The UFC middleweight division. Give someone a word to describe the division in past years, and this is what you would usually get: Shallow, weak, cleaned out, and Anderson Silva. For five years, the division was known for Silva and for a lack of talent. The only two fighters that “The Spider” has fought and beat that still remain within the top ten at middleweight in the UFC are Chael Sonnen and Vitor Belfort. Out of 12 guys Silva has beat in his UFC career, only two are still top ten in middleweight.
The only other person he has fought that is a top ten middleweight is the one above him, the one who knocked him out, and in doing so, changed the middleweight division for the better. Chris Weidman is now the man at 185, but that’s not what makes the division more exciting. Weidman winning the title now gives those who have had a shot at the middleweight crown another chance.
Belfort can now get his hands on the Middleweight strap, and with Belfort’s third straight win by head-kick knockout against top ten middleweights, it’s obvious that he should be a lock to face the winner of Weidman/Silva. Those three fighters, Weidman, Silva and Belfort, are easily one, two, three in the division. What we haven’t seen since Silva’s reign began is a whole list of challengers waiting in the wings, and we have some new blood in the UFC division that is looking to change that.
Jacare Souza and Lyoto Machida both entered the UFC’s middleweight division with a head of steam, rolling through their first fight against a top ten opponent, earning themselves a spot in the top five of the division. Jacare showed his worth in the division when he destroyed former middleweight title challenger Yushin Okami, finishing him with strikes in under three minutes in the first round. Machida followed up Jacare’s impressive performance by knocking out former training partner Mark Munoz last month. In 2014, we could see either of these men challenging for the middleweight championship.
You look at the top ten, and your jaw drops at the potential matchups: Belfort vs. Machida, Belfort vs. Weidman, Weidman vs. Machida, Jacare vs. Weidman, Machida vs. Silva, Silva vs. Belfort. These are all fights that could potentially occur in 2014. Throw in Sonnen dropping down after his fight with Rashad Evans and Wanderlei Silva to make a title run at middleweight, and we now have a division with six top caliber fighters.
Weidman, Anderson Silva, Belfort, Jacare , Machida and Sonnen. Any one of those fighters could have the middleweight championship by the end of 2014. But we won’t have the answer of who they will challenge for it until December 28th, when the greatest rematch in the history of the UFC occurs, as Weidman will defend his UFC middleweight championship against arguably the greatest of all-time, Anderson Silva. Middleweight division: stacked, full of depth, and more exciting than ever.