Apparently Vitor wasn’t bullshitting when he said he isn’t waiting around for Anderson Silva to heal from his rib injury to fight the UFC middleweight champ next spring. According to the former UFC light heavyweight champion, he will take another fight in the mean time which should appease those who believe that he should at least have one fight at middleweight in the Octagon before getting a title shot.
The question is, who should he fight?
The UFC’s middleweight division has not shortage of contenders, but most of the usual suspects are already committed to fights and would have to abridge their training camps — that is if they escape their upcoming fights without any injuries.
Let’s look at the candidates for facing Belfort.
Nate Marquardt: Although this fight could decisively decide who the next title shot belongs to, Nate is tied up with Rousimar Palhares for the main event of UFN 22 on September 15.
Demian Maia: The Brazilian submission expert is still in the process of climbing back up the title contention ladder, but there isn’t a lot he would bring to a fight to answer for Belfort’s strength and boxing skills. He’s also fighting Mario Miranda at UFC 118.
Michael Bisping: Bisping would be a somewhat competitive opponent for Belfort, but I don’t see Vitor having trouble with the cocky Brit in any areas. Also, he has already signed to face Yoshihiro Akiyama at UFC 120 in October and he has already called out Chael Sonnen and Patrick Cote for his next fight.
Yoshihiro Akiyama: Losing to Chris Leben may have dropped his stock down slightly in the division, but the fact that he’s already booked to face Bisping makes it a moot point when justifying that he deserves the the fight.
Chris Leben: Besides his humbling by Anderson Silva in "The Spider’s" UFC debut, "The Cat Smasher" hasn’t really had a bad showing in the Octagon. Could he catch Vitor? Sure, it’s possible. It is likely? Probably not. I just don’t see the UFC risking another popular contender’s standing by matching him up with an intangible like Leben.
Wanderlei Silva: Their Ultimate Brazil fight is likely one that Wand wants to have a redo of, however he’s injured and likely wouldn’t be ready for a November fight of that magnitude even if he was completely healed as he wouldn’t have the luxury of a complete training camp. Besides that, Silva hasn’t done enough lately to be fighting for number one contender status at this point.
Yushin Okami: Okami beat a really good fighter in Mark Munoz in his last fight, prompting UFC president Dana White to remark that he’s definitely in the mix at 185 for a shot at Silva’s gold. Sure, he’s said the same thing before about Okami deserving a shot, and he’s said the same thing about Belfort and a host of other middleweights, but why not have Okami fight Belfort to determine who gets the shot at Silva when he’s healthy. Both of their dance cards are free and both are injury free, so it makes perfect sense.