Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports
The middleweight division is big on talent but small in the ratings.
What do Tim Kennedy, Costas Philippou and Yushin Okami all have in common? Two things spring to mind for this list; they are all likely to contend for the belt in 2014, and nobody knows who they are outside hardcore MMA fans. Lyoto Machida is far more recognizable than the vast majority of middleweights and as such, is likely a substantially larger draw than any of them.
The middleweight belt, as it stands, is tied up until Spring 2014, with Anderson Silva and Chris Weidman set to face off in late December. That leaves enough time for Machida to get a couple fights under his belt and establish himself as the top middleweight contender in time for a fight in the Summer or Fall.
It's worth mentioning that Vitor Belfort is committed to waiting for the title shot, and has the drawing power and resume to get it when the time comes. Still, he could be waiting for up to a year from now to get that shot, and a fight with Machida could very well be a PPV-caliber main event with the right backup.
If "The Dragon" committed to dropping to middleweight right now, he could end up against somebody like Michael Bisping or Luke Rockhold (if he gets past Tim Boetsch) in January or February. From there, depending on how things shake out, he could either challenge for the belt or go right for a title shot in May or June.