In the main event of UFC on FUEL TV 4 last night (Wed., July 11, 2012), Chris Weidman absolutely destroyed Mark Munoz. He beat him in every way possible: wrestling, grappling, striking, walk out music, hair; the dude put in work and laid waste to a man who was supposed to be the next title challenger at 185-pounds.
And now it's really interesting.
With Middleweight Champion Anderson Silva having vanquished Chael Sonnen and sent him to the back of the line, UFC Matchmaker Joe Silva and UFC President Dana White are left to sift through the field to find the next viable challenger to the throne.
At first glance, the options seem limited, so much so that fans are frequently calling for "The Spider" to move up to light heavyweight and test his mettle against the champion of that division, Jon Jones. And while our obsession with superfights isn't without merit, I fear we're being entirely too impatient.
Sure, Silva is nearly 38-years-old and he won't be as good as he is forever. And yes, we can't waste time letting him fight unworthy challengers like he's done in the past (think Patrick Cote or Demian Maia).
But let's not rush him off to Burger King so he can pack on some pounds for a move up just yet. It may be draining to have the UFC hold a fight card once every few days (it feels that way, right?), but it does allow for new and interesting challengers to present themselves after stellar performances.
Like Weidman, for instance.
Let's also be cautious of getting too swept up in the moment. It would be entirely too easy to watch a few slo-mo replays of Weidman landing that sick elbow on Munoz and determine he's the man who can beat Silva. He's got all the tools, after all. The wrestling to get the champion down, the submission game to possibly finish him off, and he's savvy enough on his feet to avoid getting taken out before he gets the chance to do so.
But let's cool our heads and look through the current list of potentials to see who makes the most sense as Silva's next opponent:
Let's comb through the SB Nation consensus rankings and break this down one by one:
1. Anderson Silva -- He wants to fight his clone and if we had the technology, that would be the first fight Dana White should make. But we don't have the technology and sources say a Silva clone would want Anderson Silva money without ever actually earning it. So that might not work anyway.
2. Chael Sonnen -- Just lost to Silva for the second time.
3. Mark Munoz -- Just lost to Weidman.
4. Vitor Belfort -- Did you watch UFC 126? He's still digging in his teeth to get out Silva's toenails.
5. Michael Bisping -- Finally, we run into a legitimate name who hasn't ever found himself entrapped in "The Spider's" web. The cocky Brit is currently injured but he's still popping off at the mouth about wanting to fight everyone under the sun. The problem I run into is that he doesn't have the greatest resume. His last fight was a close loss to Sonnen and before that he had a four fight win streak against the likes of Dan Miller, Yoshihiro Akiyama, Jorge Rivera, and Jason Miller. He could be built up as a number one contender but he needs at least one more win first.
6. Tim Boetsch -- If he beats Hector Lombard at UFC 149 next Saturday night, he will have won all four of his career middleweight bouts. His list of victims -- Kendall Grove, Nick Ring, Yushin Okami, and Lombard -- would be solid but good enough to face the greatest fighter who ever lived? I'm not so sure. Plus, he doesn't represent much of a style match-up that would prove problematic for the champion.
8. Yushin Okami -- Fought Silva twice, was owned both times.
9. Chris Weidman -- An interesting case now that he painted the Octagon canvas with Munoz's blood last night. He's the popular pick but I wonder if that isn't more about fans being swept up in the excitement of seeing him perform so unbelievably. Really, who expected him to be that dominate against the number three ranked guy in the world? He's also undefeated and has amassed a 5-0 record inside the Octagon, with wins over the likes of the aforementioned Munoz and Demian Maia. He's close, maybe the closest of all and if there had to be a decision made right now, he might be the guy. Still, it hurts that he put in such an impressive performance on a FUEL card where very few actually got to see him do it instead of a major pay-per-view.
10. Brian Stann -- He was on the right track finishing three straight opponents in Mike Massenzio, Chris Leben and Jorge Santiago before getting finished himself by Chael Sonnen. His return victory over Alessio Sakara was solid but he's at least one or two wins away from legitimate number one contendership.
11. Hector Lombard -- "Shango" is an interesting case because he's won 20 fights in a row and has a contingent of fans convinced that he could compete with Silva. There's an even larger contingent who believes he's simply been recycling cans and crushing them in smaller promotions throughout the world. It's hard to argue with that point, too. That's because the biggest name on his list of victories is probably Brian Ebersole and he's a welterweight who is moving down to lightweight as we speak. The only other name UFC fans might recognize is Kalib Starnes and we don't even need to go there. Even if Lombard beats Tim Boetsch at UFC 149, that won't be enough. He needs another big win after that, perhaps over someone like Stann or Bisping.
12. Ronaldo Souza -- No.
13. Alan Belcher -- Despite his spot on this list, he may have just as compelling a case as anyone. His last loss came at the hands of Yoshihiro Akiyama at UFC 100 and that was thanks to an extremely controversial decision. Outside of that, he's got six victories to tout. The problem is the best win on that list is over Rousimar Palhares. Impressive as it was, it wasn't as good as Weidman's win over Munoz and the proposed match-up between him and Bisping makes too much sense to ignore. That winner might be the best option.
We'll stop the list here because there isn't anyone beyond this point who makes even a little bit of sense.
Now that we've done some sifting, what have we come away with? Well, for starters, there's no need for Silva to jump straight up to fight Jones in a superfight. There are worthy contenders coming at middleweight, we just need to see a few fight results first.
The list of potentials, narrowed down:
If Silva takes some time off, that could allow these four to have a little (unofficial) middleweight tournament. Assuming Lombard beats Boetsch, give him Weidman and let Bisping and Belcher square off. It's possible, with the right timing, those fights could occur on the same card. That would set up perfectly for the winners to square off and the winner of that fight is next in line.
From where I'm sitting, Belcher looks good here.
If Boetsch beats Lombard and throws a monkey wrench into these plans, Weidman might have enough support behind him to be awarded a shot at Silva now with the winner taking on the victor in the Bisping vs. Belcher bout.
And, of course, in the meantime, other contenders will surely emerge, such as a rejuvenated Stann or a reemerging Belfort or even Sonnen making a case for a third fight against Silva. You never know.
Maniacs, do you agree with all this? Or do you have a better idea in mind? If you do, let's hear it.