(This photo was simply too awesome not to use.)
Currently 4-1 in his last 5 (go figure), Alan Belcher is perhaps the most overlooked man in the middleweight division. Sure, his win streak isn’t made up of world beaters by any means, but Belcher is still riding said win streak, which in and of itself places him higher on the list than many of his middleweight counterparts (see previous category). Aside from that, Belcher’s most recent win over Rousimar Palhares, who was on a three fight streak of his own, was so damn impressive that it completely convinced us that he is ready for a step up. We say give him Vitor Belfort next, which not only has the potential to be one of the greatest striking battles in the division’s history, but would knock the loser out of contention for long enough to get things sorted out.
Here’s the problem with Vitor Belfort: Aside from the man’s inability to stay uninjured for more than a week at a rip, his first shot at Anderson didn’t exactly inspire a lot of confidence in his abilities. The dude got wrecked, simply put, and you can chalk it up to luck if you want to, but we’re not so sure he would do that much better a second time around. He has the power to knockout anybody, but as every striker that has faced Silva will tell you, that’s not the correct gameplan to bring to the table against a Jedi.
Time is truly not on Belfort’s side either, but again, the best matchup for him right now is Belcher. Both guys have dynamite striking and an underrated submission game to boot, and both guys are just outside the cusp of immediate contendership. It would be easier to make the case for Belcher, but if Belfort is able to finish “The Talent” impressively, we could see him taking another crack at Andy, and if he doesn’t end up on “The Spider’s” permanent highlight reel after this one, he can at least walk away with something to talk about.
If Belcher is the most underrated middleweight out there, than Tim Boetsch is easily the most surprising. He may not have looked great doing it, but Boetsch’s third round comeback trouncing of Yushin Okami, who was fresh off a title fight of his own, was nothing short of eye opening. With his deadly mix of Jeet Kune Do and Judo, Boetsch presents an interesting but solvable puzzle for most of the middleweight division. He’s aggressive, powerful, and incredibly durable, but has shown a weakness in his grappling game against such wrestling standouts as Phil Davis and Matt Hammil (at 205 lbs. of course) that leads us to believe he would still have tons of trouble against the Mark Munozs and the Chris Weidmans of the division.
Boestch also finds himself in sort of a catch 22 situation in his upcoming match with Hector Lombard. On one hand, if he is able to handily defeat “Lightning,” it will likely be written off as another case of an inferior promotion’s champs not being up to UFC par. If he loses, it will prove that Lombard lived up to all the hype and that Boetsch might not have been on his level to begin with. If Boetsch is able to defeat Lombard, we’d still like to see him face a wrestling-based fighter like Weidman to see just how his game has come before he takes on Silva, who is clearly on another level at this point.
And finally, continue on for a look at the x-factor of the division, as well as the top dog…