The UFC Middleweight division is one of the most shallow divisions in the UFC. Especially now that Rich Franklin and Dan Henderson have made the move back up to LHW. It's also the home of arguably the best pound for pound fighter in all of MMA. Which in reality there are a lot of quality fighters in this division, however, Silva is so good it just seems like the division is rather weak/shallow at this point. We'll take a look at what's next for Anderson Silva and who could potentially challenge him in the future.
Patrick Cote-Cote will be squaring off against the champion at UFC 90. Cote got the title shot after squeaking by Ricardo Almeida, and an injury forcing Yushin Okami out of the title picture. Cote is a huge underdawg and will probably be relegated to gatekeeper status if he loses to Silva.
Michael Bisping-Bisping is the TUF 3 winner and has moved to the MW division after fighting in the UFC's stacked LHW division. Bisbing is undefeated since dropping down to MW and has looked pretty impressive during his current run. Bisbing will face hard hitting Chris Leben later this month at UFC 89, and a win there catapults him right up there near a title shot.
Yushin Okami-MMA4Real's #7 ranked MW in the world was pretty much set to re-match Anderson Silva before suffering a broken hand. Okami is a very strong fighter with good GnP and has a DQ win over Anderson Silva already(Silva hit him with an illegal upkick while Okami was on the ground). Okami is scheduled to fight Dean Lister at UFC 92. A win there should grant him a title shot, as that matchup is marketable due to his history with Silva, and frankly I think Okami deserves it.
Nathan Marquardt-MMA4Real's #5 ranked MW in the world. Marquardt is coming off a 30 second destruction of Martin Kampmann at UFC 88. Marquardt has already lost to Anderson Silva back at UFC 73, however, he still poses one of the biggest threats to Anderson Silva when compared to the rest of the MW division. Marquardt has asked to fight Dan Henderson next, but Henderson will now be facing Rich Franklin in early 2009 in the LHW division. What's next for Marquardt isn't clear, but he's only a win or two away from possibly tangling with the Spider again.
Jason MacDonald-The "TUF" killer is coming off an impressive win over Jason Lambert at UFC 88. Bouncing back rather quickly from a submission loss to demian Maia at UFC 87 in which he held his own against the BJJ wizard. MacDonald falls into the mold of grappler with no standup to match to compliment his game. He's always in shape and just recently inked an extension with the UFC. With losses to Yushin Okami and Demian Maia he's gonna need a few wins to work his way to a shot against Anderson Silva.
Chris Leben-An original TUF'er...Leben was the "Spider's" first UFC opponent way back in 2006. Leben was buzzsawed within a minute or so, however, Leben has quietly won two fights in a row. Leben claims to have grown mentally and in maturity as a fighter. A win over Michael Bisbing would be huge for his career...a loss sends him back to gatekeeper status.
Demian Maia-Maia is undefeated in the UFC and along with Rousimar Palhares has the best BJJ in the MW division. Maia has 3 UFC wins all coming via submission, but Maia lacks a potent standup attack. If he could get the fight to the ground with Silva...he could pose problems. Maia is scheduled to action against former TUF contestant Nate Quarry at UFC 91. Maia is still relatively unknown by most casual fans, but the hardcores know what he brings to the table. Watch out for this guy.
Ricardo Almeida-Almeida is a true veteran of the sport and returned to the UFC after taking off about 4 years to spend time with his family. The BJJ ace is coming off a heartbreaking split decision loss to Patrick Cote in which some people think he won. Almeida lacks a good standup game, but if he gets you to the ground he has a lot of tricks in his back. If he improves his standup game and cardio he can pose problems for anyone in the division. Almeida was supposed to return to action later this year, but is out with an injury.
Rousimar Palhares-Palhares burst onto the scene at UFC 84 submitting highly regarded Ivan Salaverry in the first round. Palhares was matched up against Dan Henderson at UFC 88 losing a decision. However, he brought the fight to Henderson and I was more impressed with him than I was Henderson. As I mentioned earlier, Palhares has top notch BJJ...but lacks the standup skills to compliment it similar to Demian Maia. However, his build and style of fighting poses problems for a lot of fighters in the MW division. Most fighters don't have the wrestling pedigree to keep the fight standing like Henderson did. It's not known when he'll fight again...he's a fighter to keep an eye on.
