And then there was Weidman.
Anderson Silva’s camp has seemed willing to give everyone a shot at the title except the man most deserving of it. First it was Michael Bisping, until he was knocked out Vitor Belfort last month. So maybe Vitor gets a rematch? Or maybe not – he seems more interested in avenging his loss to Jon Jones at 205.
Last week it was Rashad Evans, who was all but guaranteed a shot at the title with a solid performance at UFC 156. But after his unanimous decision loss, he isn’t getting a shot any time soon. Maybe Hector Lombard? Maybe, but a single win over Rousimar Palhares won’t get it done.
Looks like it’s Weidman or bust for the champ. He’s not the most lucrative option, but he’s the most deserving at the moment. I expect the match to be announced later this month. After Weidman and Belfort, there aren’t many challengers. Tim Boetsch lost to Costa Phillipou, but Boetsch only had a place on the Ladder because of his split decision win over Lombard. Alan Belcher lost to Yushin Okami and Okami isn’t anywhere close to the Ladder.
Champion: Anderson Silva
Simply put, the middleweight division has cleaned itself out in the last three months. Three possible challengers for Silva have lost and besides Weidman and Lombard, there are no intriguing matchups. If he’s still unbeaten this time next year, superfights with Georges St-Pierre or Jon Jones may be the only options left.
Contender: Chris Weidman
The 28-year old is 9-0 and knocking on the door of the champion. And the fighters he came with have all vanished. Looking back, it’s a good thing that an arm injury knocked him out of a fight with Tim Boetsch – he’ll get his title shot, regardless.
In The Discussion: Hector Lombard, Vitor Belfort
Hector Lombard’s UFC career started with a thud against Tim Boetsch, but the Australian rebounded nicely against Palhares, knocking him out in the first round. Should he do the same against Yushin Okami next month, he’ll cement his position as the third-best fighter in the division behind Weidman and Silva.
However, I still stand my belief that Vitor Belfort beats anyone in the division besides “The Spider”. He’s slowed considerably since his early days at heavyweight and light heavyweight, but he still has enough speed and knockout power to hang with anyone. But with his possible move back to 205 and the front kick knockout still in the back of my mind, he may not get another shot at 185.
On The Rise: Francis Carmont, Costa Phillipou
Costa Phillipou’s third-round knockout of Tim Boetsch should be enough to match him against higher-ranked fighters, but since Boetsch was slightly overrated to begin with, there’s no telling who his next opponent will be. Either way, he’s riding a five-fight win streak.
For Francis Carmont, however, it’s linear movement on the Ladder. His split decision win over Tom Lawlor in November wasn’t his best performance, but he remains a fighter on the rise. I want to see how he’d fare with a step up in competition.
Hector Lombard vs. Yushin Okami – UFC on Fuel TV 8 (March 3)