After a great night of fights at UFC 147, the middleweight divisional rankings remain pretty much the same.
They might have changed a tad had Rich Franklin really committed to a charge in the division, but for now we are still not 100 percent sure which way he will go.
Wanderlei Silva is still probably the most exciting fighter in the division, and while it looks as if he is improving, he is still outside of the top 10—for now. Had he more gas in the tank, he could have pressed the advantage in Round 3 and perhaps staged a coup, but things didn’t work out that way.
Now, the world looks toward UFC 148 and what is perhaps the most anticipated bout in the last two years: Anderson Silva vs. Chael Sonnen II.
Position: No. 10
Last Performance: Bellator 58 (vs. Trevor Prangley)
Next Bout: UFC 149 (vs. Tim Boetsch)
Anyone who has a win streak 20 long is an impressive individual, and very soon Hector Lombard will be testing himself on the biggest stage, something his fans feel is long overdue.
While the level of competition in other organizations might be considered “lesser,” Lombard’s consistency cannot be so easily dismissed.
A fight with Brian Stann would have shown whether Lombard really is as good as everyone says or if, like Jorge Santiago, he was simply a big fish in a small pond.
With Stann out, it looks as though Lombard with be facing big-puncher Tim Boetsch.
Position: No. 9
Last Performance: UFC on FOX 3 (vs. Rousimar Palhares)
Next Bout: TBD
Alan Belcher is enjoying a career resurgence, thanks to his victory over Rousimar Palhares, and he now is on the outer limits of the top 10.
He’s bounced back from injuries and now owns a win streak four fights deep, no doubt thanks to his new training regimen at Roufusport.
He and his camp will clearly be looking for a bigger name to push him higher into the rankings and perhaps toward a title shot sometime in 2013.
Position: No. 8
Last Performance: UFC on Fuel TV 2 (vs. Alessio Sakara)
Next Bout: TBD
Perhaps the only fighter in the UFC’s middleweight division that Chael Sonnen would hold above himself as an American hero, Brian Stann is a fighter who is ever but a punch away from ending the fight.
Fresh off his knockout win over gritty Alessio Sakara, Stann was scheduled to square off against Hector Lombard in what would have no doubt proved to be an exciting and rough fight for both men. With Stann injured, it is unclear whom he'll have to face in order to stay in the hunt.
Whoever Stann fights next, should he win, he’ll probably crack the top five, and from there a title shot is a very real possibility, although he matches up better with Anderson Silva than Chael Sonnen.
It's a given that Stann will be watching UFC 148 with serious interest.
Position: No. 7
Last Performance: UFC on FOX 2 (vs. Demian Maia)
Next Bout: UFC on Fuel TV 4 (vs. Mark Munoz)
Defeating Demian Maia is no small thing; just ask fighters like Ed Herman and Chael Sonnen.
After doing so, Chris Weidman now looks to test his wrestling against another great wrestler in Mark Munoz. Thanks to hard work done with Ray Longo (who helped Matt Serra sharpen his striking game considerably), the fight between these two grapplers could be decided standing up.
If he can overcome Munoz, he will have a strong argument for a title shot against the winner of Anderson Silva vs. Chael Sonnen.
Position: No. 6
Last Performance: UFC 144 (vs. Yushin Okami)
Next Bout: UFC 149 (vs. Hector Lombard)
By knocking out Yushin Okami in a thrilling come-from-behind victory, Tim Boetsch slipped in the back door of the party, but the hard work’s just starting.
His next test was scheduled to be against Michael Bisping, a fighter with sharp punching and an in-and-out style that has made him hard to deal with for many good fighters. With Bisping injured, Boetsch looks now to be facing Hector Lombard.
UFC on FOX 4 is a do-or-die fight for Tim Boetsch, and he'll have his hands full with Lombard.
Position: No. 5
Last Performance: UFC on FOX 2 (vs. Chael Sonnen)
Next Bout: TBD
The brash Brit has been a constant in the UFC since winning the third season of The Ultimate Fighter, and in that time he’s faced off against some big names and stayed fairly consistent in his winning ways.
