There isn't much left for UFC middleweight champion Anderson Silva to prove inside the Octagon.
Silva forced a referee stoppage in Round 2 of his UFC 148 title defense against Chael Sonnen last night. Now, more than ever it is blatantly clear that there aren't many guys in the 185-pound division that can give Silva a run for his money.
During Silva's 14-0-0 run in the UFC, Sonnen was the only guy to come very close to beating the champ in their first fight almost two years ago. After Round 1 last night it looked as if he may be giving Silva a run for his money once again, but no.
Silva has always had the toughest time against guys with a good top game, Dan Henderson, Travis Lutter and Sonnen all gave him trouble. Looking good in a fight and winning a fight are two different things, though, and Silva is always on the winning end regardless.
There are a couple fights I'd be interested in seeing Silva take before he calls it a career, but any fight from here on out is just cementing a legacy and the "greatest of all time" status that will be hard for anyone to touch for a long time coming.
Obviously, super fights with Georges St-Pierre at a catch weight or Jon Jones at light heavyweight would sell tickets and get people excited, but all signs point to those fights never coming to fruition. So we can forget about those ones for now.
Despite eying shots at UFC gold, Mark Munoz, Michael Bisping and Alan Belcher don't seem to offer anything that would leave fans and bookies expecting anything other than Silva's arm being raised at the end of the fights.
Enter Hector Lombard (31-2-1-1NC). The Cuban born Olympic Judoka worked hard to make a name for himself outside of the UFC and is making his UFC debut against Tim Boetsch at UFC 149 in Calgary.
Lombard left Bellator Fighting Championships as the undisputed middleweight champion and despite not always fighting UFC-caliber opponents, finishes in 24 of his 31 wins speak for themselves.
Boetsch is no easy fight as evidenced by his come-from-behind victory over Yushin Okami, but if Lombard can take care of business decisively, Joe Silva, please set up the showdown with Anderson.
Lombard has the finishing prowess—something Sonnen lacks. Couple that with his Olympic judo credentials, and a fight between him and Silva would bring some intrigue into the middleweight division.
The UFC is the big leagues as far as MMA is concerned and we have seen rock stars outside of the UFC come in and look less than average. I have a feeling this won't be the case for Lombard, but you never know.
Aside from Lombard, I'd like to see the UFC bring in KSW light heavyweight champion and former Sengoku middleweight champion Mamed Khalidov to challenge Silva for the strap.
Khalidov isn't a fighter we often see in the MMA headlines here in North America, but he has made quite the name for himself fighting in Poland and Japan.
Sporting a record of 25-4-2, Khalidov is no slouch. Although he is currently fighting in the light heavyweight division, he is more than comfortable fighting at middleweight.
With wins over past and current UFC fighters like Matt Lindland, James Irvin and Igor Pokrajac, it would be nice to see him get a shot at glory in the UFC.
His record is impressive and he's fought some tough guys. With 11 knockouts and 13 submission victories to just one decision out of his 25 wins, Khalidov seems like just the kind of guy the UFC needs to put in front of Silva to provide fans with another exciting fight.
Again, Khalidov is outside of the UFC and would probably need a tune up match just like Lombard before fighting for gold, but leaving him outside of the UFC middleweight division is leaving money on the table when it comes to finding challenges for Silva.
Finally, we go back to the UFC for a good potential challenge for Silva. Despite being young in his career, Chris Weidman (8-0-0)—a Ray Longo and Matt Serra protégé—is undefeated and holds notable wins over former middleweight contender Demian Maia, Tom Lawlor and Alessio Sakara.
Weidman has excellent wrestling, heavy hands and with Matt Serra in his corner, you know he's well versed in submissions and submission defense.
I'm not sure that Weidman is as good a wrestler as Sonnen, but I think he has the level to challenge Silva at his weakness while appearing to have more ability to finish fights than Sonnen.
Who's next for Anderson Silva?
With only eight fights in his career thus far, I think Weidman could use two more solid wins over quality opponents before being thrown in with Silva. Once he does get that shot—and it will happen eventually—I think it has the potential to be a great fight.
There you have it; I think we'll see Silva fighting Lombard sooner rather than later as long as Lombard takes care of business in Calgary at UFC 149.
Khalidov is a long shot since he isn't in the UFC yet, but I think it will happen. As for Weidman, it's just a matter of time before he gets a title shot.
Also last night, Forrest Griffin beat Tito Ortiz in a unanimous decision in what was Ortiz' retirement fight, Cung Le beat Patrick Cote to realize his goal of winning in the UFC, and both Chad Mendes and Demian Maia got back in the win column with finishes inside of a minute.
Leon Horne enjoys all sports and has a particular interest in MMA; give him a follow on Twitter for more information and keep an eye out for interesting interviews and news. Follow @Leon_Horne