The state of the UFC's Middleweight division II.

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AchillesHeel
11/12/07 12:58:39PM
It's been four months to the day since my last comments on the UFC's 185-lb division. Some things have changed, some things haven't. Here's my Top 15...

1. Anderson Silva(20-4) is clearly on another level. If they can't convince Dan Henderson to return to 185, the UFC may have to look outside the organization for the next contender. Silva has already been asked about moving to 205 lbs, and he said he'd consider it.

2. Rich Franklin (22-3) took the wrong approach in his rematch with Silva, in my opinion, but at this point I don't see him getting another shot any time soon. On the other hand, I don't think anyone else in the UFC can beat Franklin right now. He and the UFC are at a bit of a crossroads.

3. Nate Marquardt (25-7-2) is probably in the same position as Franklin, although I think he's got more potential matchups around him. He could earn another title shot with 2-3 wins over Top-10 opponents, which I think is entirely within his reach.

4. Martin Kampmann (15-2) would be the obvious choice for the next title fight, with 3 decent UFC victories in a row, if he hadn't been injured. After two surgeries on his knee, the hope is that he'll be back in action in March or April of '08. He'll need at least one decisive win, maybe two, to earn a title shot.

5. Jason MacDonald (19-9) may be destined for "Gatekeeper" status, with convincing wins over Herman, Leben, and Singer, and equally convincing losses to Franklin and Okami.

6. Travis Lutter (9-4) might already be gone from the UFC, after failing to make weight for his title fight and then withdrawing from his UFC 74 fight with an injury. Even if he's still with the organization, I doubt his trajectory is an upward one. Lutter and MacDonald would both be a good fit for the WEC or EliteXC, imho.

7. Joe Doerksen (39-10) makes his return to the Octagon at UFC 78 next weekend. After taking Nate Marquardt to a Decision at UFC 58, Doerksen ran off 7 consecutive wins in other organizations, before finally running into a wall named Paulo Filho. The man's no joke, and could make some noise here.

8. Patrick Cote (11-4) is "on the bubble" for me. His win over Kendall Grove was unexpected, and it remains to be seen whether he's turned a corner or is just having a hot streak. He's rumored to be penciled in to fight at UFC 81, and he had some tough talk for Terry Martin before Martin's loss to Chris Leben at UFN 11.

9. Chris Leben (17-4), last time I wrote about him, was staring down the barrel of 3 losses in 4 UFC matches. With his predictable, one-punch fighting style, I was ready to shove him out the door. Evidently he went back to school, so to speak, and unveiled a new approach against Terry Martin, getting an impressive 3rd-round KO. A rematch with Cote might be worth seeing.

10. Terry martin (16-3) was a hard-hitter at 205 lbs, and like a lot of people, I expected him to be a contender at 185. After losing to Jason Lambert at Light-Heavyweight, he KO'd four guys in a row, including two in the UFC. But then he looked terrible against Chris Leben, unfit and unskilled, using the same one-punch-power style that I had previously criticized Leben for.

11. Thales Leites (12-1) has 3 UFC victories in the last 12 months, after taking Kampmann to a Decision at the TUF 4 Finale. With convincing wins over Pete Sell, Floyd Sword, and Ryan Jensen, I'd like to see him take on another Top-10 fighter.

12. Kendall Grove (8-4) was on a nice, three-fight run and came into the Cote match as the clear favorite. Just about every fighter faces a stumble like this at some point in his career, and not all of them recover. Grove turns 25 years old today, and shows some promise.

13. Ed Herman (13-5) staggered in his UFC debut, losing 2 fights in a row. He recovered though, and now has 2 consecutive wins. He'll need to step up against Doerksen, who's already beaten him once.

14. Nate Quarry (9-2) reportedly looked pretty good against Pete Sell, although I didn't see that fight myself. He looked promising before getting clobbered by Rich Franklin, and then getting clobbered by a shoulder injury, so I'd love for him to make some waves.

15. Drew McFedries (6-2) went 1-1 at his new fighting weight, and then came down with a staph infection so severe it required surgery, and he's expected to be out for months.

