If you’re not in the loop yet, this is the scenario regarding Anderson Silva’s UFC 185-pound title. Long story short, almost every top-10 contender has staked a claim at being the most deserving of a tilt at “The Spider’s” coveted crown.
Normally the headline question would’ve been answered in the first two or three lines of the lede paragraph, but I’ll leave that until the end, and then let you the masses have the final speak on it.
Prior to UFC 149, Dana White and Company had the whole middleweight title picture mapped out—ex-Bellator 185-pound freight train, Hector Lombard, more or less had his name etched in stone apropos the next title shot.
All he had to do was win impressively, but the assumption was a victory nonetheless would’ve have sufficed. That never came to pass, as Tim “The Barbarian” Boetsch brought an abrupt halt to the Lombard hype train and, through no fault of his own, inadvertently sent the middleweight contendership into utter disarray.
For obvious reasons, Chael Sonnen and Lombard don’t make the cut, while 205-pounder Rashad Evans isn’t really a legit contender at the moment.
Vitor Belfort: Ranked No. 4
The erstwhile UFC light heavyweight champion failed in his attempt to unseat the division’s perennial kingpin—losing in dramatic fashion. He has, however, bounced back with wins over Yoshihiro Akiyama and Anthony “Rumble” Johnson.
“The Phenom” is hell-bent on vying for the title one more time before he hangs ‘em up, and he believes his route to UFC glory lies in the hands of Chris Weidman. He recently tweeted his intentions of fighting the young gun, but Weidman politely turned him down.
Michael Bisping: Ranked No. 5
“The Count” has been plying his trade in the Zuffa-based promotion for just over six-years, and has yet to get a whiff of pure gold. The closest the Brit came to tangling with The Spider’s web was back at UFC on FOX 2—a title eliminator bout with the “gangster” from West Linn, Ore., which he lost via a unanimous—and controversial—decision.
Prior to the aforementioned defeat, Bisping sent Jason “Mayhem” Miller into retirement via TKO.
He’s next slated to throw hands with Brian Stann at UFC 152—a contest that will have dire ramifications as to whether he’ll belong in that inner circle of potential contenders.
That being said, Bisping is also one of two combatants who strenuously think they’ve merited a title shot more than the others.
Brian Stann: Ranked No. 6
Although Stann lost to Sonnen, he rebounded with a victory over Alessio Sakara. However, the ex-marine's chances of serious contendership are slim at best. Still, a win against Bisping could automatically thrust him smack-bang in the middleweight title mix.
Chris Weidman: Ranked No. 7
So far, “The All-American” has been the most vociferous of the bunch.
According to the New York native, he’s ready and can submit and/or finish Silva with a full camp behind him. Now that’s moxy for you, or just supreme confidence in his abilities.
Weidman is on a mission to prove he’s worthy of locking horns with MMA’s greatest fighter, and thus far has come up trumps with wins over Demian Maia (he took the fight on short notice) and Mark Munoz, whom he sent spiralling down the rungs of the UFC middleweight ranks.
Tim Boetsch: Ranked No. 8
As earlier mentioned, Boetsch threw a monkey wrench into the middleweight picture after barely extinguishing “The Lightning” of Cuban-born Lombard. Previous to that fight, he just about survived a Yushin Okami onslaught, before pulling off an incredible come-from-behind TKO to ensure his title aspirations were still intact.
The Barbarian is convinced a title tilt is in the offing, and reminiscent of his contemporary Weidman, is confident he too can submit Silva.
Alan Belcher: Ranked No. 9
“The Talent” has an unwavering certitude that he’s as good as anyone in the current contender’s melting pot to mount a challenge against Silva, and he probably has a point.
He did submit Jason McDonald and stopped heel hook submission specialist Rousimar Palhares.
Nevertheless, it seems Belcher could be throwing hands with The Phenom at UFC 153.
So there you have it, those who would be king.
That being said, Weidman gets my unequivocal vote for most deserved of the next title shot, due to the fact he upended No. 3 contender Munoz.
Belfort, although impressive in his last two outings, his opponents weren’t exactly the cream of the middleweight crop, and as such he’s out of the equation.
From a business perspective, Bisping would be the ideal contender, but he has to get past Stann first and then it’s up to the UFC hierarchy to set things in motion.
From my point of view, Stann, Boetsch and Belcher, for now, just don’t cut the mustard.