MMA Access: Is the UFC Middleweight Division in Limbo?
By Christopher Jester
It is official – the UFC’s middleweight division is in disarray. After Vitor Belfort headkicked Michael Bisping into oblivion at UFC on FX 7, all the legitimate #1 contenders have fallen out of grace. Bisping had been pretty much guaranteed a title shot if he could have gotten past the aging Brazilian but Bisping has proven that he may be the biggest choke artist in UFC history. In every opportunity he has been given in a title eliminator, he has come up short. Now, the UFC is out of a contender and a viable draw to face the Middleweight kingpin Anderson Silva.
Last month at UFC 155, the UFC lost two top-contenders in the middleweight division all in one night. First, it was Alan Belcher losing to perennial contender Yushin Okami and second, Tim Boetsch lost by TKO to surging middleweight Costa Philippou. Okami is not yet ready to face the UFC champion again, and Phillippou is still a few top contender fights away from legitimacy.
So where does this leave the middleweight division? In limbo I would presume. Especially considering that unless the UFC blesses someone with a title shot, then no legitimate contender is ready to face Anderson Silva. However, this weekend’s main event winner may have somewhat persuaded some. Vitor Belfort looked like a different beast out there. Whether that was his gameplan to combat Bisping’s counter-offense or just a less aggressive-style to contest his own cardio deficiency, Belfort looked impressive. So who knows? Nonetheless, it was successful. That first round may have appeared a bit lackluster but the way Belfort came out in that second round proves that he is still a threat at middleweight.
Take a look at the facts. Since Vitor Belfort has returned to the Octagon back in 2006 to face Rich Franklin, he has not lost a fight to any person not named Anderson Silva and Jon Jones. Look at his record alone within the middleweight division, he is 4-1. That lone loss being the famous front-kick from Anderson Silva. At middleweight, Vitor Belfort should be considered a top-contender and his defeat of Michael Bisping last weekend proved that.
Some of you may say, “Wait! Wait! What about Chris Weidman?” Response: over-hyped, at least for now. There is no doubt that he is a talented middleweight and potentially a future champion within the division, but one win over highly-touted Mark Munoz doesn’t warrant a title shot against a man who has dominated the middleweight division over seven years. The whole thing reeks of desperation because fans want to see if Silva can be dethroned. Look, this talented young man has what appears to be the skills to beat Anderson Silva but we’ve all said that before. Chael Sonnen had what appeared to be the skill-set to beat Anderson, and we all saw how that ended, not once but twice!
If you don’t like the Belfort versus Silva rematch or still think Weidman is the most feasible choice, then how about light-heavyweight Rashad Evans dropping down to middleweight? He poses a serious threat to Silva with his takedowns and speed, and he also has the name to back up the type of headline that Silva wants. The only concern right now is that Evans has to get past Antonio Rogerio Nogueria at UFC 156, and that will not be the walk-in the park that most people may think it will be. Only if Evans defeats Nogueria should he be considered for a title shot at Anderson Silva. Evans is much like every other former contender or champion that is getting secondary title shots in other divisions. Dominated by the champion? Leave for another division. It seems like the way to go nowadays. You get a title shot a whole lot easier that way.
The point is, Evans has his troubles to face at light-heavyweight first and so the middleweight division is so wide-open that any one fighter who has a breakout fight and victory is likely lined up next to face UFC Middleweight champion Anderson “The Spider” Silva. The biggest question remains, just who will it be?
Follow Christopher “sLapDatSuCKa” Jester on Twitter @sLapDatSuCka
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