One Step Forward, One Step Back for the UFC Middleweights

Everybody knows the UFC's middleweight division is far and away their weakest. There's a top tier of Anderson Silva and Rich Franklin then a pretty big fall-off to Yushin Okami and Jason McDonald, then a slight fall-off to Thales Leites and Martin Kampmann then another huge fall-off to the TUF graduates Kendall Grove, Chris Leben, Calib Starnes, and Ed Herman.

They've taken some steps to rectify the situation by bringing back former #1 contender Dave Terrell and today two moves were announce.

On a positive note, they signed BJJ star and MMA pioneer Ricardo Almeida. Almeida is a certified bad-ass with wins over Nathan Marquardt, Ryo Chonan, and Kazuo Misaki, with his only losses coming against Andrei Semenov and Matt Lindland (and the Lindland loss was by DQ).

On the other hand, they let Jason "Mayhem" Miller go from WEC instead of letting him complete the final fight on his contract and then bringing him to the UFC. I assume his open flirtations with ProElite were just too much, but still! The guy is a former ICON 185lb champ with wins over Robbie Lawler and Denis Kang and he's marketable as all get out. Mayhem would have brought immediate star power to the UFC 185 pound class.

To whit, here's his comments on being let go by the WEC:

"I like adventures," the enigmatic Miller said. "I'm the Lewis and Clark of MMA. More Lewis than Clark. Actually, whoever was tagging Sacajawea, I'm him."

And you have to wonder if he's being sarcastic here:

"I had a great experience with the WEC," Miller said. "They really know how to take of the fighters."

Update [2007-10-18 11:26:10 by Kid Nate]:

Sam Caplan, who is both smarter and better-informed than me has an entirely different take:

One scenario that shouldn’t be ruled out is Miller remaining in the Zuffa family and signing with the UFC. The UFC is in need of viable challengers for its middleweight title and Miller would be a perfect fit for the division. It’s possible that the public announcement of Miller’s departure from the WEC is nothing more than a procedural move.

Zuffa has been steadfast in its assertion that the WEC is not a feeder league to the UFC. Sources have informed in the past that Zuffa has been hesitant to transfer fighters from the WEC to the UFC because the company is concerned that it could hurt the WEC’s image. The feeling that was expressed was that as soon as a fighter is transferred from the WEC to the UFC that the public reaction could be that the WEC is a minor-league organization of the UFC. With Miller being announced as becoming a free agent, it sets up a scenario in which Miller could "sign" with the UFC as opposed to being "transferred."

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