Not ranked: Yushin Okami is reportedly moving on to another organization, possibly K-1 HERO's. Former Middleweight champ Evan Tanner has signed a new contract with the UFC, but hasn't fought in nearly a year-and-a-half. David Terrell was supposed to make his return against Ed Herman, next weekend at UFC 78, but had to withdraw due to an injury. Like Tanner, it's been more than a year since Terrell's last match.
ohiostate1016
11/12/07 1:14:51PM
I know that he may not be in the top 15 yet, but Demian Maia is gonna be a force to be reckoned with in the UFC MW divison soon. He's a BJJ world champ, and he's 6-0 in MMA competition. He debuted at UFC 77 with a convincing win over Ryan Jensen (RNC in less than 3 minutes), and he should be in line for another fight soon.

I think that it would be interesting to see him fight either Thales Leites , another guy with a recent win over Ryan Jensen, and a guy that could possibly hang with him on the ground, or Nate Quarry, a guy who would try to stand with him and a guy that needs a big win as much as anyone in the MW division.
grappler0000
11/12/07 1:58:43PM

Posted by AchillesHeel

9. Chris Leben (17-4), last time I wrote about him, was staring down the barrel of 3 losses in 4 UFC matches. With his predictable, one-punch fighting style, I was ready to shove him out the door. Evidently he went back to school, so to speak, and unveiled a new approach against Terry Martin, getting an impressive 1st-round KO. A rematch with Cote might be worth seeing.




I agree with just about everything you said.

One small error in your post though...Leben KO'd Martin in the 3rd.
AchillesHeel
11/12/07 2:01:49PM

Posted by grappler0000

Leben KO'd Martin in the 3rd.


Right, good catch.
MMAnomale
11/12/07 2:13:21PM
It'd still be nice to see Hendo drop down. And for the UFC to make more of an effort to get some other high profile fighters, such as Kang, Filho, and keep ppl like Okami, etc, etc.
The one special thing about this sport is that you never know what's going to happen. You never know, someone might upset Anderson. I don't see it happening anytime soon (unless if maybe Hendo changes his mind), but sometimes you just never know. We'll see.......Should be interesting to watch nonetheless.
gspgnp
11/12/07 2:19:01PM
Good list.

There was one person you left out and that is Dan Henderson. I think there still might be hope that he will drop down and fight immediately for the title. Other than Hendo, I think the only serious threats to Silva's reign are outside of the organization in the likes of maybe Lawler or Filho. Lawler doesn't seem to be going anywhere and Filho definitely isn't. Filho could challenge for the belt immediately but Zuffa has no interest in hurting the WEC's image by making it a "farm league".

Kampmann could make some serious noise in the division IMHO. I'd like to see him fight the likes of someone like Marquardt or Franklin and should he win impressively, he could be in line for a title shot.

I'm pumped to see Doerksen back in the picture. Hopefully he can make some noise. If it's true about Okami, that is a shame. The UFC should not have let him go.

ohiostate1016
11/12/07 3:27:08PM
I think that Hendo was intentionally left out because he hasn't officially fought (or been announced to fight) at 185 in the UFC. I may be wrong, but I think that's why he isn't on the list.
AchillesHeel
11/12/07 8:17:47PM

Posted by ohiostate1016

I think that Hendo was intentionally left out because he hasn't officially fought (or been announced to fight) at 185 in the UFC. I may be wrong, but I think that's why he isn't on the list.


Right. In addition, Henderson has said publicly that he wants to remain at 205. Other than all of us fans chanting his name, there's been nothing to suggest he's going to move back to 185.
AchillesHeel
11/13/07 10:52:31AM

Posted by gspgnp

Kampmann could make some serious noise in the division IMHO. I'd like to see him fight the likes of someone like Marquardt or Franklin and should he win impressively, he could be in line for a title shot.


For different reasons, Marquardt and Kampmann need one or two wins before a shot at "#1 Contender Status." But I like the idea. I could see these guys matching up against each other late Summer or early Autumn of '08, with the winner getting a title shot a year from now.

Unfortunately, there aren't enough legitimate contenders in the meantime. There should be 3 Middleweight Title Fights between now and then. If the sky falls and Anderson Silva loses his next title fight, I could see Marquardt being given another shot after only a couple fights. Likewise, if Silva lost the belt, he'd be an obvious choice for a rematch with whoever took it from him, again after only a couple of fights. And if Silva lost the belt, that would put Franklin back in the picture too.

