Joe Silva has his work cut out for him.
When surveying the Middleweight division, the UFC matchmaker has to see quite a mess - a log jam of new contenders that needs to be sorted through. Recently, the MW title scene has been dominated by a small handful of challengers - Chael Sonnen, Nate Marquardt, Yushin Okami, Demian Maia. But with Sonnen and Marquardt gone, Okami getting his shot, and Maia out of contention for now, a new batch of challengers has stepped in. At UFC 132, Chris Leben further complicated matters by scoring a hugely impressive KO victory over Wanderlei Silva, effectively throwing his hat in the ring and joining their ranks. Only trouble is, how do you sort through these contenders to determine the next challenger? Let's take a look at the current top contenders at 185:
Mark Munoz - The #6 ranked Munoz is riding high off a win over Maia, and only has one loss at MW. However, Maia is his only big name win, and he needs a bit more to become a viable challenger. He doesn't have much of a marketing hook, and would not likely draw much interest as a challenger.
Brian Stann - Ranked #8, Stann is undefeated at MW, and has back to back big wins over Leben and Jorge Santiago. He's also very marketable thanks to his military background. If the UFC needed a MW title challenger today, he's probably the man to get the call.
Chris Leben - Shocking, but true, The Crippler is firmly in title contention. He's got wins over Aaron Simpson, Yoshihiro Akiyama, and now Silva. He's also become a great redemption story, as he has shed much of that TUF badboy image, and is now viewed as a hard working UFC veteran. And what greater redemption could there be for him than to rematch Anderson Silva?
Vitor Belfort vs. Yoshihiro Akiyama winner - Belfort's name recognition and past accomplishments will make him a viable title contender after pretty much every win he earns. For Akiyama, an unimpressive 1-2 UFC run so far is not getting him in title range, but an impressive, highlight reel win over Belfort would certainly propel him up the ranks.
Michael Bisping vs. Jason Miller winner - This is one where perhaps neither man is truly deserving of a title shot right away, but marketability could help them leapfrog the rest of the division. The UFC has long been itching to give Bisping a title shot, but loses to Dan Henderson and Wanderlei have muddied those plans. Miller is a brash personality with much mainstream exposure thanks to Bully Beatdown, who will certainly make an impression while coaching The Ultimate Fighter. Only trouble here is that both men are sidelined until the end of 2011 with the show.
So, how to sift through these contenders? It's a shame Stann just defeated Leben, as those two in a #1 contender's fight makes the most sense right now. If Belfort defeats Akiyama, I would look for Stann vs. Munoz and Leben vs. Belfort to potentially be set-up, with the winners of those fights either facing each other, or one of them moving straight up to the next title shot.
Of course, the big wild card in all of this is Anderson Silva vs. Yushin Okami at UFC 134. Should Okami pull off the upset and send Silva into the ranks of title contender, the division will become even more of a mess, with Silva potentially looking to regain his belt. It's a messy situation that should sort itself out after UFC 133, but also a great time for Middleweight action.
More BE UFC 132 Coverage after the jump.
- Post-Fight Recap and Analysis - Mike Fagan
- The Day MMA Won The Combat Sports War - Josh Nason
- Why the Bantamweight Division Needs Dominick Cruz vs. Urijah Faber 3 - Fraser Coffeen
- Bloody Elbow Radio UFC 132 Review
- Dominick Cruz Defeats Urijah Faber By Decision - Josh Nason
- Post-Fight Press Conference Video
- Chris Leben Knocks Out Wanderlei Silva In 27 Seconds - Josh Nason
- Tito Ortiz Fends Off Retirement - Matt Bishop
- Tito Ortiz vs. Ryan Bader Fight Video Highlights - ESPN
- Tito Ortiz Submits Ryan Bader In The First Round - Josh Nason
- Dennis Siver Defeats Matt Wiman By Close Decision - Josh Nason
- Carlos Condit Knocks Out Dong Hyun Kim In The First Round - Josh Nason
- Melvin Guillard Knocks Out Shane Roller In First Round - Josh Nason
- Rafael dos Anjos Knocks Out George Sotiropoulos In 59 Seconds - Josh Nason
- Brian Bowles Defeats Takeya Mizugaki by Unanimous Decision - Leland Roling
- Anthony Njokuani Dominates Andre Winner - Leland Roling
- Aaron Simpson Puts Brad Tavares Through the Grinder - Leland Roling
- Jeff Hougland Showcases Diverse Skills, Decisions Donny Walker - Leland Roling