After a shocking main event last Saturday that saw challenger Chael Sonnen dominate the champion Anderson Silva for 23 minutes before being submitted in what is sure to be remembered as one of the greatest come from behind wins of all time, the No. 1 middleweight in the world keeps his spot atop the rest.
Yushin Okami notched an impressive win over Mark Munoz a week earlier, distancing himself from a one-sided loss to Chael Sonnen in October.
The middleweight division is more intriguing now than it has been in recent memory. A line of contenders wait for their shot at the title, and surely the fans will benefit from them fighting to earn their way to the top.
With so many options in terms of interesting matchups between top middleweights, the division does not solely rest on the champion's shoulders.
If Jake Shields were not already set to face Martin Kampmann in the UFC at welterweight, he would be ranked very high in the top ten. Since he has now declared himself a welterweight, he has been dropped from the middleweight rankings.
Last fight: First-round KO win over Jay Silva 5/13/2010
Next fight: Herbert Goodman 8/12/2010
The Bellator champ blew away all observers with his six-second first-round knockout of Jay Silva in May.
Hector Lombard is currently on a 19-fight run with no losses, and next meets Herbert Goodman in a non-title bout on the debut event of Bellator season three.
The fight more fans are looking forward to is with season two middleweight winner Alexander Shlemenko, which will be the first defense of Lombard's title.
Last fight: Second-round submission win over Patrick Cote 5/8/2010
Next fight: TBA
Alan Belcher was all set to meet Demian Maia in the main event of Ultimate Fight Night 22 next month, but after suffering a torn retina during his time training in Brazil, Belcher has pulled out of the fight.
His career is now in peril as he continues to go through a series of surgeries to try and repair the damaged eye.
Belcher was taking a lot of momentum into the fight with Maia, so this comes at probably the worst possible time for the budding middleweight.
In his last outing, Belcher rocked Patrick Cote with a slam and quickly finished him with a rear-naked choke in the second round.
Hopefully Belcher will pull through this and be back in action early next year. He is undoubtedly one of the most entertaining and exciting fighters in the sport.
Last fight: Unanimous decision win over Mamed Khalidov 3/7/2010
Next fight: Kazuo Misaki 8/22/2010
After suffering an upset loss by first-round TKO to Mamed Khalidov in a non-title bout, Dream champion Jorge Santiago avenged the loss four months later with a well deserved unanimous decision.
Now the champ will defend his title against Kazuo Misaki in a rematch of their January 2009 fight in which Santiago won with a rear-naked choke in the fifth round.
Rumors of Strikeforce's middleweight tournament are said to include Santiago, which would be a terrific addition to the competition. Let's hope they actually go through with their plans since it is getting so much positive feedback.
Last fight: Unanimous decision loss to Jake Shields 4/17/2010
Next fight: TBA
Though Dan Henderson appears to be heading back to 205 pounds for a rematch with Renato Sobral, his last five fights have been south of that so he remains in the middleweight rankings.
In the first round of his title fight with Jake Shields, Henderson appeared to be making easy work of Shields in the first round, but Shields survived and out-grappled Dan for the remainder of the five rounds, earning a unanimous decision.
Still, Henderson is one of the best fighters in the world and remains in the top ten due to his wins over Rousimar Palhares, Rich Franklin, and Michael Bisping.
I like the idea of two fading legends facing each other in Sobral and Henderson, but more attractive than that would be Henderson's participation in the alleged Strikeforce middleweight tournament. We will have to wait and see.
Last fight: Unanimous decision loss to Anderson Silva 4/10/2010
Next fight: Mario Miranda 8/28/2010
Though Demian Maia was somewhat embarrassed in his decision loss to Anderson Silva earlier this year, he is clearly the best submission artist in the UFC today.
His wins over Chael Sonnen and Dan Miller keep him ranked high in the division. The submission over Sonnen was one of the most spectacular submissions in UFC history.
