So, still think Chris Weidman is a fluke?
Somehow, even though the pride of Long Island defeated Anderson Silva, then did it again, there were those who felt it didn't count. Never mind that no one even came close to pushing Weidman on his way up. Or that Silva had reigned for seven years, including going up in weight class and defeating three light heavyweights along the way.
No, somehow, among the more dense-minded folks following MMA, beating Anderson Silva twice was akin to someone hitting Powerball twice.
Well, now Weidman has answered most of the remaining questions, in the form of an impressive victory over former light heavyweight champion Lyoto Machida at UFC 175. We already knew Weidman could wrestle, could handle big-fight pressure, and could punch with the force of a mule kick.
Against Machida, though, we found out so much more. We saw a spectacular fight IQ, as he cut off Machida's angles, pushed forward without overcommitting, and never quite let Machida get into his preferred early rhythm. He proved he had a chin when, when Machida turned up the heat in the final rounds. And he also proved his championship heart, as he managed to weather the crafty veteran's storm and managed to find a second wind in the final round and secure his victory.
So, needless to say, Weidman is the unanimous pick for the current SBNation middleweight rankings. claiming all six first-place votes.
Where he goes from here? That remains a question. Weidman has already defeated No. 2 Machida and No. 4 Silva. On paper, that would seem to align with a fight against No. 3 Ronaldo "Jacare" Souza, the winner of six straight, who meets Gegard Mousasi (tied for No. 6 with Tim Kennedy) on Sept. 5 in the most important upcoming 185-pound tilt.
But there's also no doubt that the biggest money fight on the horizon is with the controversial Vitor Belfort. That was the originally scheduled fight, before Machida took his place. And he took Belfort's place, of course, due to the controversy swirling around an out-of-competition drug test administered by the Nevada Athletic Commission.
That will sort itself out in the near future. In the meantime, by SB Nation rankings policy, Belfort is ineligible for rankings consideration as long as his licensing situation in Nevada lingers.
(Scoring: Fighters are given 10 points for a first-place vote, nine points for a second, etc., down to one point for 10th place. The results are then tallied up and presented here. Official SB Nation rankings policy: Fighters under commission suspension are ineligible to be ranked during the duration of their suspension or if they have licensing issues. Presently, this affects Vitor Belfort, who has licensing issues in Nevada).
1. Chris Weidman (12-0, 60 points): Weidman took a huge step toward becoming the UFC's next breakout star by following up two wins over Silva with a victory over Machida. A win over a fighter with Belfort's name would push him even further.
2. Lyoto Machida (21-5, 49 points): When you push Weidman like he's never been pushed, and you've beaten everyone else in the division you've met, then yeah, you don't drop very far in the rankings.
3. Ronaldo Souza (20-3, 1 NC, 44 points): The man who seems to have the best claim to the next shot at Weidman on merit, rather than on marquee value, Souza puts his six-fight win streak on the line against Gegard Mousasi on Sept. 5 in the most consequential upcoming divisional fight of note.
4. Anderson Silva (33-6, 43 points): The world awaits "The Spider's" return, anticipated for early next year. All parties involved seem to want a fight with him and Nick Diaz. Will the match get made?
5. Luke Rockhold (11-2, 38 points): Still waiting on his next fight, Rockhold says he only wants a Vitor Belfort rematch or a title fight, but it doesn't appear the timing favors him at the moment, unless he's willing to wait a long time on his demand.
6. Tim Kennedy (18-4, 28 points): Kennedy has fast gone from a spoiler in the division to the guy who has more to lose than to gain in his upcoming fight, as he'll give Yoel Romero the platform to prove himself on Sept. 27.
7. Gegard Mousasi (35-4-2, 28 points): Back in the win column after defeating Mark Munoz, Mousasi meets Jacare, whom he defeated to claim the Dream middleweight title back in 2009.
8. Yushin Okami (30-8, 16 points): Okami submitted unheralded Sveltlozar Savov in his WSOF debut in March. Given the division isn't exactly stacked, it's likely he stays around this spot in the poll for the foreseeable future, so long as he doesn't lose an upset.
9. Michael Bisping (24-6, 10 points): "The Count" looked out of sorts in his April loss to Kennedy. How much is attributable to his opponent, how much to his layoff and eye injury, and how much is simply Father Time gaining on the affable Brit?
10. C.B. Dollaway (15-5, 5 points): Dollaway earned a performance of the night bonus in ending Francis Carmont's win streak on May 31. It also earned Dollaway, winner of four out of his past five fights, a top 10 spot.
Votes for others: Yoel Romero, Alexander Shlemenko 3; Mark Munoz 2; Francis Carmont 1.