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The State Of The UFC Middleweight Division: Post-UFC 77

In a preview article I wrote ahead of UFC 77 I forecasted that Silva v Franklin II would be nothing like the original meeting of these Middleweights way back at UFC 64. Well, I was half-right. It took Anderson Silva twice as long to dismantle his opponent as it did in the first fight, picking up the victory at 1:07 of the second round – a victory fashioned in much the same way as the first fight, with heavy reliance on his knees and clinch game. As the Cincinnati native crumpled to the ground in front of his hometown fans, not only did Rich Franklin lose the fight, he lost the chance to ever reclaim the Middleweight Championship as long as the strap is around Anderson Silva’s waist.

In the interest of healthy competition, it would have certainly livened things up a lot if Franklin was able to dethrone the current champion and set up the rubber match for 6 months from now. That would, at least, have been a six-month stay of execution for what is a very weak 185lb division. It’s obvious to see that this division is in serious need of a shake up. You’ve got a seemingly unbeatable champion who occupies a different plateau to that of the next best guy, Franklin, who has in turn already beaten the likes of Yushin Okami, Jason MacDonald and Evan Tanner.

The only fight out there, of the guys currently on the UFC roster, which might be of any interest to Anderson Silva would be Okami. First off, Okami holds a win over Silva from a couple of years back, a disqualification as a result of an illegal kick from Silva. Perhaps Silva could go on a Chuck Liddell-like quest, trying to avenge all the defeats from earlier in his career. Recent Zuffa signing Ryo Chonan fits into this category too.
An Okami v Silva rematch would be an interesting fight. Yushin Okami is a very difficult fighter to face, one who rarely engages his opponent unless it’s on his own terms. Okami could certainly be the first fighter in the UFC to take Silva beyond the second round. While it appears that he’s not the most entertaining fighter to watch, his record is very impressive, having only been finished once in his 26 fight career.

Another possible opponent for Silva would be the Dane Martin Kampmann, a very strong muay thai practitioner and solid in most aspects of the game. He is currently rehabbing a bad knee injury suffered in the lead up to a fight against Rich Franklin last June. He’s been solid in the UFC so far, holding wins over Thales Leites and Drew McFedries. It was interesting to note, however, that McFedries was dominating the stand-up aspect of their fight for large periods until Kampmann locked in a tight arm triangle for a submission victory. That would need to drastically improve before a potential meeting with the champ, one of the slickest strikers in all of MMA.
There are two fighters, though, both currently under contract to Zuffa who would represent a major threat to Anderson Silva. PRIDE’s Welterweight (183lb) Dan Henderson is one, but he seems content to stay in the Light Heavyweight division for now. A unification bout for the PRIDE and UFC Middleweight titles would be a marquee match up and I’m sure that this is the fight that Dana White and Joe Silva want next for Anderson. Another option would be to promote WEC Middleweight champ Paulo Filho to the main UFC roster. His solid jiu jitsu game would certainly give Silva something to worry about but his stand up definitely lacks the cutting edge of the champ and this fight could certainly go much the same way as Silva’s successful title defence against Nate Marquardt.

If not any of the names I’ve already mentioned, then who else is there? A lot of people were championing the name of Terry Martin, saying that his prodigious power would be too much for Silva. That, of course, was up until Chris Leben, a fighter Silva beat in 49 seconds, knocked him out. Perhaps Matt Lindland’s Olympic standard wrestling would neutralize Silva’s strengths, but probably not and he’d be left with the realization that, along with the losses to Fedor Emelianenko and Quinton Jackson, he’d have been defeated by three of the top pound for pound fighters in the world, in three different division in the space of a little over a year.
What about Denis Kang? Well Dana White and Zuffa had the opportunity to sign Kang to a contract after the acquisition of PRIDE but don’t seem to be enamoured by his obvious talents.

Where does all this leave Anderson Silva? He’s sitting pretty at the top of a very weak division, more talented in almost every aspect of the game than his nearest competitors. The division needs to be turned on its head, its needs some new blood or we’re going to be seeing Anderson Silva at the summit of the 185lb mountain for a long, long time. And hey, that’s okay with this writer to be perfectly honest.

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