An 8 Man Tournament for the UFC Middleweight Championship

Bryan Levick@@BryanLevickMMAContributor IApril 13, 2011

An 8 Man Tournament for the UFC Middleweight Championship

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    In an article I wrote yesterday, I discussed the possibility of UFC Middleweight Champion Anderson Silva vacating his championship and making the move to the light heavyweight division full time.

    Silva’s longtime training partner Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira reported that Silva would defend his title against Yushin Okami at UFC: Rio in August, and if he was successful, he would begin fighting at 205lbs.

    If this scenario does play out and Silva makes the jump, the UFC would either determine the top two contenders for the middleweight championship and have them fight for the title, or they could host a middleweight tournament between a group of fighters and spread it out over the course of a few months.

    Dana White has gone on record and said he isn’t a big fan of tournament style fighting, but when it comes to a title maybe he could be convinced it would be worth the time and the money to stage such an event.

    My idea would be to gather the top eight middleweight fighters and have them fight over the course of three events. The first show would have four bouts, then three months later the second show would take place with two semi-final bouts. This would all lead up to the finals taking place three months after that in which the two remaining fighters would battle it out for the right to be the new UFC Middleweight Champion.

    My eight participants would be as follows:

    Chael Sonnen

    Vitor Belfort

    Michael Bisping

    Nate Marquardt

    Mark Munoz

    Wanderlei Silva

    Alan Belcher

    Brian Stann

1st Round Match-Up: Chael Sonnen vs. Alan Belcher

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    Regardless of what anyone thinks of Sonnen, there is no way he would be left out of this tournament. As far as Belcher is concerned, he had won four of out his past five fights before he got hurt. The one loss was a controversial decision at UFC 100 to Yoshihiro Akiyama.

    Belcher has really stepped up his game over the past year and has good striking to go along with solid grappling skills. Sonnen has the edge in experience and would try to control Belcher with takedowns and utilize some ground and pound.

    This is a tough one to call, but I would have to give the edge to Sonnen here, but not by much. This one would definitely go the distance and this is a match-up where I could change my mind again and again.

    Sonnen via unanimous decision.

1st Round Match-Up: Vitor Belfort vs. Nate Marquardt

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    PORTLAND, OR - AUGUST 29:  UFC fighter Nate Marquardt (L) knocks out UFC fighter Demian Maia (R) during their Middleweight bout at UFC 102:  Couture vs. Nogueira at the Rose Garden Arena on August 29, 2009 in Portland, Oregon.  (Photo by Jon Kopaloff/Gett
    Jon Kopaloff/Getty Images

    I was hesitant to include either man here because they have both lost to Silva and Marquardt has come up short against Sonnen and Okami in battles to determine the number one contender.

    When it is all said and done, Belfort got the nod because of his explosiveness and power while Marquardt was included because he has been with the UFC for some time now and I felt he should get one last shot.

    This is another bout that could go either way. The real challenge would be for Belfort to knock Marquardt out. Nate the Great may have some losses, but the only man to finish him in the UFC has been Silva.

    In the end, I see Marquardt squandering his final opportunity and Belfort doing enough to earn the nod from the judges.

    Belfort via unanimous decision.

1st Round Match-UP: Wanderlei Silva vs. Brian Stann

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    The UFC wanted Silva to fight Stann, but he was not too happy about taking on the American War hero. This time he has no choice as there is way too much at stake. Stann has looked good as a middleweight and would be one of the crowd favorites entering the tournament.

    This is a bout that would be competed in the upright position until someone hit the canvas. It’s just a matter of who hits harder and who can withstand the most punishment. Silva has built a legacy from fights like these. He has been in so many wars during his career and would have the edge in experience.

    Stann hits hard and would push forward the same way Silva would. In the end, I see Silva landing the one shot that is necessary to win the bout. Don’t get me wrong, Silva would know he’s been in a fight and the fans would appreciate Stann’s performance, but his time would come later on.

    Silva via 2nd round TKO.

1st Round Match-Up: Michael Bisping vs. Mark Munoz

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    Bisping, much like Sonnen, attracts too much attention not to be placed in this tournament. Fans pay good money because they want to see him get knocked out. Munoz has become more than a wrestler and racked up a few nice wins. He has power in his hands, but knows his bread and butter is his wrestling.

