Middleweight is finally fun, other than the fact no one can seem to beat Anderson Silva. I've got a game for you, since 185 finally has some contenders. There seems to be a clear group of contenders now: Alan Belcher, Michael Bisping, Tim Boetsch, Brian Stann, Chris Weidman, and even Silva's old buddy Vitor Belfort. Out of that bunch, who will challenge Silva first? Who has the best chance to win? The worst chance? Who will be champion when Silva retires or moves on? It is fun to think of the division this way. Once Silva leaves, I think middleweight is due for some craziness. -- Mike from St. Louis
Mike Whitman, news editor: I'm personally hoping that we're all unknowingly trapped in an MMA-centric episode of “The Twilight Zone” that ends with Anderson Silva revealing himself as the tyrannical leader of an alien race sent here to enslave all of humanity. Just kidding. I'm at least 60 percent sure that “The Spider” is human. As for your game, I would be delighted to play.
Next Shot: If Bisping beats Stann, he has to be on deck. The UFC has been dying to put that guy in a title fight for a long time, as he's one of the best options at 185 in terms of drawing money. I don't think it will be a landslide by any means, but I predict that Bisping will take a decision from “The All-American,” provided he stays tight with his boxing and uses his jab and some leg kicks to disrupt Stann's rhythm.
Best Shot: I think this is a one-horse race. If somebody is going to beat Silva, it will be Weidman. His standup is progressing rapidly, yes, but it will be his superior wrestling that gives him the best chance of toppling the arachnid king. Re-watch Weidman's clash with Mark Munoz. That gorgeous elbow will always be what we remember, but it would be foolish to overlook the New Yorker's lightning-quick single-legs and tireless top control on display in that dominant performance. If Weidman keeps it simple -- no spinning back elbows -- I think he has what it takes to earn himself a big, gold belt and knock off one of the greatest talents this sport has ever known.
Worst Shot: This is a tough one, but stylistically, I'd have to go with Boetsch as being least likely to dethrone the champ. I think “The Barbarian” would have a nightmare of a time closing the distance to either land a sledgehammer or score a takedown. Additionally, I'm not sure that his wrestling is good enough to effectively neutralize Silva for five rounds.
Belfort's hand speed gives him a prayer, as does Stann's straight right hand. Bisping's boxing could be effective on the inside, and as I mentioned previously, Weidman's wrestling is a game-changer. I think Belcher is an underrated, well-rounded guy, and while I wouldn't bet on him to win, I would still give him a better chance against Silva than Boetsch. This in no way diminishes Boetsch's accomplishments or his ability to perform against the other middleweight contenders, but in my mind he's the least likely to succeed against Silva.
Next Champ: If you hadn't guessed by now, Weidman is my dude. He's still improving, and I think he's already the second-best middleweight in the world from a pure-talent standpoint. Weidman's path to a potential title shot is currently still uncertain, but whether he beats Silva or simply takes the crown after the Brazilian calls it quits, I reckon the Serra-Longo product will be the UFC's new sheriff at 185 pounds.
Continue Reading » Sympathy for “The Barbarian”