Kendall Grove-The TUF 3 winner...Grove is coming off a must win fight against the late Evan Tanner(RIP). Grove has a lot of tools, but in the past has lacked the discipline to prioritize and train hard. Grove will probably fight in the early part of 2009. Depending on who he faces, a win there could restore the confidence he once had...putting him right in the mix.
Amir Sadollah-The TUF 7 winner came out of nowhere to win the show displaying solid standup and a sneaky BJJ game. Sadollah is similar to Forrest Griffin with the dry humor/wit charisma so he may be marketable if he continues to win. Sadollah is scheduled to face Nick Catone next month at UFC 91. A win there just exposes him to the masses even more and puts him on the road up the MW ladder.
C.B. Dollaway-TUF 7 alum was the favorite to win the show but was submitted by Amir Sadollah not once but twice via armbar. However, Dollaway rebounded to stop Jesse Taylor(which is more impressive now considering Taylor walked thru Drew Fickett last week). Dollaway is known by many people from simply being on TUF. The kid has talent and can be marketable..is relatively young so as he grows as a fighter he could be someone to look out for in the next 2 years.
Dan Miller-Miller is the former/reigning IFL MW champion and has already made a successful debut in the UFC...winning via submission. Miller only has one loss in his career and with the right match making could ascend up the MW rankings rather quickly. Miller will replace Ricardo Almeida when he takes on former IFL fighter Matt Horwich.
Matt Horwich-Horwich is a former IFL fighter and former IFL MW champion. Horwich is a seasoned veteran and usually puts on exciting fights. Horwich was supposed to make his UFC debut against Ricardo Almeida, but Almeida had to pull out due to injury. Now Horwich will face Dan Miller a former IFL MW champion.
Martin Kampmann-Kampmann was on the fast track to fighting for the title before succumbing to a knee injury last year. Kampmann rehabbed the injury and returned to get back on the winning track against Jorge Rivera. However, Kampmann got dismantled by Nathan Marquardt at UFC 88 and has since announced intentions to move down to the WW division.
Thales Leites-Is currently on a 4 fight win streak although his last win was by split decision in which he pretty much was beaten soundly by Nathan Marquardt(marquardt had pts deducted). Leites is expected to fight Goran Reljic next as he is dropping down from the LHW division.
Goran Reljic-Reljic made his UFC debut at UFC 84 beating Wilson Gouveia via TKO. Reljic is making the move down to MW from the LHW division. Reljic has good standup and good BJJ and could be a force in the MW division.
Alan Belcher-Belcher is a very talented fighter but doesn't seem to be able to continously put it all together for every single fight. He has some good wins over Jorge Santiago and barely squeaked by TUF 3 alum Ed Herman. However, a TKO loss to Jason Day was a major setback for him. Belcher is usually displays exciting standup skills to watch so I'm sure he'll keep the gatekeeper tag until he can string together 2-3 wins.
Jorge Rivera-Rivera is a true veteran of the sport and has mentioned several times that he's not sure how much longer he'll fight. Rivera is basically a gatekeeper at this point and is scheduled to face C.B. Dollaway at UFC 92.
So as you can see the MW division is loaded with high profiled grapplers and BJJ fighters. However, as I pointed out most of them lack the standup/wrestling to pose a threat to Anderson Silva. It's not exactly clear who will challenge Anderson Silva next due to the Leben/Bisbing fight, and the taping of TUF 9 U.S. vs. The U.K. Hopefully due to the taping of that show, we'll get to see Anderson Silva do one super fight at LHW in the meantime. Because that's truly where some of his biggest fights lay at this point. How is your darkhorse of this division and do you see anyone posing any problems for Anderson Silva?
**Once again, Rich Franklin and Dan Henderson were not included because they will both be fighting at LHW in their next fight. Also it's possible that I missed someone in the division that's worthy of mention...feel free to add them on in your comments.