Now we’re down to 185. The Middleweights.
This is the most stable division in the UFC because of the champion (we’ll get to him in a minute). He’s been there for six years now—an awfully long time—and it’s uncertain if he’ll be vacating the throne anytime soon.
Middleweights have also had a problem of being the kind of “final resting ground” of many fighters. There have been lots of light-heavyweights that get bullied around before they realize that they could make the cut to 185. Similarly, there are others who tire of the cut to 185 and likely won’t return after being there for a while (coughcoughDanHendersoncough). Middleweight seems to be a rather tough weight class to arrive at naturally, so many of its current prominent fighters are ones who have arrived there through trial-and-error.
We also had a time period where there were several contenders who were rushed to title fights long before they were ready and suffered brutal defeats at the hands of one Anderson Silva, and thus gave off the impression of a very weak division. Make no mistake, that weakness has since evaporated.
Let’s see who’s looking to battle at 185 lbs.
The Champ: Anderson “The Spider” Silva (31-4)
All of Silva’s losses occurred before he got to the UFC. And he arrived into the Octagon just over 6 years ago. 14-0 in the UFC. 2 of those fights were against Light Heavyweights, both of which he dominated and finished in the first round. 12 of his 14 wins were finishes. He is, quite simply, the best man to ever step into the Octagon for a fight. He makes it look easy. He takes solid contenders like Yushin Okami or Vitor Belfort and makes them look like amateurs. Forrest Griffin was a light heavyweight champion and got taken to the woodshed by Anderson. He’s a walking highlight reel. He fights for the title in 3 days, and he is of course a favorite.
The #1 Contender: Chael Sonnen (27-11-1)
There are two things that Chael Sonnen is better at than anyone else in the UFC. The first thing is his trash talk. It is incredible; in my opinion much better than even the WWE because this is actually a sport and the contest isn’t predetermined. Chael can run his mouth with the best of them, which is great for getting asses in the seats and excitement about upcoming fights bubbling.
The other thing Chael is great at is implementing his gameplan and forcing the opponent to react to it. His wrestling is stifling and dominant, and he’s great at taking control of a fight. He is the only man to make Anderson Silva look mortal, beating the hell out of him for 4.5 rounds of their title fight before Silva’s miracle triangle choke attempt succeeded. But Chael came back with a vengeance over two very tough middleweights, and he’ll get another shot at The Spider. He is one of the few members of the Middleweight Division that can actually beat Anderson Silva.
In the Mix:
Michael Bisping (22-4)
Bisping is one of those aforementioned guys who was at 205 before dropping to 185, and it’s been a great change for him. His losses have been pretty close, with the exception being his incredibly brutal knockout loss to Dan Henderson, but he’s very competitive. He’s pretty much universally regarded as “underrated” (I know; this should mean that he’s properly rated, but the internet is a stupid stupid place). His skills are good everywhere , and if your only loss comes from eating an H-Bomb, well, there’s worse ways to be. Bisping’s striking is pretty solid and his wrestling is good, and if he manages to finish his next opponent I could see a title bout in his future.
Brian Stann (12-4)
If Captain America was a real person, his name wouldn’t be Steve Rogers, it would be Brian Stann. A Naval Academy graduate, Stann served as a Marine officer in Afghanistan earning medals of valor and being an actual hero before he decided that he’d rather destroy men in a cage with his fists. And he’s good at that. He’s had 5 fights at middleweight, and he’s won 4 of them. None of them were decided by the judges. The man TKO’d Chris Leben. I wouldn’t expect that from a dude with a baseball bat. He could stand to work on his ground game a bit, with 2 of his 4 losses coming from submissions, but Brian Stann is a powerhouse and a force to be reckoned with.
Mark Munoz (12-2)
Munoz is a beast. His wrestling is quite possibly as good as Sonnen’s (I’d say not quite though) and he has knockout power in those fists. He was supposed to get a crack at Chael Sonnen before an elbow injury sidelined him, but he seems to be a tremendous talent in the UFC and an awesome guy too. I think that if anyone other than Chael has a good shot at beating Silva, it’s this man. Look for his fight in two weeks against prospect Chris Weidman to see just where his position in the division will be.
Vitor Belfort (21-9)
Mr. Belfort does not like going to decisions. And he really likes to win in the first round. His last 4 fights have him 3-1, with all of those fights ending in the first round due to finishes (he was the guy who ate Anderson Silva’s Crane Kick if you’re wondering where the loss came from). If you are trying to beat this man, you better brace yourself for the storm coming in the first round. And try not to get tagged by those knockout attempts. Cause, you know, he’s gonna be going for that.
Alan Belcher (18-6)
Sort of a dark horse contender in the Middleweight division, Belcher got sidelined for about a year with a pretty vicious eye injury that may have threatened to take him out of the sport. But, can’t let something like that keep a good man down and he’s back with a vengeance. His last 5 fights have him going 4-1 with that only loss being a split-decision that was pretty questionable and to an opponent who has lost 4 times in the UFC and has moved to a lighter division. And his wins have been mostly exciting finishes. He went into the belly of the beast a few months ago against renowned grappler Rousimar Palhares—a gentleman famous for his brutal lasting injuries that come from sinking kneebars and heel hooks—and outgrappled him, finishing with strikes from inside Palhares’ guard. The man can fight. Really well.
Chris Weidman (8-0)
Weidman is a definite up-and-comer, Weidman is pure wrestler. He’s really good at it. He needs to get a little better at the striking game, and more importantly that other skill of going from striking into takedowns that other great wrestlers need to learn (LHW Phil Davis comes to mind). He took a fight against submission expert Demian Maia on VERY short notice and routed him in a decision, so we know that he’s working on another level. In two weeks, we’ll see how he can handle superior wrestling when couple with superior striking against Mark Munoz.