UFC Middleweight Picture: The Good, the Bad, and the Possibilities
Chael Sonnen, the underdog in UFC 117, gave Anderson Silva a beatdown he has never encountered before. Sonnen frustrated Silva with his wrestling for four and a half rounds but got caught by the champion’s miracle triangle choke in the last round.
Despite Sonnen’s loss, some UFC fans were quite contented to realize that Silva, the man who dominated the middleweight division for three years, is beatable. Sonnen, as a fighter, instantly became a hot item. Fans could already imagine him wearing the middleweight belt.
Immediately after the fight, talks of rematch resounded. It was even verbally confirmed by UFC president Dana White that a second fight between the two cage fighters would be arranged sooner than many had expected.
MMA fans were pumped for the rematch, but it all crumbled down when Chael Sonnen tested positive for natural steroid use. The repercussions of that result were very bad for the organization’s money-making potential and reputation. The rematch would have been a tremendous seller.
The Good: Silva versus Belfort
But there is an upside to Sonnen’s discredit. Vitor Belfort will now get his wish sooner, and that is to fight for the middleweight belt. If the Silva-Sonnen rematch pushed through, it would have sidelined Belfort for several more months.
For some, the Belfort versus Silva is a dream match-up, but it is uncertain if Vitor is able to deliver a challenge to Silva the way Sonnen did. Steroids or no steroids, Sonnen made it clear that Silva has problems dealing with tough wrestlers with very good take-down skills and top control.
Belfort is a stand-up fighter and a good one. He was great in the old days of UFC and PRIDE FC. He displayed awesome hand speed and power. In recent fights, he showed that his stand-up prowess never left him. In his last two fights, he knocked out Matt Lindland and Rich Franklin inside round one.
But Belfort has never fought a fighter of Anderson Silva’s striking caliber, and the latter has never been outclassed in stand-up. Silva may have shown a chink in his armor against wrestlers, but Belfort has never been considered a wrestler. So you cannot expect Vitor to follow Sonnen’s strategy.
The fight between these two Brazilians is expected to be a stand-up affair, which will be worth watching, as it's hard to imagine a fighter that’s willing to engage Anderson Silva in a striking match.
Belfort might be the guy that can make Silva think twice, cause him to be a little more tentative with his striking. Then again, Belfort may end up like the ones that preceded him—unconscious and regretful. On the other hand, Belfort may blitz Silva, since the former’s innate speed and power may surprise the middleweight kingpin.
A win by Belfort would be great for the organization, because it would present a lot of new possibilities in the middleweight division. It can be said that the dominance of Silva had a negative effect to the UFC; his antics inside the octagon, his air of arrogance, and the language deficiency have not helped his case.
Everyone acknowledges and respects Silva’s skills, but people want to see him fight a hard fight like the one he did against Sonnen. People are now tired of seeing him dominate on a whim, they want to see him give his all and not coast or joke around in fights. However it cannot be blamed if Silva tends to behave that way. Lack of competition can make you go loco.
The worst thing that can happen is Belfort being awfully outclassed by Silva and Silva acting like a jerk once again. For the sake of MMA fans and the UFC, Belfort should be competitive against the champion; anything less than that is a blow to the organization.
Sonnen, on the other hand, is facing a long suspension and that rematch may never happen. If Silva easily disposes Belfort, we may see him vacate his middleweight title for a light-heavyweight campaign.