In dispatching Lyoto Machida at UFC 175, UFC middleweight champion Chris Weidman proved he's the best middleweight in the world.
This may seem obvious. Weidman was already the middleweight champion, after all. He beat the greatest fighter in the history of mixed martial arts, and he did so twice. By all rights, Weidman should've already been considered one of the best fighters in the world, regardless of weight class.
But there are those who didn't believe Weidman was the real deal, even after the two wins over Anderson Silva. I know this because I was one of the nonbelievers. I chalked up Weidman's first win over Silva to Silva's clowning around; the second was a freak accident Weidman may or may not have intentionally caused.
So, yeah. I was not a believer. I picked Weidman to lose to Machida. As it turns out, Machida—long known as an elusive fighter and, perhaps, a boring one—fought harder than he ever has in the entirety of his career. It took him three rounds to get warmed up, but Machida finally surged. Unfortunately for him, the damage was already done.
In beating Machida, Weidman should have finally eliminated all doubters as to his validity. I'm a believer now, and I suspect most of you will find yourselves in the same boat. But the train won't stop for Weidman. Beating Silva (twice) and Machida are outstanding accomplishments, but now Weidman has a new challenge staring him directly in the face: the hulking, snarling face of Vitor Belfort.
It has to be Belfort. He was scheduled to face Weidman in May, before testosterone replacement therapy (TRT) was banned and before it was revealed Belfort had failed a random drug test issued to him in February. Belfort was the top contender then, and so he should be the top contender now.
That's assuming, of course, Belfort takes care of his issues with the Nevada State Athletic Commission. UFC president Dana White said Belfort had a long way to go before he can get the championship fight he wants.
"I think what's next and what everybody would like to see, what I'd like to see and what you'd like to see is probably Vitor Belfort," White said during the post-fight news conference attended by Bleacher Report. "So let's see what happens with Vitor. If this guy can get his business handled."
Belfort's "business" will include going in front of the Nevada commission, which could be messy and will almost certainly be entertaining. Belfort will have to explain why he failed a drug test when TRT was initially prescribed to bring his testosterone levels up to that of a normal man.
And then he'll have to apply for a license, and the commission will have to take a look at everything on Belfort's recent record, and then they'll have to decide if they can gloss over the fact that a man who was prescribed testosterone to help him live a normal life failed a drug test. And once they gloss over it, they can grant him a license to fight, and all will be well.
This will happen, of course. Chael Sonnen failed a test after his first bout with Silva, and the Nevada commission ultimately asked him to serve in an advisory role on performance-enhancing drugs. This was a preposterous notion at the time and is even more ridiculous in hindsight. But this is standard operating procedure for a commission that rarely comes down harshly on offenders.
Belfort will be licensed, and then he'll face Weidman. And then Weidman will have the chance to put an ending to the TRT era of mixed martial arts once and for all.
I, for one, can't wait.