Summer. Fireworks. Backyard barbecues. Independence Day.
Obviously, all of these events occur in the month of July and give the masses something to look forward to. Maybe this year a trip to see a bigger and better fireworks display? Perhaps taking the family on a trip across the country to visit relatives or a theme park that may or may not be closed? For the most part, July is quite the month to look forward to. But in 2013, that month spelled devastation for the reigning UFC middleweight champion, Anderson Silva, who fell hard and fast in the blink of an eye.
From 2006 until 2013, the UFC’s middleweight division was steamrolled by Silva. Most of his fights became a question of not if, but how “The Spider” would dispose of his challengers. There were even a few bouts at light heavyweight that Silva also was successful in. However, when Silva matched up with Chris Weidman at UFC 162, the world witnessed a different type of fireworks display. Weidman dethroned the seemingly unbeatable champion in just the second round. Weidman went on to defeat Silva once more, albeit due to Silva’s freak leg break.
Weidman’s initial victory over Silva marks the moment when the UFC’s middleweight division was split wide open. The landscape changed. Weidman defended the title two more times, against Lyoto Machida and Vitor Belfort. He was then outclassed by Luke Rockhold at UFC 194 and the belt changed hands. The rematch between the two men was lost due to a Weidman injury, which resulted in a 17 days’ notice title shot for Michael Bisping. Bisping finished Rockhold via a first-round knockout that left the crowd stunned and turned a dream into a reality.
This is where it gets a bit fuzzy. UFC 205 showcased the return of the former champion Weidman, who took on rising and at times controversial star Yoel Romero. Romero had rattled off some impressive wins during his Octagon tenure, and he added a stunning flying-knee knockout when he was matched up against Weidman. It seemed that for once, a clear title challenger — or two, if we count Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza — stood right in front of our eyes. However, this assumption would be incorrect.
In a thriller movie sort of reveal, the world was flabbergasted when it was revealed that Bisping’s next title defense would come against none other than Georges St-Pierre. Yes, the same GSP who sat atop the UFC’s welterweight division for a long time and hasn’t fought in nearly four years.
There are whispers — or shouts, as the case might be — that Bisping is ducking Romero for fear of getting knocked out or losing his belt. This isn’t the case, though. The GSP bout is a contest the UFC made, and Bisping probably had little to no say in it.
Bisping has everything to lose in this fight. If he wins, the masses will just talk about how he beat a former welterweight who hasn’t fought in years. If he loses, what happens to the state of the middleweight division? To put it bluntly, Bisping is the best thing the UFC has in a champion right now. He’s brash, but humble. His analyst role is always on point, and he’s a company man through and through. He puts fans in the seats and entertains with each bout. He even was able to go five rounds with the aforementioned Silva and come out on top.
So why would the UFC go and book a lose-lose situation for the champion the company so desperately needs? There’s the obvious answer: it’s a money fight. However, there’s also the less obvious answer that the UFC may have a plan up its sleeve.
If GSP is somehow victorious, the UFC could set up one of two options. The first and less likely move would be a rematch between St-Pierre and Johny Hendricks, except for the middleweight title this time. Their first bout was so close and left many fans wondering what would happen if these two were to meet again. The UFC would be crazy to do this, though, given Hendricks’ recent slump and his difficulty making weight in the past. However, the organization is likely hoping he finds new life at the 185-pound weight class.
Then there’s the second, and definitely more likely, option. This would be to book GSP in the super fight that should have been booked years ago: GSP against Anderson Silva. This could be the UFC”s way of justifying its move of allowing St-Pierre to fight for the title, after a four-year layoff, in a weight class that he has never previously competed in. With Silva’s recent “victory” over rising contender Derek Brunson, the potential for a bout featuring these two legends is more likely than ever. Silva isn’t getting any younger, and who knows how St-Pierre will look in his comeback effort.
The UFC always has a plan. The cogs are turning and the fights that don’t make sense keep rolling out. Remember that you heard it here first. If GSP is victorious, Silva will get the first shot.