Solving the Puzzle:
Who is the Number One Middleweight Contender?
By: Benjamin Bieker
After this past Saturday’s UFC 148 the true number one contender to Anderson Silva’s
title is unclear. The only fighter to ever come close to defeating him, Chael Sonnen, failed
miserably in his second attempt to take the title. Many fighters are calling out the "The
Spider", but only one will get the chance to fight him next. I will be breaking down the
upcoming pivotal matches, choosing winners, and putting them in the next logical fight.
Mark Muñoz vs. Chris Weidman (July 11th, UFC on Fuel TV 4 – Muñoz vs. Weidman)
Mark Muñoz has been pining for a title shot in the last couple years, and he has
amassed an impressive 7-1 record in the UFC’s middleweight division. In this fight, he
faces Serra-Longo standout Chris Weidman, who recently moved to 8-0 in his career. In
his last fight, he bested Demian Maia in a fight he took on 11 days notice and cut nearly
30 pounds for. The winner of this fight could be a clear cut favorite to face the title holder, but
both still have a little too much to prove. Weidman is still a little too green in his career to
face Anderson Silva and needs at least one more big win to validate a title shot. Muñoz
has been rocked by Yushin Okami, Kendall Grove, and Demian Maia; he needs to
prove he can hang beat a high-level striker before facing Silva.
The Bottom Line: I choose Weidman to win this. He probably has the better
technical striking to beat Muñoz on the feet and his wrestling should be good enough to
keep it on the feet.
Alan Belcher vs. Chris Weidman(November/December)
Give Belcher a fighter on a big win streak, and Weidman another veteran middleweight
to take out. The winner of this bout is a true number one contender.
Tim Boestch vs. Hector Lombard (July 21st, UFC 149 – Faber vs. Barão)
According to Dana White, Hector Lombard was promised a UFC title shot if he could
get past Brian Stann. Well, Stann dropped out of the fight, so what does Lombard do? Like
a true fighter he takes a fight 2 weeks earlier to earn his shot. In Boestch, he faces
someone just as dangerous as Stann. The come from behind knockout of Yushin Okami
earlier this year is proof of that. With a win over Lombard, he could make his case for a title
shot as well.
The Bottom Line: Lombard should walk through Boestch like many expect him to
do, and if he was promised a title shot with a win he still deserves it.
Anderson Silva vs. Hector Lombard (New Year’s Eve show)
If he beats Boestch convincingly, then people will be calling for this fight come July 22nd.
Ed Herman vs. Jake Shields (August 11th, UFC 150 – Henderson vs. Edgar 2)
A fight at middleweight no one is talking about. After coming back from two years of
rehabbing injuries, Ed Herman has finished all three of his fights impressively. Shields
is returning to the division where he attained his most significant wins over Dan
Henderson, Robbie Lawler, and Jason Miller. While a win does not put them at the title,
it does put them in the mix.
The Bottom Line: I would pick Herman, but it is hard to say how much the jump up
in weight will affect Shields good or bad.
Ed Herman vs. Constantinos Philippou (UFC on Fox 5 card in December)
Philippou lost his short notice fight to enter into the UFC, but is on a 4-fight win streak
and it is time he took on a veteran.
Michael Bisping vs. Brian Stann (September 22nd, UFC 152 – Benavidez vs. Johnson)
After this fight happens, neither fighter should be in line for a shot regardless of who wins.
For Stann, he still needs to time to improve his ground game. He may be able to stand
with Anderson, but when facing a BJJ black belt, the ground is always a threat. Bisping
has never beat a Top 10 fighter despite coming close. His four most recent wins came
over Jason Miller, Yoshihiro Akiyama, Jorge Rivera, and Dan Miller. Two do not even compete
in the octagon anymore, and the other two have dropped to welterweight. Every time
he competed against a decent name or top fighter he has lost, whether it is Chael Sonnen,
Wanderlei Silva, or Dan Henderson.
The Bottom Line: Bisping should take this. He has the better boxing and movement
to stay away from Stann’s power and could easily take this fight to the ground.
Michael Bisping vs. Rich Franklin (Early 2013)
Franklin may be taking on Cung Le later this year, but should make it past him. If
Bisping can get past the former champion, it will give him the name value on his resume
to challenge for the belt.
In the end, there are many who want the UFC middleweight belt. Fighters in other
organizations like Strikeforce’s Luke Rockhold and Tim Kennedy, fighters willing to cut weight
like Rashad Evans and Gegard Mousasi, and fighters with losses to the champion like
Vitor Belfort and Rich Franklin. It is my belief that Hector Lombard posses a threat, and
24 straight wins is one of the longest current streaks. He just has to be impressive in
his debut to make it a possibility. The average fan has to see him as the number one
contender, and he cannot do that by squeaking by.