For the past couple years, Silva and Sonnen have cultured a feud and rivalry that was very unique and drew a lot of attention. The greatest rematch to date came and went, and “The Spider” still remains king of the hill. But now that he has vanquished his biggest challenge of his career, it resurfaces the question that has followed every Silva fight; who is next for him?
Normally, it is a question out of bewilderment of the moment, but now with Sonnen defeated twice, the contenders are looking slim for the champ. Yes, there are always up-and-comers, but there are few that have the statistical numbers and promise that make fans feel like they would be viable challengers.
Essentially, Michael Bisping is the only man still at Middleweight who is yet to fight Anderson Silva. The other contenders jumped over to the UFC ship later on, but since Silva’s intro into the Octagon, Bisping is the only one who has always been there, but has never gotten a title shot. Had Bisping beaten Chael Sonnen when they met, it would have put Bisping on a five-fight winning streak, and most likely a title shot.
Bisping has had many “fight of the night” awards, but has filled the role of gatekeeper for the past few years. He has had his good runs, but gets stopped short. He has verbally made his case many times, but he is still coming off a loss.
Had Mark Muñoz won against Weidman, Muñoz would have been very deserving of a title shot. Weidman had other plans, and now he is in a position that could give HIM the opportunity to face Silva. Some feel he needs one more win before facing the Brazilian superstar, but that is all up to opinion.
The only other part of figuring out who might be next is the outcome of UFC 149’s matchup of Hector Lombard vs. Tim Boetsch. If Boetsch wins, you could make an argument for his shot, but like Weidman, he might need one more. If Lombard wins though, a title shot for him will be all but certain. Yes, Lombard will be making his UFC debut with this fight, but it’s hard to ignore 24 victories in a row, and a champion at that.
You can argue that Lombard still doesn’t deserve it if he wins, but like how Alistair Overeem got his shot, the UFC is not opposed to giving big names from other organizations a title shot after one win in the Octagon. Lombard is the only one who seems like an actual threat, and with a decisive win over Boetsch, he should be next up to try to dethrone Silva.
LHW fighter Rashad Evans has put his name in the hat, but only the name draws attention and any sort of worthiness toward an immediate title shot. Because more people know Evans than Weidman, it may be better looking on paper, but that fight would come up short when it comes to be deserving or fair. At the end of the day though, the UFC is a business as well.
Looking at the division under a magnifying glass is fine, but that will yield very little indication of what might be slated for Silva. Everyone has different criteria for what makes someone deserving of a title shot, and with these different contenders making their case from different angles, it will be interesting to see which direction the UFC goes. After UFC 149, we will have a little better understanding of the situation. Until then, Anderson Silva remains supreme.