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UFC middleweight division: The thick and thin

UFC middleweight division: The thick and thin
With the UFC 82 showdown between middleweight champion, Anderson Silva, and the Pride FC 183-pound champion, Dan Henderson, just five days away it got me thinking about the division's depth as a whole.

Some argue that it is the UFC's thinnest division; heck, I've even argued this as recently as Wednesday. That said, the division is growing.

Both Hendo and Michael Bisping have dropped down from 205, Wanderlei Silva is considering it, the UFC has brought back Ricardo Almeida and former division champion Evan Tanner, Martin Kampmann will return from injury this year, and even Jeremy Horn returned to the Octagon just three weeks ago at UFC 81.

But could the UFC do more to sign contenders capable of facing Anderson Silva?

The UFC currently has contracts with four of the top 10 middleweights listed in MMAWeekly's latest world rankings — Silva, Rich Franklin, Nate Marquardt and Yushin Okami (Zuffa also has Paulo Filho contracted under its WEC promotion).

By comparison to the depth represented in its other divisions, the UFC has 6.5 heavyweights (Randy Couture is in limbo and Cro Cop just left), nine light heavyweights, eight welterweights (nine if you count WEC 170-pound champion, Carlos Condit) and just two lightweights

However, the sheer volume of 155-pound fighters in the world makes this last statistic a bit deceiving.

The problem, in my eyes, isn't that the UFC has opted not to sign other top 10 middleweights; it's that the UFC is allowing start-ups like the new Japan-based Dream promotion (owned in part by the former PRIDE owners) to pick off top contenders, which in turn gives them credibility.

Remember, it wasn't that long ago that the UFC was on a mission to buy up all the talent in the world to finally find out who the real champions are.

So why leave open a window of opportunity?

It was recently announced that Denis Kang (29-9-1) has signed with Dream and will debut at the middleweight grand prix on April 29 at the Saitama Super Arena in Japan.

Kang's last fight was a loss to Yoshihiro Akiyama in October 2007 under the K-1 banner. Akiyama is also now with Dream, as well as a host of other middleweight veterans, including Kazushi Sakuraba (23-10-1).

Word has it that Matt Lindland (20-5) is also set to sign with Dream. The former UFC fighter's lack of activity is the only thing keeping him off most organizations' Top 10 Rankings. His last fight was a loss to heavyweight Fedor Emelianenko back in April 2007 for BodogFight.

Why pass on Lindland and Kang? It's no secret that UFC President Dana White and Lindland haven't been on good terms since forever, and his association with the International Fight League (IFL) does not help matters, but if White can reconcile with Tito Ortiz, he can reconcile with anybody.


And what about Robbie Lawler, another top 10 middleweight contender? He was last featured as an assistant coach for Team Hughes in The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) 6. That seemed like as good a time as any to ink him to a fight contract.

I don't fault the UFC for releasing David Terrell. The guy's list of injuries are an unfortunate punch line.

But as a fan who would prefer to see as many top contenders able to fight each other as possible, I only hope Dana White keeps his eye on the prize that he promised us only a year ago.


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