Purely in terms of drama, the best-case scenario would be for Silva to lose the belt to a quality fighter (as opposed to losing it to a guy he "should have beaten").
Jackelope
11/13/07 3:47:32PM
Very good post.

The MW division right now is a mess as far as I'm concerned. Silva is clearly dominating and the UFC needs to personally step in to challenge Silva. The fact that Dan Henderson hasn't announced his stepping down to 185 to fight is quite surprising in my eyes. The fans would love to see it, and he's got a great chance with his rock solid chin to put Silva in a very bad position. I see a greco clinch and a pounding against the fence the likes of which Silva hasn't been faced with.

The UFC either needs to focus on bringing back Matt Lindland, talking Hendo into dropping down to 185, or bringing in some of the other outside competition.

It's great to have someone dominating a weight class as long as he's faced with tough opponents. Having dispatched Rich again in quick fashion I don't see who is going to be "tough" for Anderson Silva in the UFC MW division right now.
taz3423
11/13/07 9:58:17PM
I agree with whats been said.

My take on the MW Division in the UFC is that its a good division thats in disarray because the Champion looks unbeatable at the moment.

He has beaten Rich twice, Marquardt, Lutter, and Leben.

Thats 4 fighters in the top 10.

The only fighters he hasn't faced that pose a decent threat are probably Okami, Leites, and maybe Tanner if he returns to form. Okami is in a contract dispute. Leites needs probably 1 or 2 fights against a bigger name and he is in line. Tanner just needs to get back in the octagon and work his way back up.

The UFC knows the MW division needs a step up in competition and have next TUF which will hopefully bring in some new talent with marketable value after the show is done. Besides that they really need to either bring guys in from outside the UFC or have some LHWs drop down to compete at 185.

First the guys outside the UFC that have marketable value and a decent shot at competing:
Matt Lindland: recently fought in Bodog which more or less seems like a dead organization now. I think the signing of Matt is more or less a clashing of interests between him and Dana. He is a top 5 MW in the world and should be fighting in the best organization.
Jason Mayhem Miller: Now with HDnet Fights. Why Zuffa let him go is way beyond me and I think they really dropped the ball there. He is a personality on par with Rampage Jackson and has good fighting skills to boot. Would've been a good addition to the weight class.
Robbie Lawler: Doesn't look to be leaving EXC anytime soon. Would be a great addition. Even if he isn't top level competition he brings a great banger mentality that is exciting to watch.
Cung Le: Currently with Strikeforce. So far he is undefeated in MMA and has finished all his fights via Stoppage. A very entertaining fighter with a good amount of upside. UFC should sign him and put together an event in the norcal area where is a huge draw.
Frank Shamrock: Strikeforce champion at the moment(i think). Last fought an absolute war with Phil Baroni that is one of my favorite fights of the year on entertainment alone. I never see him coming to UFC due to Frank and Danas Egos. He still is a contender though.

other mentionable people outside the UFC worth signing are Misaki, Kang, and Akiyama. They all seem to reap more benefits fighting over in Asia so I don't see them coming over any time soon.

People that ZUFFA have under contract that should either move from WEC or down from LHW I believe are:
Paulo Filho: Current WEC MW Champion. Is a beast on the ground and showed decent hands against Doerkson. I don't see UFC moving him over unless its an absolute last resort. But hey Doerkson moved over from WEC so you never know.
Dan Henderson: The guy I have ranked number 2 behind Anderson at the top of the MW division. Last lost to Rampage at 205 in a unification bout that was a real battle. Hendo can more than hold his own at 205 and I believe he has the skills to be top 5 at that weight class. But he can move down to 185 and have an instant title shot with a Unification bout. He can be a top face and name at this weight class instead of the LHW Division.
Michael Bisping: a smaller LHW has a match against Rashad Evans. I believe if he loses this week he will drop down to MW.

I think any of the people I listed would make the MW division more competitive and entertaining to watch. I also believe they would all help in bringing more parity to the division that it hasn't seen in quite some time.

just my two cents.


AchillesHeel
11/14/07 12:34:55PM
Nate Marquardt and Thales Leites will be squaring off at UFC 81, which should set the stage for either guy to earn a title shot. If Leites wins, he could get a title fight as soon as he's ready. If Marquardt wins, he might need another one before getting another crack at it.
AchillesHeel
11/14/07 12:36:59PM

Posted by taz3423

Michael Bisping: a smaller LHW has a match against Rashad Evans. I believe if he loses this week he will drop down to MW.


