With his win over Chael Sonnen at UFC 148, Anderson Silva made the 10th defense of his UFC Middleweight title. After taking care of Yushin Okami in his last defense and now Sonnen, Silva seems to have gotten rid of all the challengers who he had a sense of unfinished business with. As a result, the slate for potential challengers is wide open. Which is both exciting and a bit confusing.
Lorenzo Fertitta has publicly asked fans who they want to see face Silva next, and there are no shortage of options. The trouble is, for one reason or another, none are fantastic options. Michael Bisping is the most marketable choice, though he is coming off a loss to Sonnen and is currently sidelined with an injury. You also have two possible #1 contender matches coming up, with Chris Weidman vs. Mark Munoz on Fuel tomorrow, and Hector Lombard vs. Tim Boetsch at UFC 149 next week. But none of those men have much star power. Then there's the new wild card - Rashad Evans. The former UFC Light Heavyweight champion has publicly challenged Silva. So what to do? To me, the answer is clear.
Rashad Evans should face the winner of Weidman vs. Munoz.
While an Evans vs. Silva fight is clearly the best possible Middleweight title fight at the moment, now is not the time. Evans is coming off a loss, and no one coming off a loss should be thrown into a title fight. (Yes, yes, Dan Henderson, but that was a special case as he was the Pride champion and was unifying the belts.) He's also never made the cut to 185. Give him a trial fight to make that cut and get acclimated so that he is better used to the weight when he faces Silva. That both gives him a win and makes him better prepared for his showdown with Silva.
And if Evans loses? Then either Munoz or Weidman has that signature name on their resume and can use the momentum to bounce into a fight with Silva.
In the meantime, Silva vs. the Boetsch/Lombard winner works. It's not the best fight ever, but we've seen less marketable contenders get shots before (Chad Mendes, Thales Leites) and we'll see it again in the coming months (Erik Koch, Renan Barao). But that lack of marketability is not a reason to immediately hotshot Evans into a title fight. Let him get comfortable, let him get that rebound win, and let the idea of needing to earn a title shot maintain some credibility.
Evans vs. Munoz/Weidman. Book it Joe Silva.