UFC 153: Who Will Emerge as Anderson Silva's Next Opponent at Middleweight?

Vince CareyContributor IOctober 10, 2012

Jul. 7, 2012; Las Vegas, NV, USA; UFC fighter Anderson Silva during a middleweight bout in UFC 148 at the MGM Grand Garden Arena. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-US PRESSWIRE
Mark J. Rebilas-US PRESSWIRE

Win or lose at UFC 153 this weekend, Anderson Silva will still be UFC middleweight champion.

Due to his three round main event against Stephan Bonnar taking place in the light heavyweight division, Silva has left the UFC’s middleweight contenders trapped in limbo for a few months, an unfortunate development in a division that has finally seen some new blood creep into the title picture over the last year.

The middleweight division feels fresh for the first time in years, and that’s largely thanks to Silva’s stoppage win over Chael Sonnen at UFC 148.

Ever since the first fight between “The Spider” and Sonnen at UFC 117, there’s been a small chink in Silva’s armor of invincibility

Sonnen dominated that fight in virtually all aspects of the game for 4.5 rounds and it was the first time in Silva’s UFC career that he had shown any form of vulnerability.

In Silva’s subsequent bouts against Vitor Belfort and Yushin Okami, the champion made sure to remind us what had made him the greatest fighter on the planet to begin with, but in the back of everyone’s mind was Chael Sonnen and his slow rise back to the top of the division.

With Sonnen out of the way both Silva and the fans are allowed to finally look at what the rest of the division has to offer, and luckily for the UFC, there have been some fighters putting in the work necessary to earn themselves a crack at the belt.

At the top of the list is longtime middleweight contender Michael Bisping.

Bisping has been considered a top-tier fighter for quite a while now, but he has always lacked the quality wins that made him a true threat for the title at 185.

With wins over two fan favorites in Jason “Mayhem” Miller and Brian Stann sandwiching a controversial decision loss to Sonnen, Bisping finally has a resume worthy enough to throw his name into the mix for a title shot.

Due to Bisping’s popularity he may be the opponent that makes the most sense for Silva at this point, and if the UFC was able to book the fight in Bisping’s home country of England it would be a huge boost to an already growing MMA community.

But as great as a potential fight with Bisping has to sound to the UFC, they can’t ignore the quick and brutal rise of Chris Weidman.

The New York based prospect has been destroying competition during his five-fight Octagon career, and with the exception of a decision win over Demian Maia in a fight that Weidman took on 11 days notice, “The All American” has been impressive in every single bout he’s been a part of.

His complete annihilation of Mark Munoz in July was enough to move him into the top level of the division, but it wasn’t quite enough to earn him a shot at the belt, and Weidman is set to fight Tim Boetsch at UFC 155 in December.

Either Bisping or Weidman is going to get the next shot at Anderson Silva for the middleweight belt, and it may end up being Silva that ultimately decides which fighter is worthy.

If Silva decides he wants to take a bit of a break following his fight this weekend, expect the UFC to match up Bisping with the winner of the Weidman/Boetsch bout as soon as possible.

If Weidman is able to work his way into that fight, he’ll be in a legitimate No. 1 contenders bout, and he’ll have a chance at earning his title opportunity by next summer.

However, if Silva decides to stay active and fight in early 2013, I think it’s time for the UFC to pull the trigger on a Silva-Bisping title fight.

Bisping is one of the most popular fighters on the UFC’s roster, and it seems that it’s finally time to give one of the UFC’s most consistent and loyal fighters a shot at the belt.

If he’s able to somehow find a way to dethrone Silva, Bisping is a big enough attraction that he would keep the division interesting, and the influx of new contenders could make for a very entertaining few years in the middleweight class.

If Silva wins, well then the expected happened.

The UFC can keep on promoting Silva as the “baddest man on the planet," he’ll have another well known fighter to put on his resume, and he can keep on defending his belt until someone is lucky enough to wrestle it away. Pun intended.

There’s legitimately no downside to a title fight between Michael Bisping and Anderson Silva, and if Silva’s ready to fight again in the early half of 2013 then the fight needs to happen.