Since Anderson Silva knocked out Rich Franklin at UFC 64 in 2006, there's been an undisputed king of the middleweight division in mixed martial arts. The rankings of the best middleweights in the sport have seen their share of shakeups, but no one doubted that the UFC middleweight champion was at the top of the heap.
It's also been generally understood since then that if any middleweight could beat Silva, that man would be at the top of the middleweight rankings. Sure, Patrick Cote and Thales Leites were relatively weak opponents who didn't seriously threaten Silva, but Cote and Leites were each on five-fight winning streaks when they fought Silva. There's something fundamentally different about Silva's newest opponent, Demian Maia.
Maia just got knocked out in 21 seconds by Nate Marquardt at UFC 102. It's very, very rare for a fighter to get a title shot that soon after being beaten that badly. And it's very, very hard to call a guy the No. 1 fighter in the world when he's been beaten that badly, that recently.
So if Maia beats Silva, does that make him the No. 1 middleweight in the world? Or would Marquardt have a case that he's No. 1, because he just beat Maia? Or would Chael Sonnen have a case that he's No. 1, because he just beat Marquardt? Or would it be crazy to call Sonnen No. 1 because Maia needed only 2:37 to submit Sonnen at UFC 95?
And if Maia became the champion, who would get the next title shot? Vitor Belfort, because he was declared the No. 1 contender when he beat Franklin at UFC 103? Sonnen, because he was declared the No. 1 contender when he beat Marquardt? Marquardt, because he already beat Maia? Silva, because an immediate rematch would probably be the biggest middleweight title fight the UFC could make?
Crazy as it is to say, by the end of April we might be looking at a situation where the upcoming fight between Dan Henderson and Jake Shields determines not just the Strikeforce middleweight title, but the title of best middleweight in all of MMA. If Maia beats Silva, that throne is ripe for the picking.
Overall, the middleweight division would be a mess if Maia beat Silva. But it's probably safe to say that's not going to happen.