The debate about the toughest division in mixed martial arts usually comes down to a conversation about the lightweight and welterweight divisions. However, in the last few months we have witnessed what may become a shift as the middleweight division has become increasingly tight. There has been a dominant champion at the top of the heap for a while, but below him the movement and introduction of “new” names builds the intrigue at 185.
It’s very clear that Anderson Silva is the king of the middleweight division and has reigned as such since 2006. However, at 38 years of age Silva will lose eventually. Either Chris Weidman, the next challenger or Father Time himself will defeat Silva and remove him from the throne. Looking at the rest of the division, there are a number of athletes who would benefit from Silva moving on from the sport of mixed martial arts. The question is which fighter is ready to make their attempt in living up to Silva’s legacy in the division?
Many believe that Weidman is the man who has the abilities to take the title from Anderson. A stout wrestler with a developing striking game; he seems to be the best shot at correcting the mistakes that Chael Sonnen made when challenging the current champion. However, his resume in this trek towards this title shot does not carry the heavy names that it should for so many to hold stock in his chances.
This weekend’s fight between Vitor Belfort and Luke Rockhold has a lot on the line in determining the next contender for the title. Even though Belfort was soundly defeated by Anderson back in 2011; he’s been on quite a run since that has some wondering when the UFC will give him another shot. Rockhold, on the other hand, is making his promotional debut after reigning as the Strikeforce middleweight champion. With a dominating win the AKA standout can immediately call out the champion for a unification bout which would be completely justified at this point.
Below these two competitors Costa Philippou and Ronaldo Souza are on the next tier of fighters who could become contenders to the title by the end of the year. Costa has put together a five fight win streak and an unfortunate injury pulled him out of this fight. One more solid win over a top contender and Souza should find himself in a title eliminator bout.
Souza, the man Rockhold defeated for his title, has looked impressive since dropping the title in 2011. While he hasn’t faced the stiffest of competition, he’s stopped three straight opponents leading up to his UFC debut. We’ve seen how the UFC appreciates fighters who finish their bouts so if he can do the same against Chris Camozzi this weekend, Souza may find himself one more key win away from a title opportunity.
This weekend will begin the race to see who is going to emerge as the next challenger to Anderson Silva’s middleweight strap. The final question will be answered on July 6th when he defends his title against Weidman. Names such as Tim Boetsch, Mark Munoz and Yushin Okami shouldn’t be overlooked either. No matter which way the contest goes, the 185 pound grouping may become the division to watch for the rest of 2013.