With Hector Lombard's loss last Saturday night to Tim Boetsch—and don't forget, I told you it was a possibility—the UFC's middleweight title picture is more obscured than ever before.
Going into UFC 149, it seemed a whole lot simpler than it does now. If Lombard had beaten Boetsch and done so impressively, he'd likely get a crack at Silva based on his impressive winning streak alone. But that winning streak is now gone, and so too is anything resembling order near the top of the division.
Dana White told the gathered media after UFC 149 that, if he had to name a contender for Silva immediately, it would likely be Chris Weidman.
In my eyes, that's a good move. Weidman is the most deserving contender on the roster at the moment, and he should get the call if Silva is ready to return to action before the end of November.
But things get a tad bit trickier if Silva takes his customary 10 months to a year away from the cage, don't they?
For starters, Brian Stann and Michael Bisping will hook up at UFC 152 this September in Toronto. The winner of that fight, at least for marketability purposes, has to be considered "in the mix" for a title fight. And for his part, Bisping believes he'll earn a title shot with an impressive win:
"I've been told if I beat him [Stann] - and beat him well - I'll get a title shot. But I haven't gotten it in writing, so it probably doesn't mean anything,”
Bisping's right. That promise—if it ever actually happened—is pretty much worthless, even if it's written on paper. We've repeatedly seen previously promised title shots evaporate faster than you can blink if they don't fit the UFC's plans.
But the ultimate question is this: Would Bisping even deserve a title shot with a dominant win over Stann?
I think he would. Bisping had a four-fight winning streak heading into his bout with Chael Sonnen. Dan Miller, Yoshihiro Akiyama, Jorge Rivera and Jason Miller aren't exactly the cream of the crop—three of those four names are no longer in the division, after all—but they're not easy outs, and Bisping was fairly dominant in all of the wins.
And then there's the Sonnen bout. Sure, the "American Gangster" earned the unanimous decision win, but it was a lot closer than the scorecards reflected. Think back to the moment that decision was announced: If Bisping had earned the unanimous decision, would you have been all that upset? Or even surprised?
I wouldn't have been surprised. Not in the least.
On top of that, Bisping has been in the UFC for a very long time, and aside from a few moments of hot-headed aggression—and dumb comments made during press conferences—he's been a good company man.
He's also a marketable star, and a potential fight with Silva would sell very well. They couldn't do the fight in England due to the time differences between that country and North and South America, but I don't think they have to. The fight would be marketable in any area the UFC chooses to hold it in.
In the end, Silva's next opponent is all going to come down to the champion and when he decides to come back to the Octagon. If he's looking to get back in the cage sooner than later, Weidman should get the opportunity.
But if he's intent on waiting until 2013, the UFC should seriously consider giving Bisping the opportunity to earn his shot with a dominant win over Stann. He's paid his dues.
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