    Bisping is the more polished striker of the two, has better foot movement and is quicker. He has the ability to stick and move while frustrating Munoz into making a mistake. If Munoz played it smart and didn’t try to slug it out he would have a better chance at beating The Count.

    I believe Bisping’s takedown defense and his ability to stay out of Munoz’s range would earn him the victory here. It wouldn’t be pretty and it certainly wouldn’t be exciting, but he would do just enough to win a decision.

    Bisping via unanimous decision

Semi-Final Match-Up #1: Michael Bisping vs. Vitor Belfort

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    SYDNEY, AUSTRALIA - FEBRUARY 27:  Michael Bisping of Great Britain celebrates his victory over Jorge Rivera of the USA in their middleweight bout part of at UFC 127 at Acer Arena on February 27, 2011 in Sydney, Australia.  (Photo by Mark Kolbe/Getty Image
    Mark Kolbe/Getty Images

    Belfort, Silva and Sonnen have all expressed an interest in teaching Bisping a lesson. Luckily for Belfort, he gets the nod and an opportunity to do to Bisping what Dan Henderson did at UFC 100.

    The only chance Bisping would have here is to try and take Belfort down as he has better wrestling than the powerful Brazilian. Belfort only needs to land one punch to knock anyone out, but if he isn’t careful and gets sloppy he will be on his back struggling to get on his feet.

    Bisping’s gameplan could work for the first two rounds and he would frustrate Belfort early and often with pitter-patter punching and well-timed takedowns. Unfortunately for Bisping, I can see him making a mistake and getting too close to Belfort early on in the third round. Night, night Michael; as everyone celebrates his knockout loss.

    Belfort via 3rd round KO.

Semi-Final Match-Up #2: Wanderlei Silva vs. Chael Sonnen

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    LAS VEGAS, NV - DECEMBER 01:  Mixed martial artist Wanderlei Silva arrives at the third annual Fighters Only World Mixed Martial Arts Awards 2010 at the Palms Casino Resort December 1, 2010 in Las Vegas, Nevada.  (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
    Ethan Miller/Getty Images

    These two had an eventful cab ride in Brazil not too long ago. After Sonnen included the Nogueira Brothers on his list of fighters to criticize, Silva called him out on it and told him to learn some respect.

    Here is Silva’s chance to teach Sonnen a lesson and at the same time move on to the finals against Belfort in a rematch of their 1998 bout in which Belfort knocked Silva out in the first round at UFC: Ultimate Brazil.

    Sonnen was so close to winning the title against The Spider at UFC 117 in August. He controlled the fight for the first 23 minutes before getting caught in a triangle and literally choking up the UFC title he so covets.

    After all the problems he has encountered the past few months, Sonnen is not going to let Silva get in his way. Sonnen will control Silva with his wrestling, but this time he won’t have to worry about a last minute submission. Lesson learned here for Sonnen.

    Sonnen via unanimous decision

Finals of the UFC MW Tournament: Chael Sonnen vs. Vitor Belfort

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    Here we have a match-up of two of Anderson Silva’s victims during his incredible run as the UFC Middleweight Championship. Sonnen fared a lot better than Belfort did, but when you look back in 20 years both men will have an L next to their name when they fought Silva.

    Once again Sonnen has the dominate advantage on the ground, while Belfort is the more powerful, accurate striker. “The Phenom” may have a black belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, but when was the last time he used any of those skills in one of his bouts? He is a puncher who wins by knocking people out cold.

    Sonnen showed improved striking against Silva at UFC 117, even knocking the champion on his ass. But let’s be real here, he knows his only chance at winning is to keep Belfort on the ground and crack him repeatedly with his fists and elbows.

    Belfort can end this bout at anytime with one shot, but Sonnen’s problem hasn’t been avoiding the knockout, it’s been avoiding submissions. With his mind at ease in that department, he can drop Belfort on the canvas at will and pound his way to a win.

    Winner and new UFC Middleweight Champion via unanimous decision Chael Sonnen.