Anderson Silva’s dominance over the middleweight division continues, but a near-loss to Chael Sonnen and an upcoming bout with feared striker Vitor Belfort could put his reign in danger.
1. Anderson Silva
Matt Brown: Whether you are getting pounded for 4 1/2 rounds or not, when the results are read and your hand is raised, you won the fight. Anderson Silva is still one of the top 3 killers in the world.
Jeremy Botter: Talk of Silva’s decline as a fighter is premature at this point, but we’re going to get a very interesting view on where he stands when he faces Vitor Belfort in February.
2. Chael Sonnen
Matt Brown: I’m going to give Chael the benefit of the doubt until he has his appeal. Hey, innocent until proven guilty, right? Well, I guess he’s already kinda been proven guilty. Anyway, after his performance against Anderson Silva, he deserves this spot…for now.
Jeremy Botter: It feels like Sonnen is on the list simply due to courtesy, because if the California commission has its way, he’ll fall off this list due to inactivity within six months. At the moment, however, he’s still the guy who gave Anderson Silva all he could handle for almost an entire fight, and that’s enough to keep him here.
3. Nate Marquardt
Matt Brown: Marquardt is kinda the Phil Mickelson of MMA. If it wasn’t for Tiger Woods, Mickelson would have owned golf for the last decade. Well, if it wasn’t for Anderson Silva, Nate Marquardt would be the middleweight champ. He gets another crack at the belt should he beat Yushin Okami next month.
Jeremy Botter: Marquardt’s dominance over the middleweight division is typically forgotten due to Silva’s dominance over the middleweight division. But make no mistake about it – Marquardt is still one of the best middleweights in the world.
Matt Brown: Sonnen’s loss is Belfort’s gain. He gets the shot at Anderson Silva now – on Super Bowl weekend no less. Fans are drooling over this fight of two elite level strikers.
Jeremy Botter: I still find it interesting that Belfort – who has never competed at middleweight in the UFC and has just one appearance since coming back – is considered the top contender for Silva’s title. I’m certainly not complaining about the actual fight, though.
5. Demian Maia
Matt Brown: Maia has shown in the cage that he has some of the best BJJ for MMA in the world. It has been enough in most of his fights and if he can get any kind of stand up game to go along with his jiu-jitsu, he could again make a run at the belt.
Jeremy Botter: Maia should continue to impress when he steps in the cage with Kendall Grove at the TUF 12 Finale in December. A win would give him 2 in a row and he’d probably only need one more victory to secure another title shot, especially if Silva is dethroned by Belfort.
6. Yushin Okami
Matt Brown: All I can think about when I see Okami is how enormous the dude is. He looks like a small heavyweight. Guys that have been in there with him talk about his ridiculous strength and power. He’ll need every bit of it when he faces Marquardt in the #1 contender bout.
Jeremy Botter: Okami will have a size advantage on Nate Marquardt. Think about that for a second, because we rarely get to say it.
7. Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza
Matt Brown: Jacare put on a clinic in his defeat of Tim Kennedy that won him the Strikeforce middleweight belt. His ever improving stand up coupled with his world-class BJJ makes him one tough fight for anybody.
Jeremy Botter: Souza is another guy who is ridiculously big and strong for the middleweight division. He’ll face some interesting challenges in the best division Strikeforce has to offer.
8. Dan Henderson
Matt Brown: As long as Dan can breathe, he’s got a shot. That thunderous right hand of his can end a fight at any moment. He was dominated by Jake Shields last time out, but he’ll look to get back on the right track when he squares off with Babalu Sobral in December.
Jeremy Botter: Henderson’s days as a middleweight are drawing to a close. He’ll face Renato Sobral in a light heavyweight bout in December and said he doesn’t plan to return to middleweight due to the strain of the weight cut he had to endure against Jake Shields.
Matt Brown: This is a new Mike Bisping. He just owned Akiyama and let’s not forget his Dan Miller win either. Bisping looks like a real contender in there right now which is great for the UFC’s continuing push into the UK.
Jeremy Botter: Bisping continues to put it all together. I’d compare his performance against Akiyama to those of Dominick Cruz, mainly because the footwork and pitter-patter punching style was incredibly effective. Bisping has been talked about as a coach of The Ultimate Fighter 13 against Wanderlei Silva or Chris Leben. Either opponent makes sense for him.
10. Jorge Santiago
Matt Brown: Unknown to many recent fans of MMA in the US, Santiago might just win Fight of the Year on several ballots this December after his all out war with Kazuo Misaki. The American Top Team product has made his home in Sengoku since 2008, but has wins over Trevor Prangley, Sean Salmon and Jeremy Horn stateside.
Jeremy Botter: Santiago had a rough go during his UFC tenure, losing to Alan Belcher and Chris Leben. But he’s steadily improved since then, and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him back on the big stage at some point in the future.