Hallelujah!! The much maligned UFC Middleweight division is finally getting interesting. It is not only due to the weekends events at UFC 109, as we have a number of other interesting match ups to look forward to as well.
Saturday nights result was certainly a big shock, with Chael Sonnen dominating the largely favored Nate Marquardt, riding to a unanimous decision win over the No. 2 ranked fighter in the division.
Don't be surprised if this doesn't come to fruition as its happened before, but with Sonnen's recent comments about Anderson and his manager Ed Soares, I think this guy can sell a fight and should be given his opportunity at the belt. As I expect Anderson to win in Abu Dhabi, I think the fight with Sonnen already sells itself.
Marquardt needs to go back to the drawing board. He will remain a top contender in the division but I was very surprised with his inability to do anything from his back at UFC 109. Clearly training with Rashad Evans is not a high enough level of wrestling! As I expect him to lose at UFC 112, a fight with Vitor Belfort would make a lot of sense and would be a great stand up war.
UFC 109 also witnessed Demian Maia's return to the Octagon and return to contention in the Middleweight division after his decision win over Dan Miller. Displaying quite rudimentary stand up the Brazilian still has improvements to make but with world class Jui-Jitsu the guy is a threat to anyone. Win or lose at UFC 110, Michael Bisping should be next for Maia.
Bisping meets Wanderlei Silva in Australia in a fight that is huge for both fighters. Should Bisping win he will be a legitimate contender in the division and a fight with Maia to determine the next No. 1 contender adds up in my mind. If he loses at UFC 110, the fight would allow Maia to cement his place as top contender or for Bisping to bounce back.
Wanderlei who is making his return to 185lbs needs a win after coming off back to back losses. He won't be fighting Maia as they are training partners so what lies ahead for the Axe Murderer. A loss to Bisping would really leave Silva looking at someone like the winner of Yushin Okami vs Lucio Linhares at UFN 21 or Yoshihiro Akiyama.
A win for Wanderlei against Bisping should set up a fight with the winner of the UFC 113 fight between the returning Patrick Cote and rising Alan Belcher. All three are solid strikers and this fight would potentially elevate the winner to title contention.
Patrick Cote is finally returning after his knee blew out against Anderson Silva at UFC 90. He looked good in the first two rounds of that fight and should he return fully healthy the French-Canadian can be a threat in the division again. Belcher is 3-1 in his last four fights only dropping a split decision to Akiyama. The 'Talent' could be right in the mix should he win this fight.
The last contender of note is the surging 7-0, Aaron Simpson. The American wrestler is still pretty new to the sport but at 35 he doesn't have time on his side. With a recent win over Tom Lawlor, 'A-Train' is close to breaking into the top tier of the division. He could very well be pushed up to fight any of the fighters already mentioned.
With improving fighters such as Tomasz Drwal, Kendall Grove and Mark Munoz, as well as mid-level talent such as Palhares, Lawlor and Chris Leben the UFC Middleweight division is finally becoming competitive and interesting again! With the upcoming season of TUF featuring middleweights we can expect at least a couple more prospects to emerge.
So its time to acknowledge that the so called 'weakest' division in the UFC is improving and suddenly a lot more competitive then it was six months ago. I for one am looking forward to how the potential matches I have mentioned pan out. Maybe the Spider is not quite done spinning his web at Middleweight!