The UFC Middleweight Title Picture: The Lombard SituationWhen the UFC signed former Bellator middleweight champion Hector Lombard this past April, it was almost a foregone conclusion that the Cuban born Lombard would be fast tracked to a title shot.
Unbeaten since 2006 and currently riding a 20 fight winning streak, Lombard's highlight reel of knockouts had warmed fans to the idea that he would be the man to challenge current UFC champion Anderson Silva. Now whether that is true or not remains to be seen, but as it stands now to most MMA fans, a victory over a top ten ranked Tim Boetsch will all but cement Silva/Lombard at some point.
But since Lombard has signed with the UFC, and the fast title shot talk has picked up, many top middleweight contenders, along with the champion Silva, feel that Lombard hasn't done enough to earn that shot yet.
Dismissing the fact that Silva himself earned a title shot against Rich Franklin at UFC 64 with 1 UFC victory, and losses in 2 of his previous 5 fights before signing with the UFC, does any current middleweight actually have a claim to the middleweight king and his crown before Lombard?
Using AddictedMMA's middleweight rankings, let's go down the list:
#2 - Chael Sonnen: For obvious reasons, he is no longer in the immediate title picture hunt.
#3 - Chris Weidman: Coming off back to back wins over top 5 middleweight opponents in Demian Maia and Mark Munoz, and riding a 9 fight winning streak, 5 in the UFC, Weidman does have a legit claim to at least be mentioned as the next man. His marketing appeal may be the only thing hurting his chances now however, as he has never been featured on a main card of a PPV yet. Talent and the winning streak do put him near the top should Lombard fall at UFC 149 though.
#4 - Vitor Belfort: Since losing to Silva at UFC 126 in February of 2011, Belfort has notched 2 impressive wins over Yoshihiro Akiyama and Anthony "Rumble" Johnson. His UFC 147 match with Wanderlei Silva was postponed due to a hand injury suffered by Belfort, and that injury may set him back some. There has been talk of a Belfort/Alan Belcher match, taking place this October when the UFC returns to Brazil, and with a win there, Belfort may put himself back into serious title contention. His first shot was similar to Lombard's perceived title match, in that 1 win in the UFC, a catch weight match at that, solidified Belfort at the top man for the belt. But unlike Lombard, Belfort does have a huge UFC name and fan base, and the UFC would be salivating to remarket the rematch as a possible "fluke" ending the first match.
#5 - Mark Munoz: To keep this simple, Munoz was maybe the 1 man with a legit claim to Silva besides Lombard. But this was before UFC On Fuel 4, where Munoz was dominated by Weidman from start to finish. Munoz was one of the more vocal middleweights regarding Lombard's possible title shot, and he had the chance to toss a monkey wrench into that plan. The loss obviously sets him back now.
#6 - Michael Bisping: Everyone's favorite, or least favorite depending on who you talk to, middleweight title contender is in an interesting spot now. Despite an 8-3 record as a UFC middleweight, Bisping has never been able to win that one key match to get him to the title shot. His last match against Chael Sonnen earned him a lot of respect in the MMA community, but at the end of the day, he did still wind up with the loss.
Now not to be patronizing here or take anything away from Bisping, but we all know what a massive event a middleweight title match held in the UK would be. Should Bisping defeat Brian Stann at UFC 152 this coming September 22, it would obviously be too late to get him on the September 29th card in Nottingham. While Bisping may not have the winning streak or the marquee wins yet, he does have the largest name to market a title shot with against Silva, and we all know that the almighty dollar does speak very loud sometimes. With skills on paper that make some believe he would be a legit challenge to Silva's belt, a win from Bisping over Stann, and a date in the UK for the match, may be enough to propel Bisping to the top of the list.
#7 - Tim Boetsch: Boetsch maybe the most underlooked, but most important, man on this list. He is obviously the man facing Lombard this coming Saturday, and may hold the key to the next middleweight title shot. Despite all the recognition seemingly going to Lombard heading into UFC 149, Boetsch himself is carrying an impressive 3 fight winning streak as a middleweight in the UFC. His last match, against then #3 ranked Yushin Okami, may go down as one of the greatest comeback wins in UFC history. A win over Lombard could be the cherry on the sundae for Boetsch and could vault him ahead of everyone else. However, like Weidman, Boetsch isn't exactly a household MMA name now, and selling an Anderson Silva/Tim Boetsch PPV would be trying at its best.
#8 - Yushin Okami: Like Sonnen, Okami has lost his last fight, and was defeated previously by Silva at UFC 134. Okami has a lot of work to do before coming close to another middleweight title shot.
#10 - Brian Stann: Stann, set to face Bisping at UFC 152, maybe the easiest man here to determine the fate of. He is a solid fighter, but in terms of title contenders, as his ranking here, he may be the lowest man on the totem pole. His previous win, a KO over Alessio Sakara, was defiantly impressive, but even with a win over Bisping, his stock just isn't high enough yet to possibly jump some other middleweights at this time for a title shot.
So there you have it, the current ranked UFC middleweights according to AddictedMMA, and where they may sit in terms of the next UFC middleweight title shot.
Who do you see as the next man for Anderson Silva?
*#9 ranked Luke Rockhold was left off as he is obviously not a UFC fighter and is in no position at the moment to challenge for the title
Published by Jasyn Zangari - Wed, 18 Jul 2012 19:01