In a flash, Chris Weidman knocked out Anderson Silva, and now the UFC's middleweight division has become the most interesting division within the promotion. Weidman used 2013 to cement himself as the top man at 185 pounds, which opened up a number of possibilities for important fights within the entire weight class. This weekend's UFC Fight Night 36 will answer some questions but create all new ones once the event is over. There are a number of contenders who are climbing the ladder, waiting for an opportunity to snatch away the title.
Chris Weidman is due to face Vitor Belfort at UFC 173 in Las Vegas on May 24th. After that, choosing the next man to get a title shot could be done by picking a name out of a hat.
Lyoto Machida and Gegard Mousasi will meet in the main event of UFC Fight Night 36. Many are considering this fight to be Machida's shot at claiming number one contendership. If "The Dragon" somehow knocks out Mousasi, then seeing him leapfrog other middleweights who've been in the division for a while would not be too far-fetched.
Mousasi, on the other hand, hasn't been promised a title shot if he wins on Saturday. This is his debut at 185 within the promotion, and only his second fight under the UFC's banner. Even though he did his employers a favor by fighting Ilir Latifi on an injured knee, he shouldn't be expecting a title shot with a win in this main event matchup.
So who does that leave? Look no further than the co-main event for the next two names on the list: Ronaldo "Jacare" Souza and Francis Carmont could be fighting for a title shot as well.
Souza is a world class athlete that has looked phenomenal since moving over to the UFC, and even in the three Strikeforce fights before that. Another stoppage under the bright lights could place him in a position to see a title shot at some point in 2014.
The wild card is Francis Carmont. The French native is riding a six-fight UFC win streak, even though many experts and MMA fans believe he's lost two of the last three. Questionable judging aside, Carmont can blow the mixed martial arts rankings wide open with a victory. While it's highly doubtful that he would receive a title shot if he wins, that would be the catalyst that grabs the attention of decisionmakers behind the scenes within the Ultimate Fighting Championship.
The short list of middleweights who could soon find themselves standing across the cagefrom the champion includes two other fighters. Michael Bisping and Luke Rockhold have the fighting ability and talking skills to brew up interest in anything that they do. Rockhold stopped Costas Philippou with a vicious body kick at UFC Fight Night 35 to start off his 2014 campaign. Even though he's recently been defeated by Belfort, he can still work his way back into the title picture this year with another high-profile win. He had been lobbying to face a returning Bisping in the main event of a Fox card, but now that Bisping is slated to face Tim Kennedy at the TUF Nations Finale and Rockhold will be facing Tim Boetsch at UFC 172, they'll need to both win their next fights to make that matchup happen.
The ending of Anderson Silva's reign as middleweight champion has resulted in the weight class being abuzz with talks of potential high-profile matchups. The main and co-main event of this weekend's card will help facilitate the selection of the next round of title challengers. Before 2014 is over, two of the four individuals in these fights could find themselves in a position to obtain a shot at the most important middleweight belt in MMA.