The UFC middleweight division has heated up with several contenders emerging in the wake of Chael Sonnen’s second failure at taking Anderson Silva’s belt. There are more than a few names deserving consideration, and to their credit, each has been vocal about being next in line for a title shot as well as making a strong case inside the Octagon.

At the moment, Michael Bisping and Brian Stann are sharing the spotlight for their UFC 152 match, which may or may not put one of them in position as the next title challenger. Before they should be bestowed with that honor, there are at least three other middleweight names that are equally deserving of the same consideration.

At the top of the list—and in my opinion, before Bisping or Stann—is Chris Weidman. He has blitzed the competition in three of his four UFC fights, showing killer instinct in strikes and submissions, as well as proving a well-rounded game more so than any of his competitors for the title shot.

Weidman burst into the UFC with submission victories over Jesse Bongfeldt and Tom Lawlor. He took a fight on short notice against submission specialist Demian Maia and won a unanimous decision. While Maia hasn’t been consistent as of late, a win over him proves a fighter is more than capable in the submission aspect of the sport. Weidman’s next win is what elevated his name to the top of the list for the next title contender.

The Serra-Longo student absolutely dominated decorated Oklahoma State wrestler Mark Munoz. It was a surprising sight to watch Weidman, a relative unknown at the time, completely control the wrestling aspect of the fight. Munoz fell to a standing elbow strike from his opponent and the fight was called a knockout after several vicious strikes ended the match.

Weidman proved he is not just good, but very good. If we go back over six years ago, Anderson Silva displayed a similar vicious and dominant performance against Chris Leben that earned him a title shot.

However, one of the other names worthy of consideration, Tim Boetsch, will be Weidman’s next opponent and his case is strong enough to warrant a showdown with the New Yorker.

Boetsch is 4-0 since dropping to middleweight. While his wins, save for a last minute rally against Yushin Okami, haven’t been the most exciting, Boetsch deserves consideration for his consistency in getting the win. The victor in their upcoming UFC 155 match in December is the most deserving of a title shot.

While that might be wishful thinking, perhaps the winner of Stann/Bisping could face the winner of Weidman/Boetsch to settle this unofficial middleweight tournament for the title shot.

My problem with Bisping or Stann getting the shot over the other two is their consistency against top middleweights. Stann was handily beaten by Chael Sonnen. He had a good run up to that point, but being able to KO opponents further down the ladder while being outmatched against the better guys doesn’t sell me on Stann.

Bisping has had a great UFC career, but never reached a title shot because he falters when he is about to knock on Silva’s door. I may not be giving him enough credit for his winning streak up to losing a close decision against Sonnen in his last match, but, again he isn’t beating the top names. A win for either here would be a big step in the right direction, but taking on either Boetsch or Weidman next would prove that either has earned a title shot.

The other name that deserves to be in this mix is Alan Belcher. He is a true dark horse with a four-fight winning streak, all finishes. He will also be fighting on the UFC 155 card against Yushin Okami, and an impressive win against a former top contender could put him right behind the next title challenger.

Belcher is often pushed outside of consideration. He is just as deserving as Stann or Boetsch. His time may come, but for now he’ll have to fight his way into a wider consciousness while the other four guys shake their positions out.

The champion, Silva, is stepping outside the middleweight division to fight Stephan Bonnar at UFC 153, and talk about a superfight with Georges St-Pierre is stronger now more than ever. It is possible Silva could be tied up with these two fights and that will allow plenty of time for a clear-cut contender to emerge.

Photo: Chris Weidman (Esther Lin/MMA Fighting)

About The Author

David Massey
Staff Writer

David Massey studied Humanities and Art History at the University of Central Oklahoma. He first found interest in MMA from the first TUF show and has been hooked ever since. He began posting on mmajunkie then submitting Sunday Junkie entries and that began his interest in writing about MMA. Through twitter David found other MMA enthusiasts and began contributing articles to marqueemma.com. He looks forward to growing as a writer and being a part of the sport he loves.