Maia was originally slated to return at Ultimate Fight Night 22 against Alan Belcher, but Belcher was forced to pull out with a torn retina. Instead, Maia will have a chance to redeem himself against Mario Miranda later this month. He will have to look good in that fight if he plans to keep his spot in the rankings. He will be a heavy favorite against Miranda.
Last fight: Unanimous decision loss to Chael Sonnen 2/6/2010
Next fight: Rousimar Palhares 9/15/2010
Nate Marquardt was the clear No. 1 contender before facing Chael Sonnen earlier this year in what was assumed by many to be an easy win before challenging for the title. Instead, Sonnen won every round and stole the spot in the front of the line.
Nobody will ever consider Sonnen an easy fight again.
Nonetheless, Marquardt is one of the best middleweights in the world and remains near the top of all rankings due to his impressive stoppages over Martin Kampmann, Wilson Gouveia, and Demian Maia—who he knocked out in just 21 seconds.
Marquardt makes his return in the replacement main event at Ultimate Fight Night 22 against Rousimar Palhares next month. Though Marquardt will be a heavy favorite to win, it is a dangerous fight and will be a big victory for whoever wins.
Last fight: Split-decision win over Mark Munoz 8/1/2010
Next fight: TBA
It is a very disappointing that one judge had him losing, because Yushin Okami's recent win over Mark Munoz was a very impressive performance and there was no mistaking the winner.
Though many don't find Okami's methodical style very entertaining, his stellar resume can not be denied and he continues to improve in every fight.
He has put together two noteworthy wins since his surprising shutout decision loss to Chael Sonnen last year, putting himself back in the title mix.
I would like to see him face Nate Marquardt, with the winner getting a shot at the champion.
Last fight: First-round TKO win over Rich Franklin 9/19/2009
Next fight: TBA
Vitor Belfort was scheduled to face champion Anderson Silva at UFC 112 before injuring his elbow in training and having to undergo surgery to repair the damage.
Now there is nothing even rumored for the future of Vitor, but undoubtedly the UFC wants to put him up against Silva at some point.
His last win was a first-round TKO at 195 pounds against Rich Franklin back at UFC 103, so his No. 3 ranking may be disputed by some. Still, he has paid his dues in this sport and is clearly next in line for a title shot in the UFC.
Last fight: Fifth-round submission loss to Anderson Silva 8/7/2010
Next fight: TBA
Chael Sonnen came so close to doing what he had promised anyone that would listen in months leading up to his title shot against Anderson Silva.
After controlling the champion for about 23 minutes while dishing out a never ending barrage of punishing blows, Silva latched on a triangle choke and forced the challenger to tap out.
It was hard not to feel bad for Sonnen who almost pulled off one of the bigger upsets of all time. Still, the performance established him as the obvious No. 2 in the division.
There are many that are clamoring for an immediate rematch, but the UFC may give Vitor Belfort the next chance at Silva.
Chael can take some solace in the fact that his fight with Silva will be remembered for years to come as one of the most epic main events in UFC history.
Last fight: Fifth-round submission win over Chael Sonnen 8/7/2010
Next fight: TBA
After so many dominating or uneventful performances, it was a shocking sight to see Anderson Silva on the receiving end of so much punishment last Saturday.
Some are choosing to look at his fight with Sonnen as a performance that drops the stock of the champion, but I couldn't disagree more.
We found out that Silva can take a punch, and plenty of them. We found out he is a legitimate jiu-jitsu black belt that must be feared even when he is on his back. And he also proved he has the spirit of a champion by still trying to win the fight after four plus rounds of losing big.
It shows he is still an entertaining fighter as long as he is faced with an opponent that brings the fight to him.
Though I do want to see him matched with Vitor Belfort at some point, the two are primarily counter punchers and I foresee that fight possibly turning out to be another excruciating Silva main event. Rather, I would prefer to see Sonnen get another crack at the title for coming so close in the first fight.