Since the demise of the now controversial former middleweight king Anderson “The Spider” Silva in 2013, the UFC’s middleweight division has all of the sudden become one of the deepest and most intriguing in the world.
Silva ruled the 185-pound landscape for almost seven years, but when he was shockingly knocked off of his throne by current champion Chris Weidman at UFC 162 in July 2013, it seemed as if a huge list of hungry contenders emerged out of the dark.
As of late, the division has been in a limbo of sorts with the title picture having been put on hold due to recurring Weidman injuries. The champion is set to finally defend his title against Vitor “The Phenom” Belfort (a bout that has been scheduled three times) at UFC 187 on May 23, 2015.
Assuming this fight finally happens, the division can finally move forward and whether it be Weidman or Belfort wearing gold come May, one of them will be forced to face a murderer’s row of contenders.
There are a few huge middleweight bouts coming up prior to Weidman’s defense that could very well decide the next challenger after “The Phenom,” and ironically, they are both set for UFC on FOX 15 from Newark, New Jersey, on April 18, 2015.
The No. 3-ranked former title challenger and former light heavyweight champion Lyoto “The Dragon” Machida will take on No. 5-ranked Luke Rockhold in the main event, while No. 2-ranked contender Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza meets the No. 6-ranked Yoel “Soldier of God” Romero in the co-main event.
With all of this 185-pound action taking place in the coming months, it’s a bit of a mystery as to who will wear middleweight gold by the end of 2015?
One of the four men competing at UFC on FOX 15 will undoubtedly get the next title shot after UFC 187, but to me, it doesn’t matter. My opinion is that Weidman will still be the champ by the end of the year; that is, if he can stay healthy. In my mind, a healthy Weidman takes out Belfort. I just believe that the champion is way to well-rounded, not only for the Brazilian, but for any of the 185-pounders.
So what comes after Belfort? It’s hard to say. “Jacare” is currently the top contender aside from the soon-to-be suspended ‘Spider,’ and with a win, it would be hard to deny him a shot at gold. Then again, if Machida takes out Rockhold, the UFC could set up a rematch between “The Dragon” and Weidman. On the contrary, if Rockhold adds a win over Machida to his three-fight streak, doesn’t that earn him a title shot?
There are a lot of difficult questions in terms of who will challenge for the belt, but once again I believe the champion is just too hungry and too well-rounded. Don’t get me wrong, it won’t be easy as he will be taking on some of the best in the world, but I believe he comes out with gold strapped around his waist each time.
Up until now, Weidman’s toughest opponent has been the man in the mirror. He hasn’t been able to stay healthy enough to actively compete, but if he can, I truly believe the Serra-Longo product is amongst the best in the world.
Whom do you see sitting atop the middleweight division by the end of 2015?