Making Sense of the UFC Middleweight Division
Dana White made the announcement that Chael Sonnen will get an immediate rematch against Anderson Silva for the Middleweight title. Sonnen dominated the 4+ round fight with Silva before being caught in a submission hold in the 5th round. Silva showed he is human in the bout with Sonnen, but he is still the best middleweight in the world. The Spider has hacked through the 185 pound division making top contenders looks like mere amateurs, until Sonnen. But who else is out there?
Anderson Silva is a perfect 12-0 since joining the UFC, he is 10-0 as a middleweight and 2-0 as a light heavyweight. His middleweight victories: Chris Leben, Rich Franklin (2), Travis Lutter, Nate Marquardt, Dan Henderson, Patrick Cote, Thales Leites, Demian Maia, and Chael Sonnen.
Guys like Leben and Marquardt can make the case that they have improved greatly since their first shot at Silva, but what about the fighters who haven’t squared off with Silva in the UFC?
Vitor Belfort was in line for a title shot at UFC 108 then 109 and even 112 but injures to both sides forced Sonnen in as a replacement, and despite the loss he earned a rematch. I wanted to see Belfort get that chance for the belt, but it’s been nearly a year now since he’s been in the cage, so a tune up fight might be in his best interest.
Alan Belcher, Michael Bisping, Yushin Okami, Yoshihiro Akiyama, and Jorge Rivera would all love to move up the ladder and get a crack at the champ.
Belcher was set to fight Demian Maia in September at Fight Night 22, headlining the event, however eye surgery has forced him off the card, and there is a chance his career could be in serious jeopardy.
Bisping and Akiyama will be the main event at UFC 120 in London. It’s a weak headliner considering Akiyama just lost to Leben (who has a loss to Bisping on his resume). The Count just beat Dan Miller, but in his previous bout lost to Wanderlei Silva, who could also be in this mix, but knee surgery has him out until sometime in 2011.
Okami has been rumored to be in the title picture for a couple of years now. He recent defeated Mark Munoz at UFC on Versus 2, but that still doesn’t warrant a shot at the belt. Perhaps an Okami vs. Belfort #1 contender bout is in order?
Rivera was forced off the UFC 118 card with an injury, he will return at UFC 122 against Alessio Sakara, another win would be Rivera’s 4th in a row and certainly enough to raise an eye brow with match maker Joe Silva.
Key Upcoming UFC Middleweight Bouts:
Demian Maia vs. Mario Miranda @ UFC 118
Nate Marquardt vs. Rousimar Palhares @ UFC Fight Night 22
Yoshihiro Akiyama vs. Michael Bisping @ UFC 120
Jorge Rivera vs. Alessio Sakara @ UFC 122
Champ Anderson Silva vs. Chael Sonnen @ TBA
If Sonnen beats Silva then it clearly sets up a trilogy, but if the champ comes out and dominates the fight, who deserves the next crack at the Middleweight title? A lot of fighters can make a case, but I think it should be Vitor Belfort, give him another fight in the meantime.
Of course with so much uncertainty and too many boring rematches as possibilities, many MMA fans want to see the match up of the two best pound-4-pound fighters in the world, Anderson Silva vs. Georges St. Pierre. It might be wishful thinking, but that’s what we all want.