By Jared Jones
Let’s face it, the current state of the middleweight division is that of anarchy, a notion made all the more bewildering when you consider that it has been trapped beneath the crushing, totalitarian rule of the same king for the better part of a decade now. Yet somehow, it seems we can barely go a day without hearing that Vitor Belfort wants to fight so-and-so for the next title shot, or Michael Bisping wants to fight this guy for the right to do the same. Or that guy. Or that guy.
And indeed, the issue of solving who should rightfully receive the next
beatdown shot at Anderson Silva is a tough one, dividing fans on a level that only TRT, vaseline, or Steven Seagal could match (scratch that, *no one* likes Sensei Seagal). Thankfully, CagePotato is here to clean up the mess instead of making it for once, so join us as we lay out in detail what must be done to organize the middleweight division’s long list of contenders in order of title shot worthiness (I swear to God I had something better for that). Feel free to debate this list if you want, but this is how it’s got to be.
On the Outside Looking In
We know we like to poke fun at the guy, but in total seriousness, you’d have to be insane to believe that Bisping deserves a shot at the middleweight title. Yes, he is 4-1 in his past 5, as is the case for many of the UFC’s top middleweights, oddly enough. And yes, there’s little denying that Bisping has looked more tenacious and well rounded as of late than he ever has. But first, take a look at the names that make up his win streak. The biggest win he has under his belt in the past few years is Yoshihiro Akiyama, a 1-4 now welterweight who has been a complete bust in the UFC. Other than that, you have a now retired reality show host, a retired journeyman, and Dan Miller, who we absolutely refuse to say anything bad about.
But before you even scan through all of his past opponents, look at his last opponent. Regardless of how you scored the fight, Bisping did in fact lose to Chael Sonnen at UFC on FOX 2. To say that he would deserve a title shot with a lone victory over Brian Stann would be jumping the gun a little, don’t you think? Bisping needs to prove he can not only hang with, but defeat, at least a couple of the division’s top contenders before he should even be mentioned in the title picture by anyone but himself.
A lot of what can be said for Bisping can arguably be said for Brian Stann, whose wins at middleweight, though impressive in execution, did not exactly come over a who’s who of the division either. Amidst wins over a two time promotional washout, a submission “specialist,” and the UFC’s punching bag, Stann’s biggest win is that of Chris Leben, which, while not a huge victory, is still more impressive than that of Akiyama these days.
The common link between these two is of course, Chael P. Sonnen. Stann was absolutely dominated by Sonnen from start to finish in their battle at UFC 136, stuck defending a rear-naked choke for a good deal of the first round and succumbing to an arm-triangle in the second. Bisping, on the other hand, was not only able to take Sonnen the distance, but lost a closely contested decision in doing so. Do their respective performances against Sonnen place one of them higher than the other? Absolutely not. The fact that these two were recently paired to throw down at UFC 152 is no coincidence, because they both stand on exactly the same ground, and are in need of not only a win on September 22nd, but at least one more high profile win before they get to call themselves top contenders
I can already hear the cries of “Anderson nuthugger” on the horizon, but if you know me at all, you know that I am a fan of Mr. Sonnen, despite his body’s inability to cash the checks that his mouth writes. That being said, we can only look into the rear-view mirror for so long, and although Sonnen’s performance against Silva at UFC 117 was nearly perfect, his performance at UFC 148 was anything but. We all know that the UFC could sell Sonnen/Silva III in its sleep, but the truth is, Sonnen simply needs a little time off to rest and recover.
His list of wins is easily the most impressive of anyone in this category, but with two losses to the champ, Sonnen finds himself in a similar position to that of Josh Koscheck. Could he beat most of his fellow contenders? Probably. Do most of us really think he stands a chance of beating Silva a third time around? Not really, but like I said, we would sure as hell watch him try again. But before Sonnen dusts off his plastic belt and starts making audacious claims about the people of Brazil, we think he needs at least a couple wins before he should be launched back up the middleweight rankings. For his return fight, perhaps he could face a guy like Mark Munoz, who was also recently knocked off the immediate contenders list. A win over Munoz, followed by a win over another contender, would easily warrant him a spot at the top once again.
Join us on page 2 for a look at the division’s upper-tier contenders…