They were on opposite ends of decision wins Saturday night, but Chris Weidman and Michael Bisping are logical next opponents for one another. Each offers precisely what the other guy needs in terms of that "next big win" to bump up a few notches on the middleweight ladder.
For Weidman, a name opponent like Bisping is a solid test, especially after edging out the crafty Demian Maia on the heels of weight cut that was reportedly more than 30 pounds for the short notice fight.
The unbeaten prospect, now 8-0, had been a substitute soldier previously. In his UFC debut, he decisioned Alessio Sakara on two weeks' notice in what was probably as impressive a first-time performance as you'll see. Bisping offers him a chance to secure a win over a respected veteran, one whose stock was raised considerably with a competitive showing in defeat to Chael Sonnen.
For Bisping, while the bout against Sonnen didn't go his way, he showed excellent takedown defense and, in spots, was able to negate Sonnen's attack entirely. If the Brit had been able to land a couple more telling combos in the feet, he may well have been able to steal another round and the bout.A bout against Weidman would be a great opportunity for him to prove he can beat a talented fighter. For the UFC, it's a win-win, as they build a viable challenger for the middleweight title to be plugged in after the rematch between Sonnen and Anderson Silva is made (assuming it gets made next).
At this point, Bisping is no longer a high-value marketing attraction that needs to be protected in terms of choosing opponents, which seemed to be the case in spots when they wanted to build the U.K. product.
He's proven himself a legitimate middleweight contender. He might not secure a title shot, but he's certainly capable enough to warrant getting one if you can beat him. If Weidman does it more definitively than Sonnen did, that only reinforces the fact that he has earned one. There is a decidedly thin bench at 185-pounds, but outside of Sonnen, who else is there?
The interesting thing about Silva's run of terror through the division -- Sonnen bout notwithstanding -0 is that he's basically bookended by Georges St. Pierre and Jon Jones, both of whom would present megabouts with fan interest than would far surpass future middleweight defenses (outside of the Sonnen rematch, of course).
I'm not sure either of those fights will happen, but the longer Silva remains champion, the more the public will gravitate toward seeing him against St. Pierre or Jones.
Jason Probst can be reached on Twitter or at email@example.com.