Anderson Silva is already an all-time great, but in the middleweight division, five voracious, tiger-eyed cats lie in wait, ready to pounce at the slightest given opportunity.
They are the ones that pose the greatest threats to Silva's tenure as the undisputed linchpin of the 185-pounders.
The highly projected fight for the ages will see Silva (31-4 MMA, 14-0 UFC) attempt a record 10th successive title defense and—if he can do so—elevate his status as the No. 1 pound-for-pound king to even loftier heights.
That being said, here’s a look at Silva’s quintet threat.
First on the list of possible candidates to pose threats to Anderson Silva's middleweight highness is none other than the hitherto unheralded Alan Belcher.
For what might've seemed like an eternity, “The Talent” has been nothing short of a 185-pound nonentity on the fringes of contendership who for some reason was never capable of attaining Silva's heights.
That’s in the past, this is the here and now, and Belcher is a top-10 fighter with top-10 aspirations.
He more than earned that accolade when he stopped the dangerous Jiu-Jitsu practitioner Rousimar Palhares in Round 1 at UFC on FOX 3.
Belcher (18-6 MMA, 9-4 UFC), who is currently riding a four-fight win streak, has the requisite skill set and attributes to contest with the best that the division has to offer, Silva included.
In his first matchup with Silva, Vitor “The Phenom” Belfort came a cropper when out of the blue “The Spider” pulled out an astounding front kick to put him down and out.
Up until to the end result of that night, Belfort was seen as a real threat to Silva—in the opening stanza he almost connected with an overhand left that, if it had found its mark, could’ve been good night, Vienna, and good morning, new champ.
Since the Silva loss, Belfort (21-9 MMA, 10-5 UFC) has registered two impressive wins, against the likes of Anthony Johnson and Yoshihiro Akiyama.
If the former UFC 205-pound titlist decides to stay at 185-pounds (He recently intimated the weight cut was a problem.), stays injury free and wins his next outing or two, he will be a genuine threat to Silva for sure.
Chris “The Hangman” Weidman has emerged as legitimate threat, not only to the middleweight assemblage, but more importantly to the man who’s held sway over said division for six years.
The former two-time NCAA Division-l All-American upped his standing in the 185-pound class when on short notice he was able to muster a unanimous victory over Brazilian jiu-jitsu expert Demian Maia.
His next test comes in the guise of fellow wrestling standout Mark Munoz at UFC on Fuel TV 4.
If he comes through that unscathed, a possible title tilt awaits.
Along with his wrestling background, Weidman (8-0 MMA, 4-0 UFC) is also proficient in BJJ (Purple-belt) and has come on leaps and bounds in the striking department.
At 28 the New York native is one for the future and, as earlier mentioned, poses a serious threat to Silva.
This is the guy who had the temerity to say:
“I think with a full camp I’d finish Anderson Silva” (h/t thegarv.com).
Save for the No. 1 spot on this slideshow, the former Bellator middleweight champion is by far Silva’s greatest threat.
While Hector Lombard hasn’t faced off against the same elite caliber of fighters Silva has had the pleasure of throwing hands with, the Cuban-Australian has shown he’s still a force to be reckoned with.
He’s currently riding a 20-fight winning streak, and the two defeats on his résumé came by way of decision.
The 34-year-old is a fourth-Dan black-belt Judoka and also holds a black belt in BJJ. In addition, Lombard is well versed in Muay Thai, a discipline in which Silva excels.
Furthermore, Lombard has 17 KOs and seven submission victories in 31 outings.
He also holds the record for the fastest knockout in Bellator history—a five-second decimation of Jay Silva.
He’s scheduled to make his debut for the promotion when he takes on Tim Boetsch at UFC on FOX 4. How he fares in that bout will give a clearer picture as to his overall makeup.
That said, if he dispatches Boetsch in emphatic fashion, a title shot is in the offing.
Lombard has the power to take out any middleweight, so a standup war with “The Spider” will make for great viewing.
And if matters are taken to the canvas, it could be a whole new ball game.
However, whether he can dethrone Silva, we’ll just have to wait and see.
At present, the self-proclaimed “American Gangster” is the greatest threat to Silva’s iron grip on the middleweight division.
At UFC 117 Chael Sonnen applied his outstanding wrestling pedigree and thus near enough put a five-round blitzkrieg on “The Spider.”
As the MMA gods would have it, the Oregonian left the Octagon minus the coveted belt strapped around his waist after falling victim to a triangle-armbar submission in the last few minutes of the final frame.
The rematch beckons at UFC 148, where Sonnen will once again vie for the title.
This time he’ll and pray that the gods are on his side.
No matter what the general consensus is regarding Sonnen’s persona (outrageously outlandish) and his transgressions (failed drug test, money laundering and mortgage fraud), the fact remains that he did what no other fighter had been able to do since Silva assumed residence in the Zuffa-based promotion.
He took the Brazilian to the darkest depths of hell.
If Sonnen (27-11 MMA, 6-4 UFC), who is 2-0 in his last outings, can employ the same tactics and utilize them to the best of his abilities, he just might just pull off the upset of the century.
UFC 148 is scheduled for July 7, 2012, at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas.