Morning Report: Michael Bisping's dramatic loss muddies the UFC middleweight title picture

Eric Bolte-US PRESSWIRE

We have a situation on our hands, folks. In the wake of Vitor Belfort's thunderous statement on Saturday night, the cupboard of UFC middleweight contenders, which was overflowing as recently as two months ago, suddenly seems quite bare.

By now we can probably all agree on two things. 1.) Anderson Silva is the most talented middleweight to ever compete in the sport of mixed martial arts, and 2.) At 37 years old, Silva's career is much closer to the finish line than it is the starting blocks. It's been a little over six months since "The Spider" last defended his title, and after recent losses for a trio of once promising contenders -- Michael Bisping, Alan Belcher and Tim Boetsch -- Silva's summer slate is looking sparser by the second.

But this sport is first and foremost a business, and slapping the world's greatest 185-pounder up on a pay-per-view poster is a luxury the UFC is not keen to waste. So, obviously Silva has to fight somebody. The million-dollar question now is: Who?

We've seen time and time again, the will of the fans is often the strongest and most influential voice in the community. So, I want to hear from you. Who among the likely candidates deserves it most? Is it the former Strikeforce champ Luke Rockhold, or is it the soon-to-be-returning, self-proclaimed No. 1 contender Chris Weidman? Did Vitor Belfort's performance on Saturday night sway you? Or maybe even Rashad Evans, the former 205-pound titleholder who in the past has campaigned for a shot at "The Spider?"

Hell, maybe none of them deserve it, and everybody should fight it out while Silva waits on the sidelines. Whatever your thoughts may be, let them be known in the poll at the bottom of this column.

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6 MUST-READ STORIES

Belfort derails Bisping. Vitor Belfort became the latest stumbling block in Michael BIsping's quest for a UFC title shot, flattening the Brit with bonus-winning head kick in the second-round of UFC on FX 7's main event. For more, check out reaction from the pros.

Belfort, Sonnen clash. Following his win, Vitor Belfort called out both Jon Jones and Chael Sonnen, declaring his intent for a rematch with the former, while saying the latter didn't deserve to be in the conversation. Sonnen, of course, was quick to offer a response.

Silva fallout. UFC middleweight champion Anderson Silva refuted Dana White's previous claim that he had signed a new 10-fight contract, while saying of his next match-up: "I need to talk to Dana and Lorenzo." Chris Weidman quickly threw his hat back into the ring, mentioning on Twitter that he'll be returning in the summer and would welcome a fight against the champ. Meanwhile, our own Mike Chiappetta believes the time the ripe to pull the trigger on an Anderson Silva vs. Rashad Evans title fight.

Bellator nixes non-title 'superfights.' In an interview with MMA Frenzy, Bellator CEO Bjorn Rebney revealed that non-title "superfights" to keep his champions busy are officially a thing of the past. Said Rebney: "It's the format I had in my head many years ago, and this is the way it was supposed to work."

Gustafsson vs. Mousasi. A light heavyweight bout pitting up-and-coming Swede Alexander Gustafsson against former Strikeforce champion Gegard Mousasi is slated to headline UFC on FUEL 9 at the Ericsson Globe Arena in Stockholm, Sweden, on April 6, 2013.

Kizer talks NSAC criticism. Speaking to Fighters.com, Nevada State Athletic Commission Executive Director Keith Kizer discussed the state of judging in mixed martial arts, commenting, "Do I think that people over-criticize the refs? Yes, but that's part of the fun."

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MEDIA STEW

And just like that, the middleweight division is thrown back into complete disarray.

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Objectively speaking, that may be the best thumbnail in YouTube history. Just saying.

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I'll be honest, I don't know really what to say about this.

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In case you missed it on Saturday night, check out the complete episode of UFC on FOX 6's Road to the Octagon special, featuring Demetrious Johnson, John Dodson, Rampage Jackson, Glover Teixeira, Donald Cerrone and Anthony Pettis.

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Michael Chandler couldn't have asked for a more impressive return from an eight-month absence. Anybody out there ready to place him in their top-5 yet?

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"I'll teach you how to clean out a division without throwing a single punch." - Chael Sonnen, ultimate pitchman.

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ROAR OF THE OLD LION

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THE PLOT THICKENS

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SO SAYS THE PREZ

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WE'VE GOT SOMETHING HERE

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MOOSE'S MASTER PLAN

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FLYWEIGHT CHAMP + LARA CROFT

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FOR REAL

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FIGHT ANNOUNCEMENTS

Announced over the weekend (Friday, January 18, 2013 - Sunday, January 20, 2012):

  • UFC on FUEL 9: Alexander Gustafsson (15-1) vs. Gegard Mousasi (33-3-2)

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FANPOST OF THE DAY

Today's Fanpost of the Day sees SecondhandMMA break down the: Middleweight Contender's Picture

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 [and] Gegard Mousasi. 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.

Found something you'd like to see in the Morning Report? Just hit me on Twitter @shaunalshatti and we'll include it in Monday's column.

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