In any sport, the common theme of the irresistible force against the immovable object exists to create additional intrigue to a contest. Often, the irresistible force takes the form of an underdog and a more favored individual or unit assumes the role of the immovable object, often due to an ability to consistently perform at a previously unrivaled level of competition. Still, even a top-tier beast of an athlete can get toppled on any given night.

In the case of UFC middleweight champion Chris Weidman, that certainly appears as the case. Though he came into UFC 162 as the underdog, he now receives the credit of being an odds-on favorite against former champion and UFC 168 foe Anderson Silva. Despite not fighting between the time of his UFC on Fuel TV 4 bout with Mark Munoz and his UFC 162 upset win over Silva, Weidman never showed rust or signs of burning out. Then again, we must recall that his year-long layoff from competition only came about when injuries prevented him from seeing Tim Boetsch at UFC 155. So, in fairness to Weidman, that “year off” really amounted to only about six months off before he finally met and defeated Silva.

Provided he gets by Silva at UFC 168, Weidman will await his next challenger, and unless the UFC can get Vitor Belfort to a title fight after UFC 168, fans will have to look elsewhere to find that challenger. The winner of UFC Fight Night 36’s co-headliner between Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza and rising contender Francis Carmont on Feb. 15 could potentially join the mix of contenders vying for that spot.

This leads to the question of what Carmont and Souza bring to the table if they should find themselves against Weidman next.

Carmont, a training partner to UFC welterweight champion Georges St-Pierre, brings a relentless wrestling game that can spell doom for just about anyone who thinks their ground game can match up. Although he did find a win against the likes of Lorenz Larkin and Tom Lawlor, both Larkin and Lawlor still worked hard to find submissions and gain control over the prospect.

Meanwhile, the former Strikeforce middleweight champion, whose nickname translates to “Alligator,” aces in the grappling realm and shows vast improvements in his striking with every fight. Coming into his last fight against Yushin Okami, Jacare was figured by many to hold an edge on the ground, though Okami’s top game traditionally powered through and halted the offensive assault of any middleweight who thought they could hang with him from the bottom. So, what did Souza do? He stood with Okami and knocked him out in what would go into the archives as Okami’s last bout in the UFC.

Both styles, while predominantly ground-oriented, mean different things to Weidman.

Carmont holds a good chance of getting Weidman to the ground, regardless of whether he initiates the takedown or sits on the receiving end of it. Also, both men carry 78-inch reaches, but Carmont stands just one inch taller than the champion. And only an individual backed by the likes of St-Pierre and his team could come up with a strategy that would thwart Weidman’s game. We know that Weidman worked well from a number of positions on the ground, but how well can Carmont work if the champ puts him on his back or in another precarious position?

The same question goes for Jacare, who can work off his back in a five-round bout and find the finish in as quickly as one of the first two rounds. Going to the ground with a Chris Camozzi or a Luke Rockhold does not equate to enduring the taxing type of ground battle that Weidman brings to every fight. Also, while Souza’s striking definitely looks more refined and evolved than in his Strikeforce days, those improvements do not earn him the “striker” tag just yet, so he must tread with caution on the feet.

All that aside, though, few can account for one x-factor that Jacare holds and Carmont doesn’t, which comes in the form of speed. Anyone familiar with Souza’s style knows how quickly he can strike and capitalize on an opportunity to finish. Even if Weidman looks for a combination, it remains in question if he can find a way to close the distance on Souza without putting himself in danger of getting taken down and/or submitted. Souza rarely hunts for flying submissions or anything unconventional, but if he gets the chance to lock up anything on Weidman, Weidman will need to show an “iron” body part in order to survive and retain his belt.

Therefore, just like Souza holds the favor in his bout with Carmont, he holds the best chance on paper of putting a blemish on Weidman’s record if neither Silva nor Belfort can finish the job. Still, Weidman holds the gold for a reason. Besides that, very few fights play out in reality as they do on paper. For anyone to truly know what kind of chance Souza holds against Weidman, Souza must show what he can do against Carmont. If Souza cannot prove his worth as a challenger and if Carmont somehow loses his chance to challenge Weidman, the reigning king may find himself ruling a wasteland with many fighters lying in wait, yet nobody proven worthy of challenging for his 12 pounds of UFC gold.

Photo: Ronaldo Souza (Gleidson Venga/Sherdog)

About The Author

Dale De Souza
Staff Writer

Dale De Souza is a 22-year-old kid straight out of Texas, who grew up around Professional Wrestling but embraced the beauty of Mixed Martial Arts and Combat Sports at a young age. Dale is a Featured Columnist at Bleacher Report MMA, a writer at The MMA Corner.