Former long-time UFC middleweight champion Anderson Silva has a chance to recapture the 185-pound throne at UFC 168 next month when he rematches current titleholder Chris Weidman.
As far as UFC President Dana White is concerned, the next middleweight title challenger waiting in the wings is most likely Vitor Belfort, who became the first fighter to knock out former Pride and Strikeforce champ Dan Henderson at UFC Fight Night 32 on Saturday.
"I believe he (Belfort) deserves to fight for the title, even because he has been doing his part (to earn a title shot), just like other fighters like Ronaldo Jacare and Lyoto Machida, who just dropped to 185," Silva said. "I saw the fight, he fought really well," Silva said regarding Belfort's knockout of Henderson. "Vitor has been doing great, showing why he was the UFC champion for a long time. He deserves respect. We’ll just have to wait for the next chapters."
"The Phenom" has been on fire this year, racking up three straight victories, all headkick knockouts, over the likes of perennial contender Michael Bisping, ex-Strikeforce champ Luke Rockhold and the aforementioned Henderson.
Belfort, who has fought bouts contested at heavyweight before, boasts a 6-1 record at 185 pounds—with his only loss coming in a championship bout against Silva at UFC 126 in February of 2011.
The matchup did not end up being competitive, as Silva scored a highlight-reel-worthy knockout over Belfort with a front kick during the opening frame.
However, the Belfort of more recent memory has been executing nearly flawlessly, so it's hard to imagine Silva winning a rematch in equally dominant fashion.
Of course, let's not count Weidman out of the equation, as the undefeated (10-0) middleweight champ was the first competitor to ever KO Silva in 38 professional fights at their first encounter at UFC 162 in July.
Weidman's elite grappling and underrated striking could present an interesting stylistic matchup for the hard-hitting Belfort.
Despite the controversy surrounding his testosterone-replacement therapy usage, will Belfort end up fighting for the middleweight strap again by mid-2014?
And if he does fight for another UFC title, will the ex-UFC light heavyweight champ compete on American soil for the first time since August of 2011?