He’s had hard losses to Dan Henderson and Wanderlei Silva, but he’s still firmly in the top five, thanks to an ever improving game and old-fashioned desire.
In his last loss, to Chael Sonnen, Bisping looked impressive, to say the least. Many thought Sonnen would have his way with Bisping, but it turned out to be a tough fight that saw Bisping in his best form in a long while.
Should he keep winning, a title shot should be his late 2012 or early 2013, but he'll need to recover fully and then do his level best to remain injury free.
Position: No. 4
Last Performance: UFC 142 (vs. Anthony Johnson)
Next Bout: TBD
Ever since his knockout loss to Anderson Silva, Vitor Belfort has been fighting like a man who knows the clock is ticking, which it is.
He may have burst onto the scene as a young man, but the years have rolled off the calendar, and now Belfort is one of the older men in the division.
Still, when experience is coupled with natural talent and dedication, a fighter can indeed see his dreams realized.
Belfort needs to heal up and then do everything in his power to stay out of the doctor’s office if he wants to make the most of what time he has left. He’s still got just about the fastest hands in the sport, explosive knockout power and improved grappling.
In all honesty, he should probably bypass a fight with Wanderlei Silva and concentrate his efforts on a top-three fighter. Fighting Wanderlei Silva poses too many risks in what is essentially a lose-lose situation.
He can’t afford to toil and risk injury in bouts with fighters who aren’t in the top 10 if he wants to get another crack at the title.
Position: No. 3
Last Performance: UFC 138 (vs. Chris Leben)
Next Bout: UFC on Fuel TV 4 (vs. Chris Weidman)
As a man so close to a title shot, Mark Munoz has the biggest bout of his life up next, against Chris Weidman.
He’s had four straight wins since he lost to Yushin Okami, and should he best Weidman, he will be the next man fighting for the title.
Honestly, a fight with either Anderson Silva or Chael Sonnen is compelling, given the relative history he shares with both men and the style he brings to the table.
But first he has to take out Weidman, which will be no small feat.
Position: No. 2
Last Performance: UFC on Fox: Evans vs. Davis (vs. Michael Bisping)
Next Bout: UFC 148 (vs. Anderson Silva)
The time for Chael Sonnen to ante up or shut up is almost here.
He’s gotten his hearts desire―a rematch with the champ―and he hasn’t stopped talking about it since he tapped out to Silva at UFC 117.
No one can hype a fight like Sonnen, but that would be an empty bucket were it not for how close he came to defeating the champ the last time they fought.
Now, he’s going to get the chance to right that wrong, if that’s what it really was, and what hangs in the balance is nothing short of the total realization of every single word of trash talk he’s aimed at Anderson Silva so many months running.
If Sonnen can do it, the world is his oyster. If he can’t, then he’s in a pickle: Would he want to continue fighting if he can’t be the best?
Not only that, but what would he say in his comeback fight that didn’t sound like a shtick we’ve heard before?
Sonnen’s talked himself into a corner, and it looks as though he’s got to either walk out of the cage with the title around his waist or head for the door.
Now that’s compelling.
Last Performance: UFC 134 (defeated Yushin Okami)
Next Bout: UFC 148 (vs. Chael Sonnen)
Sitting firmly atop the middleweight division, Anderson Silva has yet to lose a fight in the UFC, and as reigning champion, he has a record nine title defenses to his credit.
Although his UFC run is not without a few blemishes, thanks to lackluster wins over Patrick Cote, Thales Leites and Demian Maia, he still has finished fighters like Rich Franklin, Dan Henderson, Vitor Belfort, Nate Marquardt and Yushin Okami with an ease that is contradictory to the skills those fighters possess.
He’s also tested the waters at light heavyweight, blowing James Irvin and Forrest Griffin right out of the water via first-round stoppages.
His hardest fight to date is looming, and come UFC 148, he will square off once again against Chael Sonnen.