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Battle Brewing Over Next to Fight for Belt as Champ Anderson Silva Recovers

HOUSTON -- Chael Sonnen and Brian Stann both hope to make their case as the next man to fight Anderson Silva on Saturday. But their UFC 136 fight, largely considered a possible No. 1 contenders bout, is no sure thing to produce a middleweight title challenger.

On Wednesday, UFC president Dana White said there was more than one possibility for Silva, and he seemed willing to wait to see how things play out before committing to a plan.

One alternate possibility? If Dan Henderson beats Mauricio "Shogun" Rua at UFC 139 next month, he might bump to the front of the line.

The returning star recently vacated the Strikeforce light heavyweight championship to come back to the UFC. And though his first fight back will be at light heavyweight, he's willing to move down to 185 for another crack at Silva.

"We've got to see what happens here," White said. "The winner of [Sonnen-Stann] deserves a shot at Anderson Silva? It'd be tough to say no. But if Henderson beats Shogun, it'd be tough to say that Henderson doesn't deserve the shot either. So we'll see what happens."

White also revealed that if Silva had been healthy, he likely would have been slotted into an immediate title bout with Henderson. It would actually be a rematch, as the two squared off at UFC 82 in March 2008, with Silva winning via rear- naked choke in the second round.

Meanwhile, Sonnen seems to have toned down some of his usually pointed comments aimed at Silva, a fact that led a Brazilian reporter to ask him about how much of what he says is for show. Sonnen, who came across a bit subdued throughout the UFC 136 press conference, suddenly came to life, saying that he still has the long-reigning champion in his crosshairs.

"I'm not scared of that guy, I'm not going to apologize to that guy," said Sonnen, who is favored to beat Stann this weekend. "And I appreciate what the Brazilian people said, and a lot of that was said in good fun. But the bottom line is I'm sticking a finger in his chest, I'm picking a fight, and I'm not going to quit."

Whether Henderson (28-8), Sonnen (25-11-1) or Stann (11-3) receives the opportunity might also be a question of timing. Silva is still on the mend after a shoulder injury. The problem isn't considered serious, but simply a matter of time and rehabilitation.

"He has bursitis in his shoulder," White said. "The doctor told him he needs to rest it for eight weeks, and he's doing physical therapy. It's not like he's got some injury that needs surgery or anything like that. As amazing as this guy is, we forget this guy is 37 years old."

Regardless of the challenger, upsetting Silva will be an uphill task. The popular champion is riding a UFC-record 14-fight win streak, and he's successfully defended his belt nine straight times, also a record.