For the first time since 2006, the UFC's middleweight division has a champion not named Anderson Silva, and the division is much more intriguing as a result.
Make no mistake: Dominant champions are great for the UFC. No champion has been more dominant than "The Spider," and he's one of the company's biggest draws because of his nearly seven-year title reign.
But at this point in his career, he no longer needs the belt to be a great draw. He's already one of the UFC's most recognizable and exciting fighters, with 14 finishes to his name in the organization.
Whether he has that UFC title belt around his waist or not, people will tune in to see his fights.
The same can't be said for current UFC middleweight champion Chris Weidman. Whereas Silva has been building his brand inside the Octagon for seven years, Weidman has only been in the sport since 2009.
To illustrate the difference in familiarity with the UFC fanbase further, Silva has more finishes in the UFC than Weidman even has professional fights (14 to 10).
For years, the middleweight division has been a bit stale. Because of Silva's success as the champion, the quest for No. 1-contender status always felt a bit pointless. Fighters like Vitor Belfort, Demian Maia and Yushin Okami all climbed the ladder to earn title shots, but after they all got defeated in one-sided fashion one had to ask, "What's the point?"
It's telling that of Silva's last six opponents to challenge for the middleweight belt prior to his loss to Weidman (Chael Sonnen, Okami, Belfort, Maia, Thales Leites and Patrick Cote) only one (Okami) has remained in the UFC's middleweight division without at least testing the waters in another division or leaving the UFC altogether.
The way Silva has taken care of opponents, trying to climb the ladder again seemed trivial.
However, Weidman's emergence as champion makes the climb relevant again. While he's certainly a great fighter and should be favored over any challengers for his belt, he doesn't have the same aura of invincibility that Silva worked for years to obtain.
With a new champion in place, the division all of a sudden goes from having few contenders with the exact recipe to defeat Silva (great wrestling with good striking) to being stocked with interesting contenders to test the new champion.
If Silva defeats Weidman in a rematch, it's almost as if the first fight didn't happen. Barring a trilogy with Weidman, there aren't many intriguing fights for Silva to take in the division, and we'd once again go back to watching Silva pick off underqualified challengers.
The best-case scenario for fans would be to see Weidman defeat Silva again, proving that he's the rightful champion and taking on all comers at 185 while Silva goes on to take fights at whatever weight he chooses.
This would allow for the middleweight division to be more competitive than it has been since the latter half of Silva's reign while allowing Silva to put on exciting fights against bigger names in other divisions.
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