The UFC’s Middleweight division has been in flux ever since Chris Weidman knocked Anderson “The Spider” Silva off his web. Do the MMA odds at the top of the Middleweight rankings reflect reality?
These are interesting times in the Middleweight division. The new champion, Chris Weidman, has two big victories over Anderson Silva, but neither fight gave us a truly decisive ending. Meanwhile, this weight class is being invaded by former Light Heavyweights looking to revitalize their careers. It’s hard for the MMA betting market to get a fix on these fighters – which leaves us plenty of room to exploit the top of the UFC Middleweight rankings.
Champion: Chris Weidman
Since our early preview of next month’s main event at UFC 175, Weidman has moved to as high as –250 on the MMA odds board for his title defense against Lyoto “The Dragon” Machida. It’s difficult to find fault with someone who has an 11-0 lifetime record in mixed martial arts, including 7-0 in the Octagon and 2-0 against Silva, upsetting the former No. 1 pound-for-pound fighter at +180 and +150. But aside from Silva, Weidman’s biggest victory was over Demian Maia (+140) in January 2012. Where is Weidman’s ceiling?
1. Anderson Silva
Remember when Silva fought Maia (+450) in 2010 and started clowning around before eventually winning by unanimous decision? He got away with it then, but he didn’t get away with it against Weidman. Then Silva broke his left leg in the rematch this past December at UFC 168. After initial concerns that the 38-year-old Brazilian would retire, Silva (33-6 lifetime, 17-2 UFC) is aiming for a return in early 2015.
2. Vitor Belfort
Speaking of veterans, it’s been 10 years now since Belfort (who turned 37 in April) earned a somewhat fortunate win over Randy Couture (–225) via referee stoppage at UFC 46. That was for the Light Heavyweight title; Belfort lost the strap back to Couture (–145) in his next fight, and has been bouncing back and forth between the Light Heavyweight and the Middleweight divisions, losing title bouts to Silva (–270) and Jon “Bones” Jones (–750). However, Belfort also has enough non-title wins to run his career record to 24-10. Next up: Chael Sonnen in July at UFC 175.
3. Lyoto Machida
Here’s another former Light Heavyweight champion, and one of the best MMA betting values ever to step into the Octagon. Machida’s unusual (for the UFC) Shotokan karate style has left both opponents and fans bewildered at times, yet he started his career with 16 straight victories and a title win over Rashad Evans (+150) in 2009. Machida is 5-4 in his last nine fights, but 2-0 since dropping to Middleweight, earning victories over Mark Muñoz (+265) and Gegard Mousasi (+200).
4. Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza
These are lofty heights for someone who has yet to perform at a major UFC pay-per-view event. But this is no ordinary scrub. Souza (20-3, 1 NC lifetime) is the former Strikeforce Middleweight champ, and he’s 3-0 since joining the UFC, beating Chris Camozzi (+500), Yushin Okami (+175) and Francis Carmont (+450) on cable TV. Keep an eye on this gentleman; in addition to his MMA prowess, Souza won several gold medals for Brazil at the World Jiu-Jitsu Championship in the early 2000’s.
5. Luke Rockhold
Rockhold (12-2 lifetime) is one of the three fighters to score a win off Souza, taking the Strikeforce Middleweight strap off him via unanimous decision in 2011. Like Souza, Rockhold has fought three times in the Octagon, but his debut was a first-round knockout at the hands and feet of Belfort (–115) in May 2013. No shame there. Rockhold bounced back with a quick win via liver kicks over Costas Philippou (+360) in January, earning KO of the Night honors, and followed that up with a first-round kimura submission on Tim Boetsch (–700) at UFC 172. Stardom awaits.