Anderson Silva and the Wasteland That Is the UFC Middleweight Division
Homeostasis is a state of stability obtained when tension or a drive has been reduced or eliminated. The seven divisions within the UFC would embody a thing that never reaches a state of homeostasis.
That is because there is always tension between fighters as they look to best the other, with the drive to one day earn a much coveted and always elusive title shot.
But that is not to say that a division cannot become a wasteland: terrain that is desolate, barren or ravaged. Ravaged (wreak havoc on) is a wonderful word to describe what current No. 1 and only Anderson Silva has done to the middleweight division.
It is barren of any legitimate contenders with most having been plundered by Silva at some point. Chael Sonnen came closest to usurping the title back at UFC 117, but Silva choked him out in the nick of time. Currently being kept out of the sport against his will, it is unknown exactly when he will be allowed to return…if ever.
Yushin Okami, who was out-wrestled by Sonnen back at UFC 104, is now the man chosen to go up against Silva and upend a man boating 13 consecutive wins inside the Octagon. Vitor Belfort was violently laid to rest back at UFC 126. Nate Marquardt was whacked back at UFC 73 and never got a second title shot before dropping down to welterweight and dropping out all together.
Demian Maia got his shot at glory back at UFC 112 and fought gallantly in a bizarre fight under the sweltering dessert heat. Maia was recently seen losing to Mark Munoz at UFC 131. It has been over five years since Chris Leben welcomed Silva to the UFC and had his lights turned out in the process. The only other man to turn out Leben’s lights was Brian Stann, who crushed Leben at UFC 125.
So that leaves us with Mark Munoz and Brian Stann, along with the winner of Michael Bisping versus Jason “Mayhem” Miller, who will get it on after completing their coaching duties for TUF 14.
Munoz is 6-1 at middleweight with his best win being a razor-thin victory over Maia, and his lone loss coming against Okami where he got bested in every facet. Stann is 3-0 at middleweight with a win over the aforementioned Leben as well as one over Jorge Santiago. Both Munoz and Stann previously fought at light heavyweight before dropping down after peaking out.
As far as Bisping, he is a combined 11-3 inside the Octagon. Miller was a one-and-done inside the Octagon when he got thrashed by GSP back at UFC 52. The biggest wins of Mayhem's career are over Tim Kennedy (more than three years ago) and Robbie Lawler (almost five years ago). He also nearly submitted Jake Shields in their Strikeforce title fight.
There is nothing to really get overly excited about but the UFC must work to build up both Munoz and Stann separately toward a title shot to get some fresh faces. They would also likely prefer to see Bisping be able to thwart the shenanigans of Mayhem so they can set up a title fight in England.
With Silva taking on Okami in August (at UFC 134), assuming he wins injury free, he could fight again by year's end. But based on his 2009 and 2010 schedule (he only fought twice in both years) perhaps it is more likely he takes a fight in early 2012 (although main eventing UFC 140 in Montreal on December 10 would be great).
Whoever Silva fights after Okami, the opponent needs to be built up more, unless of course it is against GSP.
Let Munoz get through Leben while Stann can have Belfort if he gets though Akiyama at UFC 133. If they both come out victorious then book Munoz vs. Stann and let the last man standing take on Silva in the first half of 2012.
Munoz, for his part, would be 8-1 at 185 pounds while Stann would be a perfect 5-0. Silva would be a fairly legitimate contender that fans could get excited about. With the volatile nature of MMA, though, is it likely to play out as scripted? "Teenage wasteland, they're all wasted."
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