Last night, the middleweight title picture got a little bit more muddled. Michael Bisping suffered a second round knockout to longtime UFC mainstay Vitor Belfort. The most clearcut contender for Anderson Silva's middleweight crown got knocked to the back of the line, and with it a sense of direction lost. However, the Zuffa brass still have several choices as to who will step up to bat. Let's take a gander, shall we?
Luke Rockhold: The final Strikeforce middleweight champion is riding a nine fight unbeaten streak and already has a potential opponent called out in Costa Philippou, who himself is riding a sizeable streak. I say make the Philippou matchup, and if he gets past him, begin to seriously look at this Strikeforce import for title contention.
Costa Philippou: As I noted above, the right direction for the boxer turned fighter from Cyprus is to fight Rockhold. They're both just on the outer crust of the elite status of the division, and both riding momentum, and looking to make a name for themselves. Philippou most recently knocked out top contender, Tim Boetsch, but did so in a lackluster fashion that really didn't elevate his stock, and is, as of right now, a perfect matchup for Rockhold. I believe the UFC brass will make the bout, with the winner being within one fight of a title shot.
Hector Lombard: Everyone's favorite fireball Cuban is coming off a knockout victory of Rousimar Palhares, and looks to take out another veteran grappler in Yushin Okami. Should Lombard defeat Okami, and do so impressively, it should effectively right ship and push his UFC debut from the minds of fans, and make him an incredibly marketable title fight.
Chris Weidman: The previously self proclaimed #1 contender is out for now, rehabbing from surgery til the summer, but the fact remains that he is unbeaten, and is about as well rounded a fighter as you could ask for. Certainly, with such a lengthy layoff, he'd need a return bout (say against, Ronaldo Souza), but afterwards, I'd believe that he'd be more than ready for a title shot. He's got the PR voice, the unbeaten record, and the skill set.
And then you have those fighter who could potentially (and probably will at some point) drop down from 205, Rashad Evans, Gegard Mousasi, and Brian Stann. The contenders that everyone had their eye on might have all lost recently, however, there is still a veritable cornucopia of intriguing matchups out there for Anderson Silva. For those matchups to occur however, we as fight fans must do the one thing we don't necessarily enjoy doing: being patient.
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