It didn’t take long after Anderson Silva’s controversial performance at Saturday night’s UFC 112 event in Abu Dhabi for a number of MMA fighters in numerous weight-classes to throw their hat in the ring as the next opponent for the dominant champion.

Let’s take at who they are, what they’ve been saying, and what their chances are of fighting Silva next.

Chael Sonnen (Middleweight)

Not surprisingly, the first man to call out the Brazilian was the outspoken Chael Sonnen.

“He’s getting beaten up in 2010 by Chael Sonnen. That’s been the story from the jump,” Sonnen confidently informed mmajunkie.

“There’s people out there that need (to be) beaten up – he’s one of them. And I have a moral obligation to society to beat him up.”

Given the level of ill-will towards Silva after his antics at UFC 112, Sonnen’s verbal taunts may help gain him traction over his competitors in the race to be his next opponent.

Working against him however is that he is yet another challenger at 185lbs who’s best chance of beating Silva relies upon getting him to the ground.  After both Thales Leites and now Demian Maia failed in this regard, and helped produce less than thrilling fights as a result, the UFC may want to look in a different direction.

Vitor Belfort (Middleweight)

Sonnen isn’t the only middleweight fighter with a desire to take on the champion though.  Vitor Belfort, who was originally scheduled to face Silva in Abu Dhabi before suffering an injury, wants to be the next challenger for the belt.

“Guys I am very sad that i was unable to not be fighting with Anderson. but Demian show a lots of respect and did good but now is my turn,” Belfort stated on his twitter account.

Is Vitor Belfort Next?

‘The Phenom’ then went on to post messages to both Dana White and Lorenzo Fertitta’s twitter accounts pleading with them to make a fight between Silva and himself happen.

Style wise Belfort is a good match for Silva given that he is also a talented striker who should be willing to engage with the champion.  Considering he had already been lined up to face him he also has the moral right to be Silva’s next opponent.

Belfort is still recovering from a shoulder injury though which doesn’t aid his cause.  Also, speaking before he was forced to pull out of the originally scheduled fight Belfort seemed indifferent to the prospect of fighting Silva, suggesting that he’d prefer to have a couple of other fights first.

He seems to have had a change of heart now, but it’s possible his chance may now have slipped away from him.

Georges St.Pierre (Welterweight Champion)

After another disappointing fight at 185lbs however, the UFC may now be looking to challenge Silva in a new weight-class.

Before the fight the talk was that Silva may have been set to move down to welterweight to take on Georges St.Pierre, and at a UFC Q&A before the event GSP suggested that he would be interested in taking him on at that 170lbs.

“If he dropped to 170 pounds, probably,” the Canadian star said. “He fought a few years ago in Japan at 168, which is even less. So if he did, of course.

“It would be the biggest fight in UFC history, probably. It would be interesting.”

St.Pierre was filmed at octagon-side for the event, and if the fight had not unexpectedly veered off-course it appeared as if the UFC may well have been geared up to be officially announced as his next opponent.

After Silva’s performance though it appears that Dana White is cooling on the idea of this potential superfight between the two pound-for-pound stars, stating in the post-fight press conference that, “he doesn’t deserve to fight GSP.”

Randy Couture (Light-heavyweight)

Another option for Silva is to take another visit to 205lbs where he has had two previous convincing victories against James Irvin and Forrest Griffin.  If that turns out to be the option they go for then a certain UFC hall-of-famer would love to be the fighter chosen to take him on.

“They already know Id love to fight Anderson! We’ll see,” former light-heavyweight and heavyweight champion Randy Couture noted in response to a fan’s question on twitter.

Couture is in a similar position to Silva in that he is looking for challenges and big fights at this stage in his career so it’s no great surprise to see him putting his name in the hat.  It remains to be seen how serious he is about it though considering he also mentioned recently that he’d be interested in fighting the boxer James Toney.

Also, I’m not convinced the fans want to see the ageing Couture fight Silva at this stage in his career.  There’s no doubt that he would take the fight to him, but ‘The Natural’s’ reactions has slowed down, his chin is weakened, and in all honesty it doesn’t feel like a challenging match-up for Silva.

To be honest I’m not 100% sold on any of these fighters getting the next shot at Silva.  Ideally I’d like to see him fight one of the top contenders at 205lbs – the loser of Machida Vs Shogun for instance, or Evans Vs Rampage.

If I had to choose between these four though I feel either GSP or Belfort would be the best fights for Silva.  GSP because it would be the kind of ‘big fight’ that Silva seems to need at this stage of his career to get himself motivated, and Belfort because he’s a legitimate striker, which is the sort of opponent Silva relishes.