BELCHER > COTE > GROVE > ROSHOLT > LEBEN > AKIYAMA > BELCHER
MARQURDT > MAIA > SONNEN > MARQUARDT
There are 74 non-Anderson Silva nodes on this graph. (To be fair, I removed a bunch of two man islands for clarity). Anderson Silva lacks a path to a mere thirteen men. He can make that nine on August 7th.
Apparently Vitor Belfort is still in line for the next title shot. Am I the only one thinking there are better options for Silva?
Between fighting Georges St-Pierre (and I'll have more on the UFC's failure to put this fight on next week) and moving up to 205, a fight with Vitor Belfort just doesn't do it for me.
The rest of the division is pretty muddled, especially with the Maia/Sonnen/Marquardt love triangle. Those three might be the best example of rock/paper/scissors in MMA.
In addition to the roshambo trio, you have guys like Wanderlei Silva, Michael Bisping, and a rejuvenated Chris Leben within reach of the title mix. Assuming Anderson gets by Chael and the expected Vitor, I'm not sure who or how this division will provide (as) its next challenger.
A look at the relevant upcoming middleweight fights after the break.
Mark Munoz vs. Yushin Okami @ UFC on Versus 2 - Okami had a ton of problems with the pressure that Chael Sonnen put on him at UFC 104. Was Sonnen's go-forward wrestling the problem or was it just a bad fight for Okami coming off of a torn knee ligament? Mark Munoz, on the other hand, had a lot of trouble with Kendall Grove before mounting a comeback and finishing off the Hawai'ian in round two. Okami is a similarly tall middleweight with much better standup. Good style clash and good matchmaking.
Anderson Silva vs. Chael Sonnen @ UFC 117 - What can I say about this fight that Chael Sonnen has already said in his own borderline-racist way? Fans and media alike have maligned Silva for his performance against Demian Maia at UFC 112. Chael Sonnen should push Anderson toward the fight people want to see, but will his pressure wrestling be enough to defeat Silva on its own?
Nate Marquardt vs. Rousimar Palhares @ UFC 118 - Joe Silva puts together a fight between two of the dirtiest players in the game. Marquardt punches dudes after the bell and spikes them on their heads while Palhares just tries to rip your leg off.
Demian Maia vs. Alan Belcher @ UFC Fight Night 22 - Another great fight from Joe Silva. If Belcher can keep this standing, he has a great avenue toward winning a decision. Unfortunately, I think Maia's ability to bring the fight to the floor is going to be prominent here, and Belcher's going to have to be very mindful that the Brazilian doesn't do us all a favor and remove his Johnny Cash tattoo from his body.
Michael Bisping vs. Yoshihiro Akiyama @ UFC 120 - It's unfortunate that this will get heat being the main event of a numbered show because this is a good fight at 185. Akiyama might have to find his sexy at 170 after this because I see Bisping peppering him from the outside for three rounds.