The UFC’s middleweight picture is pretty simple right now, if simple were only so easy (Note: No such thing as "easy" in the fight game). Champion Chris Weidman defends his title at UFC 173 against Vitor Belfort. That is, so long as everybody stays healthy and Belfort doesn’t have any trouble competing in the state of Nevada, which is no given considering the TRT/TUE hurdles. With all the scrutiny Belfort is receiving, you half expect the pitchforks and torches to come out in May (and those just from the Zuffa front office for anybody trying to single Belfort out).
And after Saturday night’s UFC Fight Night 36 card, the No. 1 contender fight to make is obvious: Lyoto Machida against Ronaldo Souza, both who scored decision victories in Jaragua do Sul. The only caveat there is that Jacare and Machida would really rather not. They are associates and longtime running dawgs of former middleweight champ Anderson Silva. Part of the friends network and all that.
But they’d do it if the UFC twists their arms.
"This [185-pound] division has a lot of great fighters," Machida said in the UFC Fight Night 36 post-fight press conference. "I wouldn’t want [the Jacare] fight, but if [the UFC] wants it we’ll have to fight."
"We can fight, yes," Jacare reiterated. "I wouldn’t want to, but I’d accept this fight if that’s what the UFC wants. Lyoto is super professional and I’m sure he would also take it."
A little reluctance, but more resignation than anything, so…done, right?
Well…there’s also the little thing about Machida’s foot, which he fears may be broken after methodically staple-gunning Gegard Mousasi with it for five rounds. He’ll have that examined this coming week. And then there’s Jacare’s left arm, which he hurt before entering his fight with Francis Carmont. There are "bone fragments" floating around which will require arthroscopic surgery to remove before he enters the Octagon again.
Should Jacare and Machida fight, it might be down the road a bit. Could it be within earshot of May, so as to mesh the schedules up with the champion? That’s the question. Things so rarely work out as we’d like them to.
Meanwhile all the rest of the UFC middleweights are sort of accounted for and appropriately booked. Luke Rockhold, who walked through Costas Philippou in January, has Tim Boetsch on the docket. American Tim Kennedy will fight Britain’s Michael Bisping at the TUF Nations: Canada vs. Australia Finale in Quebec City in what promises to be a cosmopolitan affair. Mark Munoz, having lost to Machida in October and come up short in his campaign to face Bisping, can fight either Carmont or Mousasi.
That is, if Mousasi hangs around 185. He may head back off to light heavyweight, where he made his name. And Carmont, who was marveled and gawked at all week for his massive size heading into the Jacare fight, could elect to bounce too. Or not. Whoever Munoz doesn’t get can go to Philippou (unless it’s Carmont, who already fought Philippou at UFC 165 in a fight best described as "pretty sucky").
Then there’s Anderson Silva, who is walking down staircases on his own after that ghastly leg break at UFC 168. He’s en-route back to the cage, but it’s an ominous pass he’s going over. Who knows if he’ll make it back, and what the landscape will look like when he does. It’s possible that by mid-2015, a 38-year old Yoel Romero will be the champion, and Tim Kennedy will be in the hoosegow for making good on his threat to stab Bisping in the heart with a unicorn’s horn.
One thing is as likely as the other, because even just a single day after the UFC’s 185-pound division gets some clarity, it all sort of feels up in the air.