UFC Fight Night 36 displayed four of the top middleweight fighters in the organization in a card dominated by 10 decisions in 12 total fights. Not quite the result the Ultimate Fighting Championship would write home about but the co-main event, and main event, finally helped paint somewhat of a picture of which contenders will be available in the middleweight division. Besides Vitor Belfort sitting in the wings waiting to fight the champion, Chris Weidman, there was no clear cut competition for whomever would challenge next for the next middleweight title shot.
The UFC’s middleweight division has been dominated by one of the greatest to set foot in the octagon, Anderson Silva, for the last seven years. That was until an undefeated challenger, Chris Weidman, stunned the world and knocked out the man considered the pound for pound best fighter in the organization. Everyone thought there were no contenders left in the division, that Silva may have cleared out everyone the UFC had to offer, before he was dethroned by Weidman. With super fights now non-existent and a new found assembly of rising fighters, Anderson Silva may find himself having to fight his way to another title after he makes a full recovery from his injury.
UFC Fight Night helped define who may be ready to make that next step for a title shot. UFC’s main event from last night may have resulted in a new number one contender for the winner of the Weidman vs Belfort fight in a few months. Lyoto Machida and Ronaldo Souza both emerged from their middleweight bouts as victors but one may wonder whether either of their performances were good enough to earn a number one contender spot in the division. Machida used tantalizing kick attacks and blazing speed to engage an over matched Gegard Mousasi; while Ronaldo Souza smothered his opponent on the ground, almost cinching in numerous submission attempts on his French opponent, Francis Carmont. Neither finished their opponents, which may cast a cloud on the clear picture many thought they painted by becoming victors in their match-ups from last night.
A division that was defined by one fighter for a period of time, now may include a variety of very worthy opponents and cast a depth of talent the middleweight division has not seen in years. Both Machida and Souza have been champions themselves in recent years. Machida being a former light heavyweight champion in the UFC, and Souza holding the middleweight crown for Strikeforce before being moved to the organization he is fighting for now. The current number one contender, Vitor Belfort, has also held a piece of the organization’s gold back in 2004, and has also had two title fights in the last three years, losing both.
This is a chance for each fighter to paint their own picture of where they want to be in the UFC. Each has had the chance to be a champion before and has failed to maintain that title. Fight Night was just a baby step in the right direction for the future middleweight contenders, but there is still a long ways to go, especially when Chris Weidman and Anderson Silva are the mainstays of the division. Both Machida and Souza may have to see each other soon to settle the contender status, but rest assured either one will look to make a statement and claim their status atop of the middleweight chain in the UFC.
By Justin Huffman