From 2006 to 2013, Anderson Silva was the king upon the mountain that is the UFC’s middleweight division. “The Spider” dispatched of each opponent with relative ease and even fought at light heavyweight during his reign as the middleweight champion. The problem with such a dominant reign became a question of not if Silva would win, but how he would do it. So, when Chris Weidman was matched up with Silva in July 2013, it only seemed likely that the newcomer would fall prey and become yet another notch on the belt of one of the greatest fighters of all time. However, in shocking fashion, the giant underdog Weidman was able to dethrone Silva. When the two met again, Weidman defeated Silva once more, even if it was due to a gruesome injury to Silva’s leg. This is when things changed for the better in the middleweight division.
The 185-pound weight class has seemingly come to the life since that day back in 2013. Since then, the division has seen three titleholders, including Weidman, Luke Rockhold and current champion Michael Bisping. The middleweight division has never really seemed as competitive and intriguing as it is now.
Last weekend at UFC 205, many fans were hoping for a triumphant return of the aforementioned Weidman. Instead, his opponent, Yoel Romero, ruined the New Yorker’s hometown return and staked his own claim for a shot at Bisping, who wasted no time verbally jabbing with Romero during the Olympian’s post-fight speech. At this point, Romero will be the next in line for a shot at the title. It’s a very competitive match-up that could prove to be challenging for the champion.
Unfortunately, Romero has come into the spotlight three times in recent history in some not-so-good ways, including a positive drug test, stool-gate and at UFC 205 last weekend when he was covered in water between rounds and not wiped down. It’s unfortunate for the rising contender that many people are remembering these incidents over his accomplishments, including wins over former champions.
Keeping all of this in mind, there is no better time for Bisping to be the champion. He is a brash and outspoken character who isn’t afraid to say what he is thinking and how he feels about his opponents. In the same respect, he is an outstanding commentator and is able to construct cohesive statements about the sport itself. The Brit has been in the UFC for a decade, which is helping his case for exciting fights. Look at his last 10 fights and you will see a who’s who of former champions and legends of the sport, including Dan Henderson and the aforementioned Silva. Bisping was even able to avenge two losses in row when he defeated Rockhold for the title and then defended it against the aforementioned Henderson.
It’s not that Weidman and Rockhold weren’t household names when they were champions. Weidman was only a part of the UFC for two years before becoming the champ, and he was able to do the unthinkable by beating Silva to capture the middleweight belt. He defended his belt against Lyoto Machida and Vitor Belfort in five-round technical battles. Rockhold, on the other hand, became a name when he was the Strikeforce middleweight champion. He, too, was only in the UFC for two years before becoming the titleholder. Bisping, meanwhile, has been in the spotlight for much longer, and fans feel strongly, be it love or hate, for the character that he brings.
Think about this: when was the last time a middleweight champion was as brash as Bisping is? Fans will watch to see him lose. Other fans will be interested to see if he can withstand the test of time and continue to be as competitive as he has been in this late stage of his career.
One thing is certain, though. It may have taken Bisping a decade to obtain the coveted title that he was within reach of so many times, but it could not have come at a better time for the fans, the division and, overall, the UFC.