with a highlight reel victory.

Mauricio “Shogun” Rua: Despite being past his peak, the 37-year-old former Light Heavyweight Champion continues to pick up big victories over the new breed of light heavyweights. At 4-1 in his last five fights, “Shogun” finds himself ranked #13 after KO’ing Tyson Pedro last time out. A huge name he would bring increased interest to Weidman’s first fight at light heavyweight, whilst allowing the opportunity to add another Brazilian legend to his record.

Risky Business

We are witnessing something of a transition period at light heavyweight with several contenders emerging. They are however, yet to fully prove themselves at the elite level. Whilst a fight with one of these men could see him on the receiving end of a devastating loss, it could just as likely see Weidman take a huge scalp over a popular rising star.

Johnny Walker: The flamboyant 27-year-old out of Brazil is riding a wave of popularity and success to the top of the light heavyweight division. Nine consecutive wins, three coming inside the UFC octagon with a combined fight time of 2:48 as he has demolished whoever has been put in front of him. Questions marks remain about his title credentials due to the nature of his fights. A quick finish tells us Walker throws a great shot but not much more. If a top contender such as Weidman could carry him into the later rounds, what would happen? It’s a big risk to try find out and with Walker only ranked at #12, perhaps too big a risk for a first fight up at 205lbs.

Dominick Reyes: A much more appetizing fight for Chris Weidman, could be made against the undefeated Dominick Reyes. The 10-0 fighter was lucky to scrape past Volkan Oezdemir last time out, showing flaws that Weidman would be confident of exploiting. This match-up is made even more appealing by the fact Reyes is ranked #4 in the division. A win over him puts the “All American” right in line for a shot at another UFC belt, but Reyes will be keen to add a former champion to his record and get the biggest win of his short career.

Avoid at All Costs 

Volkan Oezdemir: The former title challenger is much better than his #7 ranking and 3-fight losing streak suggests. He has the one-punch power that can put anyone’s lights out. Some glaring holes are apparent in Oezdemir’s ground game that could well be exploited by Weidman, but not yet. Oezdemir is a potential banana skin that is best avoided. With 4 of his last 5 middleweight fights ending with huge knockout losses, Weidman would be best advised to steer clear of the biggest puncher in a weight class 20lbs heavier, at least for now.

Luke Rockhold: The two former middleweight champions took the step to 205lbs almost simultaneously, prompting the obvious questions about a potential rematch between the pair at a heavier weight class. Weidman seemed keen on the fight when asked he said, “I think your first loss definitely hurts the most. To have the opportunity to get that one back is definitely something I want to do.” Whilst a rematch would be a fun fight, it must be way down the line when title ramifications are a part of the deal. Weidman was soundly beaten during their original fight and further losses have done little to incite demand for a rematch. The move to 205lbs will take some getting used to for both fighters, potentially more so for the “All American” who is somewhat shorter than his rival. Whilst this fight may be too good to turn down should it be offered, it could potentially end any anticipated career revival at light heavyweight.

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The Scrap’s Jordan Ellis of Liverpool, UK is a lifelong fight fan and aspiring writer. Covering all things MMA and Boxing, you can follow him on Twitter (@JordanEllisUK) for daily fight news and content.