Fantasy Matchmaking: UFC Middleweight Division

July 11, 2012; San Jose, CA, USA; Chris Weidman reacts during his fight against Mark Munoz (not pictured) during the middleweight bout of the UFC on Fuel TV at HP Pavilion. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-US PRESSWIRE

The UFC middleweight division is all over the board right now, and everyone has their own idea of who should be facing each other. Did Chris Weidman earn a title shot last night? T.P. Grant thinks so. Who will Chael Sonnen face when he returns? Vitor Belfort? Rich Franklin? There are a ton of options out there right now, so I figured I'd share my thoughts on it. UFC matchmakers, get ready to say "wow, that was amazingly average". These are the top seven matchups I'd make right now if I was two feet shorter and my last name was Silva.

*Note - I didn't include Anderson Silva's next matchup in this. Why? He likes to take time off in between fights, and the results of these matchups will decide who he faces next.

Chris Weidman vs. Vitor Belfort - I know that Grant believes Weidman is ready for a title shot now, and in a vacuum he might be. But that bout was on Fuel and no one saw it. I think he needs one more big bout to impress a bigger audience before they let him main-event a PPV, and Belfort is my choice. While people think he's stuck in a gatekeeper role now, I disagree. If he beats Weidman, there is a huge market (Brazil) for Anderson Silva vs. Vitor Belfort 2. I've never agreed with the "let's give the prodigy the safe path to a title shot because we need new faces". Eff that. Beat everyone in front of you to get a title shot. And Belfort is a better option than Sonnen right now.

There's no reason for Weidman to be facing an Alan Belcher or Hector Lombard or Tim Boetsch. They're not at his level right now. Weidman is now # 3 or 4 in the world. He should be fighting people above him on his way to the title, not below him.

Chael Sonnen vs. Wanderlei Silva - Sonnen has had two shots at the title. We all know he's a formidable challenge, and he will probably crush Silva. But they're both coming off losses, neither is in the title picture at the moment, and they've already traded a ton of smack talk. Fan the last remaining embers of Sonnen vs. Brazil and let them go at it in October in Rio.

Michael Bisping vs. Brian Stann - Belcher doesn't deserve that fight either. I know there's lots of talk that it might get done, but Stann is a much better option for the UFC from a drawing point of view. That's a top-two fight on PPV or Fox. It's also a safer fight for Bisping if they do indeed want him to face Anderson next. There's no denying that they've wanted to make Bisping/Silva forever, but Bisping keeps losing the top-contender matchups. Let him beat Stann up a bit and we'll go from there.

Check after the jump to see the other two.

Rich Franklin vs. winner of Hector Lombard vs. Tim Boetsch - There was talk of Lombard being one win from a title shot when he was facing Stann. I doubt that happens now with a win over Boetsch. Franklin is a tough challenge for either of the two men, and it's the kind of bout Franklin would like because he wants to make one last run at the title and a win over either guy gets him right into the hunt. I'm not saying he ever faces Anderson again, but he can still be a top guy at middleweight. Let him prove it against some new blood.

Alan Belcher vs. winner of Jake Shields vs. Ed Herman - Look, I still have my reservations about Belcher. I don't think he's ready to take on the top guys just because he beat Rousimar Palhares. While Shields isn't ranked and Herman is well below Belcher right now, they're both excellent challenges for Belcher's game. He holds a split-decision win over Herman four years ago, and they might not want to go back to the well on that. But, Shields is probably going to win anyway. Shields vs. Belcher is good matchmaking to me.

Mark Munoz vs. Hector Lombard vs. Tim Boetsch loser - This just seems logical. A good way to get back into the swing of things after a loss in a high-profile bout.

Ronny Markes vs. winner of Yushin Okami vs. Rousimar Palhares - Markes is a middleweight beast and while it might be a bit early for that kind of step up, I think he can beat both men.

So, that's it. What do you think?

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