Will the real top contender please stand up? After a couple of months of trying to figure out what was next for dominant UFC middleweight champ Anderson Silva, it was finally announced that Chris Weidman would challenge Silva for the title at UFC 162 in July. Weidman however, was not exactly the fight that the UFC and Silva were looking for.
Weidman is without a doubt a deserving challenger. He is undefeated in nine fights and has five impressive wins in the UFC with wins over names like Mark Munoz and Damian Maia. Detractors would say the guy does not have enough wins overall in his MMA career or that he does not have the marquee name like a Michael Bisping or Vitor Belfort does.
If there is a challenger out there more deserving than Weidman, then do one thing prove it.
Bisping was on his way to a title shot twice in his career and came up short on both occasions, once by Chael Sonnen and then by Vitor Belfort. Sonnen, probably the best middleweight next to Silva, was defeated twice by Silva and while Belfort is ranked number two according to the UFC he seems more interested in fighting Jon Jones then he does Anderson Silva to whom he was knocked out in their first encounter.
The biggest issue working against the UFC's middleweight crop of fighters is the gap between Anderson Silva and the rest of the pack. The second issue is the lack of middleweight competitors racking up consecutive victories. No one outside of Weidman, Yushin Okami, and Constantinos Philippou have a current winning streak. Strikeforce imports Luke Rockhold and Jacare Souza have streaks, but have yet to win a fight in the UFC.
The third issue is name value. Hardcore fans love the fact that Weidman is getting a title shot while the more casual fan will probably wonder who Weidman is. Guys like Philippou and Rockhold would also fall under 'lack of big name' category.
When Chael Sonnen rose to the top of the division not only did he win fights but he built a reputation for himself by talking himself up and winning fights. Not everyone can run smack like Sonnen but guys have to do something to move away from the pack if winning is not enough.
The only thing that will fix the division is a new champion. It is time for Anderson Silva to either get beat or move on. Look, Silva is perhaps the greatest mixed martial artist of all-time. Decades from now we will look back and say things like 'I remember when Silva knocked out Belfort with a back leg front kick' or 'remember when Sonnen dominated Silva for the entire fight and Silva pulled out the victory with a last minute triangle?'
Those kind of memories last forever. Silva's legacy as the greatest middleweight fighter is set. It is time for Silva to move on to bigger fights with bigger names, otherwise we are only a short time away from seeing fights like Silva versus Okami 2 or Silva versus Belfort 2. For Silva the reality is that time catches up to everyone and it is not if he loses it is when he loses.
A new champion would strike up fresh match ups for the title and by default build up the reputations of some of the lesser known fighters in the division. A Silva-less middleweight division may become more of an option for a guy like Lyoto Machida or even a Rashad Evans to consider. The addition of one or both of those fighters would give the division a much needed shot in the arm.
The bottom line is that UFC is in dire need of someone in the middleweight division to pull these three things together: talent, winning, and name value. The UFC cannot do that for them, the fighters have to.