The UFC’s middleweight division has been struggling for some time to find new contenders for dominant champion Anderson Silva, who’s defeated a who’s who’ list of challengers over the past few years.
With Chael Sonnen also now out indefinitely due to suspension and Nate Marquardt dropping down to 170lbs the division is in need of new stars to emerge, and luckily right on cue a few fresh faces are slowly beginning to emerge at 185lbs.
Below we look at the new emerging stars in the division (Note: This article doesn’t include well established UFC middleweight contenders like Yushin Okami and Michael Bisping who have been in the title picture for some time already).
Former WEC light-heavyweight champion Brian Stann didn’t appear to be anything special when he entered the UFC at 205lbs in 2009, but since then he’s been taken under renowned coach Greg Jackson’s wing and has come on leaps and bounds.
A move down to middleweight also proved to be an immediate success, producing three consecutive victories, and with his punching power coming to the fore along with an improving ground game, coupled with his background as a war hero and ‘class act’ demeanor outside of the cage, Dana White has pegged him as being on his way to “superstardom.”
Jason ‘Mayhem’ Miller
Already a well known fighter, the UFC’s signing of ‘Mayhem’ from Strikeforce immediately strengthens the division and brings some welcome character and charisma to spice things up.
A well-rounded and vastly experienced fighter who’s particularly strong on the mat, Mayhem poses a tough fight for anyone at 185lbs, and a high profile role as a coach opposite Michael Bisping on The Ultimate Fighter Season 14 seems like the perfect vehicle for him to become the talk of the division and fast-track his way to title contention.
Still a work in progress, Munoz got a big win under his belt at the weekend against Demian Maia and showed his grit and determination to turn the fight around after a shaky start, and significantly looked comfortable and composed on the ground with the BJJ wizard, even placing him in a d’arce choke at one stage.
Munoz has been competing in the division for a while now but has always fallen just short of getting into the title mix. If he can continue to build on his current three-fight winning streak while improving upon his skill-set though then he could find himself in a strong position in the division.
The current dark-horse in the division, up and coming wrestling stand-out Chris Weidman is making rapid progress in other aspects of his MMA game as was shown with his ‘Submission Of The Night’ win at UFC 131 last night.
Aged just 26 and with a good head on his shoulders Weidman looks to have a very promising future in the sport. In fact Weidman’s trainer, UFC welterweight star Matt Serra has stated his belief that Weidman will be a future champion. He’s got some way to go, but based on his recent performances he’s certainly on course to become a significant player in the division.
Undoubtedly the biggest name that could enter into the middleweight title mix at this time is welterweight champion Georges St.Pierre. It’s a move that’s been talked about for some time, but the Canadian himself appears reluctant to make the switch, and for now the idea of a Silva Vs GSP superfight has been put on hold while he focuses on Nick Diaz in his own division.
To round out this feature it’s worth talking about some of the talent that exists over at Strikeforce that could breathe new life into the UFC’s middleweight division if the promotion can being to arrange more deals to ship the fighters over as they have done recently with Nick Diaz at welterweight.
Current Strikeforce champion Ronaldo ‘Jacare’ Souza would be an excellent addition with his elite level BJJ and ever-improving skill-set, while the likes of Tim Kennedy, Luke Rockhold and Robbie Lawler would also help give strength in depth to the division.
Truth be told, with the exception of GSP (assuming he does ever move up) I don’t hold out a great deal of faith that any of the fighters mentioned above can dislodge Silva from his perch at the top of the middleweight tree, but having virtually cleaned out the division it’s a relief to at least some new potential challengers emerging to keep things fresh and interesting.
The hope is that this is just the beginning and that we’ll see a stead influx of new talent into the division over the next year or two.