B/R Official MMA Rankings for June: The Top 10 Middleweights in MMA
Apart from Alan Belcher's impressive win over Rousimar Palhares at UFC on Fox 3, May was a relatively quiet month for the middleweight division. After Vitor Belfort suffered an injury and was forced out of a belt with Wanderlei Silva, June will bring even less official middleweight action.
However, Rich Franklin has stepped in as a replacement for Belfort and will meet Silva in a 190-pound catchweight bout that will have implications for the middleweight division. The entire month of June will also build anticipation for a historic 185-pound title fight between champion Anderson Silva and rival Chael Sonnen.
Let's take a look at the landscape of the top of the middleweight division as we head into a new month and prepare for what could be the biggest fight in the division's history.
These rankings are the combined efforts of some of Bleacher Report MMA's best writers, as we continue to try and provide you with the best content on the web.
10. Hector Lombard
Record: 31-2-1, 1 NC
Most Recent Fight: Won vs. Trevor Prangley at Bellator 58
Next Fight: vs. Brian Stann at UFC on Fox 4
Previous Ranking: N/A
After beating up on lesser competition in Bellator for the past three years, Hector Lombard is finally a member of the UFC's middleweight division.
Riding an impressive 20-fight winning streak, Lombard's quest to become the 185-pound champion of the world's premier MMA organization will begin against Brian Stann in August. At the same time, Lombard will be looking to simply prove he deserves a spot on these rankings, as it's been quite awhile since he's been matched up against a top middleweight.
9. Alan Belcher
Richard Wolowicz/Getty Images
Most Recent Fight: Won vs. Rousimar Palhares at UFC on Fox 3
Next Fight: TBD
Previous Ranking: N/A
With his knockout win over Rousimar Palhares in early-May, Alan Belcher has finally arrived as a contender in the middleweight division. Despite a career-threatening eye injury in 2010, a four-fight winning streak now has Belcher prepared to meet a top 185-pound fighter in his next fight.
Training at Roufusport, Belcher has become skilled both on his feet and on the ground. "The Talent" is a well-rounded fighter with the tools to make a run at the middleweight title in the near future.
8. Brian Stann
Most Recent Fight: Won vs. Alessio Sakara at UFC on Fuel TV 2
Next Fight: vs. Hector Lombard at UFC on Fox 4
Previous Ranking: 8
After losing to Chael Sonnen in October, Brian Stann rebounded with a knockout win over Alessio Sakara in April. "The All-American" has won four of his past five fights now and will have a great chance to jump back into the title picture with a win in his next fight.
Against Hector Lombard, Stann will be meeting one of the most recognized fighters to have competed outside of the UFC in recent years. With a win over Lombard, Stann would prove the strength of the UFC's middleweight division and could earn himself a title shot before the end of the year.
7. Chris Weidman
Most Recent Fight: Won vs. Demian Maia at UFC on Fox 2
Next Fight: vs. Mark Munoz at UFC on Fuel TV 4
Previous Ranking: 7
Chris Weidman emerged as a middleweight contender with his win over Demian Maia on short notice in January. Now, Weidman is set up for a bout against Mark Munoz that could give him the chance to earn a championship fight against the winner of the upcoming Anderson Silva-Chael Sonnen matchup.
Under coach Ray Longo, the former All-American wrestler has developed a capable striking game and could be well-rounded enough to become middleweight champion before 2012 is over.
6. Tim Boetsch
Most Recent Fight: Won vs. Yushin Okami at UFC 144
Next Fight: vs. Michael Bisping at UFC 149
Previous Ranking: 6
A winner of seven out of his past eight fights, 31-year-old Tim Boetsch has become an unlikely entrant in the middleweight title conversation. In his most recent appearance, Boetsch mounted an unbelievable come-from-behind knockout win over Yushin Okami.
Now, Boetsch will look to continue his momentum against another elite middleweight in Michael Bisping, who was narrowly defeated in a bout against Chael Sonnen that could have earned him a title shot.
5. Michael Bisping
Mark Kolbe/Getty Images
Most Recent Fight: Lost vs. Chael Sonnen at UFC on Fox 2
Next Fight: vs. Tim Boetsch at UFC 149
Previous Ranking: 5
Despite his many detractors, there were plenty who believed Michael Bisping had earned a title shot in a close fight against Chael Sonnen. However, the judges saw the closely-contested bout in Sonnen's favor, setting him up for a title fight with champion Anderson Silva.
Though he lost the fight, Bisping's performance against Sonnen showed the British fighter was able to compete with the best 185-pound fighters in the world. With a decisive win over Boetsch, Bisping should find himself back near the front of the race for a title shot in the middleweight division.
4. Vitor Belfort
Jon Kopaloff/Getty Images
Most Recent Fight: Won vs. Anthony Johnson at UFC 142
Next Fight: TBD
Previous Ranking: 4
With back-to-back wins since his loss to Anderson Silva, Vitor Belfort was set to make an argument for a title fight with a win over Wanderlei Silva at UFC 147. However, an injury has forced "The Phenom" out of that fight and will leave him further down the line of fighters worthy for a championship bout, as there are plenty of big middleweight fights coming up over the next few months.
The 35-year-old Belfort may not have many years left to regain a UFC title, so he will need to heal quickly and avoid further injuries to remain a viable option to contend for the 185-pound belt before his career comes to an end.
3. Mark Munoz
Most Recent Fight: Won vs. Chris Leben at UFC 138
Next Fight: vs. Chris Weidman at UFC on Fuel TV 4
Previous Ranking: 3
Since his controversial loss to Yushin Okami, Mark Munoz has won four straight fights and was prepared for a bout with Chael Sonnen that could have earned him a title shot. However, Munoz was injured during training for his bout with Sonnen and has been out of action ever since.
In July, Munoz will have a chance to make a big return against the up-and-coming Chris Weidman. The 34-year-old is coming on strong, but he will have his hands full with a young fighter who is also a very talented wrestler.
2. Chael Sonnen
Ethan Miller/Getty Images
Most Recent Fight: Won vs. Michael Bisping at UFC on Fox 2
Next Fight: vs. Anderson Silva at UFC 148
Previous Ranking: 2
Chael Sonnen has won five of his past six fights, with his only loss during that time coming against Anderson Silva in a fight he was winning through four rounds. In one month, Sonnen will have the chance to atone for that loss in a rematch with Silva.
Though Sonnen barely walked away with a win over Michael Bisping in his most recent fight, this is the title fight that almost everyone wanted. In early-July, the score will be settled between the greatest middleweight of all-time and arguably the greatest trash talker in MMA history.
1. Anderson Silva
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Most Recent Fight: Won vs. Yushin Okami at UFC 134
Next Fight: vs. Chael Sonnen at UFC 148
Previous Ranking: 1
UFC middleweight champion Anderson Silva has gone more than six years without losing a fight. "The Spider" has separated himself as the best fighter to ever compete in MMA and has little left to prove in the sport.
However, there is one fighter who Silva would like to beat one last time before leaving the sport. Although he submitted Chael Sonnen in their last meeting, Silva was dominated for the better part of four rounds and has endured plenty of trash talking from Sonnen since winning that fight.
In July, Silva will have the opportunity to silence Sonnen by defending his belt for a 10th time. Win or lose, there is some speculation among fans and pundits that the fight could be Silva's last inside the Octagon.