This is certainly an intriguing idea, but do you have any reference for this? As with Henderson, I haven't heard Bisping say anything about wanting to drop down.
taz3423
11/15/07 7:59:42AM

Posted by AchillesHeel


Posted by taz3423

Michael Bisping: a smaller LHW has a match against Rashad Evans. I believe if he loses this week he will drop down to MW.


This is certainly an intriguing idea, but do you have any reference for this? As with Henderson, I haven't heard Bisping say anything about wanting to drop down.



I remember it being discussed I'm not sure after what fight. But someone asked if him moving down to 185 was a possibility and he said he could cut the weight and fight at 185. But he said he has no reason to move down to 185 as he hasn't lost at 205 yet. I think he has more interesting fights at 185 than at 205. I like Bisping but I don't think he has the skills to compete with top competition at that weight class ( Rampage, Hendo, Chuck, Wand, Forrest, Tito).
Naturaldisaster
11/15/07 9:02:45AM
where did you get the records for the fighters? cuz half of their records are wrong. cuz Nate Quarry was 14-1 goin into his fight with franklin.
AchillesHeel
11/15/07 10:32:48AM

Posted by Naturaldisaster

where did you get the records for the fighters?


Sherdog. Of course they could be wrong, but I don't have the resources to verify their stats.
Naturaldisaster
11/15/07 10:48:46AM

Posted by AchillesHeel


Posted by Naturaldisaster

where did you get the records for the fighters?


Sherdog. Of course they could be wrong, but I don't have the resources to verify their stats.



yeah I feel ya. most of sherdogs records are wrong anyway so no body really knows people records
stickyhash421
11/17/07 4:30:56AM
if you look more youll see the middleweight division is hardly weak, its not their fault the ufc wont sign them, plenty of fighters at LH or WW could move up to MW if they wanted to, it would not be that hard at all for some fighters, st. pierre would do good at 185 against anderson silva and hendo could move down. but fighters like kang, filho and lindland etc. wont sign with the ufc for whatever reason wheather its their fault or not which makes it seem like a bad division which its not. just maybe anderson silva is a very dominate fighter and perhaps he wont be "exposed" or at least for a long time, his losses are controvercial.
AchillesHeel
11/17/07 12:31:20PM

Posted by stickyhash421

if you look more youll see the middleweight division is hardly weak, its not their fault the ufc wont sign them, plenty of fighters at LH or WW could move up to MW if they wanted to, it would not be that hard at all for some fighters, st. pierre would do good at 185 against anderson silva and hendo could move down. but fighters like kang, filho and lindland etc. wont sign with the ufc for whatever reason wheather its their fault or not which makes it seem like a bad division which its not. just maybe anderson silva is a very dominate fighter and perhaps he wont be "exposed" or at least for a long time, his losses are controvercial.


Note that my commentary was specifically about the UFC's Middleweight division only, and not about 185-lb fighters worldwide.

You're right that some non-Middleweight UFC fighters could fight at 185 if they wanted to, but there aren't many who would be worthy contenders, imho. Henderson is the obvious choice there, but I think we've already covered that.

GSP could probably fight at 185, yes. However, I don't know why he'd want to, until and unless he achieves a dominance over the Welterweight division similar to Silva's dominance of the Middleweight division. That isn't likely, though, since (a) St. Pierre isn't the Champion yet, and (b) the UFC's Welterweight division is far deeper than its Middleweight division.

A while ago, Matt Hughes said that if he lost to Matt Serra, and if Rich Franklin lost his rematch with Silva, he might move up to 185. I think a lot of us will be surprised if he loses to Serra, though.

There's also been some talk of Michael Bisping dropping down to 185 if he hits a wall at 205. It's too early to say that he won't get anywhere in the LHW division, though. He's clearly still on an upward developmental curve, so we may not know for sure whether he can cut the mustard at 205 for a year.

I think the apparent dominance of the champion is part of what people mean when they criticize a whole division. It's not that there aren't any good fighters. In fact, if Silva and Franklin magically disappeared, the remaining UFC Middleweights would suddenly find themselves in a highly-competitive roller-coaster of a division.
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