Heading into UFC on FX 7 it was understood that a win by headliner Michael Bisping would lead to a future bout with UFC Middleweight Champion Anderson Silva for the title, but history repeated itself as Bisping fell short. He didn’t just fall short, Vitor Belfort sent Bisping’s title hopes down the drain with a second-round TKO.
Bisping’s loss opens up a conundrum for the UFC. There is no longer a clear-cut contender for Silva’s title. With several possible opponents, there’s more intrigue than ever before and a possibility that fans won’t see Silva fight until late-2013.
However, as I stated, there are some options for Silva. Some interesting match-ups and some that might make the most dedicated MMA fan go “huh?”. Here are my five picks to face Silva, feel free to comment and tell me who you’d like to see Silva fight but remember this is only in the middleweight division.
1) Chris Weidman (9-0): Weidman has become a top choice to battle Silva, especially after his decisive victory over Mark Munoz, but many still question his the quality of his nine victories. Not to mention, Weidman is currently sidelined with a shoulder injury. He was scheduled to fight Tim Boetsch at UFC 155 in December, but the injury postponed that bout. Weidman might be the most interesting opponent for Silva, but with his injury and young fight career it might put his title chances on hold.
2) Luke Rockhold (10-1): With Strikeforce Lightweight Champion Gilbert Melendez stepping into the UFC and receiving an instant title shot, there’s wonder if Rockhold might get the same treatment. The AKA middleweight has won nine straight, defeated Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza for the Strikeforce middleweight title and has defended that title twice. Coming over to the UFC could show how dominant Rockhold can be and, although unlikely, it might be perfect to test him against the biggest fish in the UFC pond.
Now this is where things get tricky…
3) Hector Lombard (32-3): Lombard, the former Bellator middleweight champ, is just 1-1 in the UFC and scheduled to meet Yushin Okami in March but if he wins he could be the benefit of odd circumstances. The same can be said for his opponent at UFC on Fuel TV 8, Lombard was quite impressive in his victory over Rousimar Palhares and if he continues that trend he can be in title contention soon.
4) Yushin Okami (28-7): Okami is 1-1 versus Silva and could be due for a possible rubber match with a victory over Lombard. The key word being “could”. Okami hasn’t been on an impressive run in the UFC and is likely the farthest from a title shot, but at this stage in the division anything is possible.
5) Vitor Belfort (22-10): Yes, we all remember Belfort losing in incredible fashion to Silva already and he lost at light-heavyweight after stepping up to face UFC Light-Heavyweight Champion Jon Jones. Stepping up into the bout the way he did earned Belfort a lot of respect from fans and fighters, but it also set him back in another weight class. “The Phenom” has won his last three bouts at middleweight and is coming off a huge win over Bisping. This could be a possible, yet highly unlikely, bout.
Everyone will have a different opinion of who should be next in line for a shot at Anderson Silva and with Bisping losing this past Saturday, it has become quite unclear of who that individual will be. Let the guessing game begin and remember we all have Mr. Bisping for this.
Nitesh Dutt is a MMA Columnist/Blogger for several media outlets. Follow him on Twitter @NiteshDutt.