So two of the summer’s big middleweight fights have happened within a week of each other and we’ve learned two things. First, Anderson Silva is still the best pound-for-pound fighter walking this planet today. Second, the division is a huge muddle behind him.
The title picture is pretty cloudy at 185 and was only made cloudier last night with Chris Weidman’s thunderous KO of Mark Munoz. Munoz was likely the next in line with a win over the up-and-coming Weidman. Now, that’s not going to happen. Michael Bisping was also to be the next in line with a win over Tim Boetsch, but a knee injury derailed that. It’s hard to hand a guy a shot at the belt when his last fight was a loss. So who’s left? Well, let’s take a buzz down the Fight Matrix rankings and see who the numbers say could be line.
#1 – Anderson Silva
We likely won’t be seeing the champ again this year. Without an established number one contender, there will likely be no rush to get him back in the Octagon. If someone emerges, we’ll probably see a similar schedule for the Spider to his 2011 docket, with fights in the 1st and 3rd quarters of the year.
#2 – Chael Sonnen
There is a lot still up in the air for the American Gangster. There are many rumours swirling about him; that he may be done, that he may be heading to the WWE, that he may appeal and try to get an immediate rematch with Silva. Until he decides on his future, his place in the division remains on hold.
#3 – Vitor Belfort
We all saw how well his last title fight went (TEEP!). While he’s been on a two-fight win streak since then, there’s talk of him moving back up to light heavyweight or waiting for Wanderlei Silva. Either way, he’s really not in a position to make a run at the belt right now. A rematch isn’t out of the question, but he’ll need to knock off a name first.
#4 – Mark Munoz
The rankings haven’t been updated as of this morning, but coming off a loss, the Filipino Wrecking Machine will bounce a few rungs down the ladder.
#5 – Luke Rockhold
Rockhold defends his Strikeforce middleweight strap against Tim Kennedy Saturday night. Depending on how that fight goes, it’s not out of the realm of possibility of him being brought over. The question is whether they would stick him into a title unification fight or make him run through a title eliminator. He’s likely to have to win one in the UFC. He doesn’t come with the pedigree that Jake Shields did and they will probably be reticent to stick a Strikeforce champ right into the cage with a UFC champ again ::coughShieldsandDiaz:coughcough:.
#6 – Hector Lombard
Now we get to the intriguing part. Lombard is a known monster amoung hardcore fans, getting most of his national exposure recently in Bellator. However, the casual fans they’ll be selling Silva’s next fight to will have never heard of Shango. Yes, a twenty-five fight win streak should be enough to convince fans that this guy is for real. Luckily for him, an opportunity was presented to Lombard in the form of Michael Bisping’s knee injury. Now, in facing Tim Boetsch next Saturday, Lombard has a chance to make his case for a title fight with a convincing win over the red-hot Boetsch.
#7 – Chris Weidman
He’ll be getting a bump in these rankings very soon, but will it be enough to convince Joe Silva to give him a title shot? It could happen. His convincing win over Munoz to kept him undefeated, but more importantly may have convinced the powers that be to get behind the All-American as the next in line. At the same time, there’s a camp that believes he needs another big win to be a legit contender.
#8 – Alan Belcher
While The Talent has an impressive four-fight win streak going, he needs probably one more big win to be seriously considered. A fight against Weidman could actually give him that nudge that he’d need.
#9 – Rich Franklin
Look, I love Ace. He’s a likely Hall of Famer. However, I don’t think anyone is interested in seeing Anderson Knees the Bejeebus Out Of Rich: Part 3.
#10 – Tim Boetsch
Like I said earlier, The Barbarian is on fire. A perfect 3-0 since dropping to middleweight, Boetsch has a shot to put his stamp of the division and make a serious statement by stopping Hector Lombard’s twenty-five fight win streak. If he can do that, he may jump to the front of the line, passing up a few of the younger upstarts.
So after all of those thoughts, I really still don’t have a definitive answer for who should receive the next shot at Silva. The night after, I’d say Weidman, but things could shift depending on what happens next Saturday night. Who do you think should get the next title shot at 185? Leave your picks in comments below.