With so many fights coming up spread across eight different weight classes, it's easy to lose track of what's happening in every division. Here, we take a look at where a particular division stands right now, and where it's headed.
On this Saturday's UFC on Fox 2 show, the Middleweight division will take center stage. Though it's Light Heavyweights Rashad Evans and Phil Davis who will be headlining, the show is rounded out by a pair of intriguing Middleweight fights that became even more notable after some recent shuffling. As we prepare to watch 4 of the division's best compete on network television, let's break down where things stand at 185.
Next in Line:
As a result of Mark Munoz bowing out of this weekend's show due to injury, we now have the #2 ranked Chael Sonnen vs. Michael Bisping (#7) on Fox. Dana White has stated that the winner here will be next in line for a title shot, and while those statements from Dana don't always pan out, I imagine this one will. Clearly the big fight here is Sonnen vs. Silva 2, which has been mentioned as possibly going down in Brazil. I'm no Sonnen fan, but I will be strongly rooting for him against Bisping, simply to see that rematch.
Bisping will look to use his striking to be the spoiler here. I think he's in over his head (especially taking the fight on relatively short notice), but if he can somehow manage to avoid the takedowns and outpoint Sonnen on the feet, a Bisping vs. Silva fight in England makes a lot of sense as well. It won't have nearly the sizzle of a Sonnen rematch, but it's a fine title defense.
Key Match Ups:
The problem is what comes after Sonnen or Bisping. Silva has recently started his 6th (!) year as UFC champion, which means he has systematically demolished the division. Two fights from now, Silva will be looking at either a rematch against an opponent who he handily defeated already (Maia, Belfort, Okami) or facing a new challenger who may feel a bit rushed into a title fight (Munoz, Weidman, Stann).
It's hard to know exactly where the division will go in the coming months, and who might step up to the plate. But there are a few notable upcoming fights that may help sort things out.
- #5 Demian Maia vs. #19 Chris Weidman (UFC on Fox 2) - With Munoz injured and Bisping bumped up, Chris Weidman gets the call up and the biggest chance of his young career. The 7-0 fighter has been in the UFC for less than a year, but has already impressed. This is a huge fight for him, with massive rewards. A win over Maia vaults him to the top 10, and very possibly a title eliminator fight next time out. Maia is 3-1 since his loss to Silva, and due largely to the notoriously weird title fight, he feels far removed from the title scene. A win over Weidman is unlikely to get him much closer.
- #3 Yushin Okami vs. #25 Tim Boetsch (UFC 144) - Okami seems to be in almost the exact same spot as Maia - a very skilled fighter, but one whose loss to Silva and lack of selling points seems to put him way outside the title picture. He's best served as a gate-keeper, which is the role he'll play against Boetsch. The Barbarian is 2-0 at Middleweight, and has looked good each time. This is a major step up for him, but like Weidman, he could really make a move with a win.
- #8 Brian Stann vs. #23 Alessio Sakara (UFC on Fuel 2) - Stann is a great story and highly marketable, which makes him a perfect potential challenger. Only trouble is he lost big to Sonnen last time out. This fight feels like a bit of a softball to get him back on track. It's not that Sakara is a bad fighter, but he'll be happy to stand and trade with Stann, providing good opportunity for Stann to add a highlight reel KO and get back on track.
- #5 Vitor Belfort vs. #15 Wanderlei Silva (TUF Brazil) - Vitor and Wanderlei are set to coach against each other on the Brazilian version of The Ultimate Fighter, which will air on Fuel. This is not to be confused with the traditional American version with Urijah Faber and Dominick Cruz set to coach next. Vitor and Wand will face off in the finals, as is tradition. Details are not 100% yet, with no date known, but this is a much needed fight between two legends who have looked to rematch for over 10 years.
More in the complete entry.
In The Mix:
A handful of Middleweights also factor into the title scene, but do not have any fights currently scheduled:
- #4 Mark Munoz - Munoz's injury may have cleared things up at the top for a bit, but it did so by pushing him out of the immediate title picture. Hopefully he can bounce back soon. If he does, expect a tough fight against another name close to the top. Perhaps the Sonnen vs. Bisping loser?
- #13 Alan Belcher - I really can not fathom Belcher as a title challenger, but he's a very talented fighter who looked good in his return last year. Stranger things have happened.
- #18 Rousimar Palhares - As long as the UFC keeps lining opponents up, Toquinho will be there to rip apart their legs. The question for him is, can he defeat the upper tier of fighters? So far, he's beaten every mid level opponent, but when moved up against the likes of Dan Henderson and Nate Marquardt, he's lost. That seems like his destiny, but if he can break through that barrier, he'd make a fascinating new name at the top.
Others to Consider:
And finally, as always, those Middleweights who are outside the title picture, but should be mentioned:
- Jason Miller - Last time I made this list, Mayhem was in the very closest title mix. Now, he's barely in the UFC. That's what a single truly bad performance can do to you. Where he goes from here is quite up in the air, but you can say this - his next fight out will be perhaps the most crucial fights of his career if he wants to stay in the UFC.
- Constantinos Philippou - With two straight wins and the defeat of Hamman at UFC 140 standing out, Costa is starting to make nice name for himself at 185. Next up for him is Court McGee on the main card of UFC on FX 2, where Philippou could use his hands and turn some heads.
- Clifford Starks - This undefeated wrestler has good potential, but is still quite new to the UFC. I only include him because his next fight happens to come on a PPV main card, as he faces Ed Herman at UFC 143. Like Jim Hettes vs. Nam Phan, this is a fight that can really launch Starks's career if he puts in a big performance for the PPV audience.