Jul 18, 2012

State of the Middleweight Landscape

Image via terezowens.com

Hey there folks. It has been a while since I've had a chance to comment on all things mma as Comic Con took my attention away for a spell. In my catching up on the mma world it seems like the middleweight picture has become quite a mess and I have decided to take up the duty to try and sort out the picture for all you wonderful readers. (One side Comic Con note: apparently Josh Barnett was there and somehow we did NOT meet him. Lame.) So up next we'll take a look at the top names in the game, where they stand, and where do they go from here.

Anderson Silva: Fresh off the biggest win of his career, it seems most likely that Anderson will take some time off to enjoy his new A-list celebrity status in his home country, and have some fun with those fresh millions in his bank account. It does not seem likely he will fight again any sooner than the Spring or Summer of next year. I don't think he is retiring quite yet, but he might be moving toward the Undertaker annual super fight circuit mode sooner than later.

Chael Sonnen: Poor Chael. Your tremendous wrestling ability and gift of gab got you right near the top, but a "what were you thinking?" spinning back elbow probably cost you all of it. With a second loss, this time in devastating fashion, Chael will not likely get a third crack at Silva. He goes into Jon Fitch mode now with the option of being a gate keeper to the division unless Silva should fall or decide to retire. Next up he likely gets to settle his feud with Wanderlei Silva, or possibly retirement, though I would hope not.

Mark Munoz: Munoz was supposed to be up next, but he was quite simply tooled in his last fight. He's the decorated wrestler whose take downs aren't quite good in an mma setting, whose standup is only ok, and whose chin is questionable. Munoz probably falls out of the title picture and will need to put together 3-4 wins again before he's in it once more.

Chris Weidman: Just like Batman on Thursday, Weidman rises. For Munoz being up next, Weidman made that fight look like some routine can crushing. He probably has more momentum than any other fighter in the division going right now, but due to no one watching Fuel, likely needs another high profile fight as a co-main event to help sell his probably shot against Silva after.

Luke Rockhold: Can't forget the Strikeforce boys in the big picture of things. I have actually come around on Rockhold. I do think he is a legitimately talented guy, but unfortunately he's stuck with a pool of about 4 opponents for the foreseeable future. Jacare is up next for a rematch, and once that happens there really isn't anything left to do for him, but all these guys seem to be kind of stuck in place.

Tim Kennedy: Just including him because like Chael he now has two defeats in title fights, and though in SF you are always seemingly one fight away from a title shot, I think there is a decent chance he leaves the sport and returns to the army. He has been quite displeased with the state of his career, and his last fight lacked any urgency in the end.

Vitor Belfort: Vitor actually has put together a nice string of impressive finishes and is probably very close to a title shot again himself. I think up next for him will be a fight with Chris Weidman because it will do one of two things, either launch Weidman's rising star to make him a viable contender, or it will set up a cash cow rematch between Silva and Vitor that would likely  main event the stadium show in Brazil that the UFC is seeking. And if you could get the two of them to lead up to it with coaching stints on another season of TUF: Brazil? Well that whole country might just explode.

Hector Lombard: As the guy on this site who waves the Hector Lombard banner, I kind of have to ride or die with this guy. It seems though if he gets by Boetsch in typical Hector smash face fashion, he will be next. He is the Bellator champ, about to be on the wrong side of 30, and he makes some good walking around money, so he will not have a slow track to the title. Think Jake Shields, one fight to prove yourself, then the title. Two guys with impressive win streaks outside the UFC putting them up against the best of the best in the UFC.

Tim Boetsch: Boetsch continues his improbable run into the upper tier of middleweights this weekend against Lombard. It still seems almost flukey how he beat Okami, but with an additional victory against Lombard he would be getting close. With a win he is still likely another couple of fights away, and would likely be matched up against an Alan Belcher or winner of Bisping/Stann for his next fight.

Michael Bisping: Bisping experienced the Dan Hardy effect after losing to Chael where in defeat he gained more fans. Bisping has on many occasions  gotten close to the title, but not quite enough for a shot. With a victory over Stann he is likely one fight away once again, and just like everyone else on this list seemingly from being #1 contender. With a win up next is either Alan Belcher, or Vitor Belfort. Bisping's brash personality however could give him preference over some of these other guys in the result of a stalemate as he is a proven draw, and he knows how to sell a fight.

Alan Belcher: Alan has quietly been sneaking up for a while now so I am glad to see him right on the cusp, if only it weren't for that fat melting Johnny Cash tattoo, I might be waving his banner with a Hector Lombard-like gusto. He likely waits in the wings for another big fight against the winner of a couple of the upcoming middleweight bouts. Unfortunately he is among the least known of the next contenders, and unless he can keep winning in highlight real fashion, he is probably two fights out from a title shot at least. Up next my guesses are either the Bisping/Stann winner, or Tim Boetsch if he beats Hector.

What you are basically left with is a train wreck of a situation. Nearly every guy is one or two fights away, so all that can really be done is let them all fight each other. It's unfortunate that when Anderson has more contenders than at any point during his reign, is he starting to slow down his fight schedule. Though for a division that was long held as one of the most shallow in the sport, it is nice to see so many viable contenders, even though they still don't really have a shot at the G.O.A.T.

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