Chris Weidman - Middleweight King
I realize there are many who consider Weidman's victories over Anderson Silva tarnished but whatever reasons the detractors give they cannot assign any blame to Weidman himself although they would be happy to do so if such a reason existed. Weidman took advantage of a clowning Silva in their first fight and demonstrated yet again that this world class grappler has a fistful of dynamite to complement a suffocating and lethal ground game. In the second go 'round, Weidman had clearly won the opening round and then in the second checked a vicious leg kick with his knee that shattered both Silva's shin and his dreams of reclaiming his belt.
But now that Silva has been twice disposed by the reigning UFC Middleweight champion, who are the contenders for Weidman's crown? The short list is as follows:
1. Vitor Belfort - Yet another Brazilian legend will try to steal Weidman's thunder, and his belt, as this bout was announced shortly before this writer's deadline. Barring injury, Belfort will be the next legend to strut into the cage opposed by the newly crowned middleweight king. Belfort has been plying his trade primarily as a middleweight since 2008 with a few dalliances in the light heavyweight division, most notably a fourth-round submission loss to the Light Heavyweight champ Jon Jones. Belfort's last trip into the Octagon was a spectacular first-round KO of Dan Henderson via a spinning head kick. Weidman had better resist the urge to throw hands with Belfort, who at 36-years-old still has most, though not all, of the speed and power that made him a giant in the sport.
2. Anderson Silva - The doctor says in six to nine months the Spider will be up and running after a sickening leg break off the knee of champ Chris Weidman. Though the two have fought twice consecutively we know from experience that Dana White is not allergic to a trilogy (dos Santos vs. Velazquez immediately leaps to mind). However the healing will take time and his fellow countryman Vitor Belfort is next in line for a shot at the strap. But whomever emerges as the victor will set up perfectly for a fight with Silva. Either a last shot at redemption against Weidman or another epic battle of two Brazilian legends duking it out in San Paulo. But maybe Silva walks away entirely. That chapter has yet to be written.
3. Ronaldo Souza/Luke Rockhold/Lyoto Machida - You can pick any of these three names out of a hat and you've got a decent though far from epic middleweight clash with Weidman. Souza has either submitted or KO'ed top flight opponents since his decision loss to Rockhold over two years ago. Rockhold had racked up an impressive string of victories but his UFC debut was spoiled in violent fashion by none other than Vitor Belfort himself. Lyoto Machida has decided that the light heavyweight division is too much and made his middleweight debut a winning one by delivering a stunning head kick to send tough guy Mark Munoz to sleep.
Anderson Silva - Long Live the King
For those of us who can view these last two UFC Middleweight championship fights objectively and without the red hot color of emotion that has clearly blinded Silva's ardent fan base, it is clear that Silva has done the one thing I accused him of in both my fight previews where I picked Weidman to win each time in my UFC picks - he's gotten old.
That's right kids, time and tide wait for no man and in the totality of universal truths, Anderson Silva is every bit like you and me. He is susceptible to the interminable and unabating ticks of the clock where innocuous minutes mount into a baleful storm of years and decades, robbing us all of our youthful prowess and physicality. But as we advance in years we can take solace in the knowledge that though our reflexes wane, our wisdom grows. Anderson Silva should understand this and heed the advice of his son who is advising Dad to hang up the gloves for good. Sounds to me like the Spider's kid is wise beyond his years.