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Most of the best middleweights in mixed martial arts are in the UFC, just as most of the best fighters in every weight class from bantamweight to heavyweight are under contract to Zuffa. But as I post my new list of the Top 10 middleweights in MMA, a list topped by UFC middleweight champ Anderson Silva, I want to commend Affliction for putting together the best middleweight fight possible outside the Octagon: Vitor Belfort vs. Jorge Santiago.
Belfort is the No. 4 middleweight on my list and Santiago is No. 8, and I'm very excited about seeing them in the ring together on August 1. The winner is undoubtedly the best middleweight outside the UFC, and that means these two guys are probably fighting for a UFC contract. (Belfort, of course, was named by Dana White as a future opponent to Silva.) "Fighting for a UFC contract" isn't the way Affliction wants to hype this bout, but one way or another, it's going to be a good one.
Elsewhere in my Top 10, we have Dan Henderson (who probably earned a rematch with Silva by beating Michael Bisping at UFC 100) at No. 2, and Nate Marquardt and Demian Maia (who will fight each other at UFC 102) at No. 5 and No. 6.
I've grouped Strikeforce's Nick Diaz and Jake Shields as a tie for No. 10. They're the two best middleweights in Strikeforce (and they're also the two best welterweights in Strikeforce), but they won't fight each other because they're friends and training partners. That refusal to fight deprives Strikefroce fans of what would be a great fight anywhere between 170 and 185 pounds. Bummer.
Top 10 Middleweights in MMA 1. Anderson Silva 2. Dan Henderson 3. Yushin Okami 4. Vitor Belfort 5. Nate Marquardt 6. Demian Maia 7. Thales Leites 8. Jorge Santiago 9. Chael Sonnen 10. Nick Diaz/Jake Shields
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