The UFC’s middleweight king finally has a new opponent, and it’ll be Yushin Okami drawing the short straw to face Silva at UFC 134 in August. The rest of the division will see a sea change over the summer, as top contender Nate Marquardt vacates the division to move down to welterweight while banished superstar Chael Sonnen will return to action, likely against Michael Bisping. It’s an interesting time to be a UFC middleweight.
1. Anderson Silva
Silva’s next opponent has been named, and it’s not Georges St. Pierre. Despite Dana White’s insistence that Silva would face GSP if St. Pierre beats Shields next weekend, it appears that Yushin Okami, instead, will get the next title shot. Okami presents the same kind of challenges for Silva that training partner Chael Sonnen did — namely his wrestling. That fight headlines UFC Rio in August.
2. Chael Sonnen
Sonnen goes before the Nevada State Athletic Commission to apply for a fighter and cornerman’s license next week. If the bid is successful, Sonnen will likely coach The Ultimate Fighter 14 against Michael Bisping. If it’s not, Sonnen will still likely coach The Ultimate Fighter 14, but the UFC will have to be creative in how they handle it.
3. Yushin Okami
Okami was the last man to beat Anderson Silva. Okay, it was by disqualification, but the UFC can ignore that when building up the fight. As noted above, Okami will present a stern challenge for Silva simply because of his wrestling skills, and you can bet friend Sonnen will share what he learned from their UFC 117 fight as well.
4. Nate Marquardt
Marquardt’s time on this list as fading, as the veteran recently announced a drop to welterweight, where he’ll face Anthony Johnson this summer. The thought of Marquardt making 170 pounds seems like an impossibility, but he’s determined to make it.
5. Ronaldo Souza
Jacare is openly complaining about the lack of potential opponents for him in Strikeforce. That’s something that’s easily remedied by sending a few top UFC middleweights over to Strikeforce to challenge him. It’s an option being considered by the Zuffa brass.
6. Demian Maia
Maia faces tough prospect Mark Munoz at UFC 131 in June. If Maia escapes without any serious injuries, we’d like to see him face Royce Gracie at UFC Rio, and we don’t think we’re the only ones.
7. Jorge Santiago
Santiago, one of the few middleweight stars to shine outside of the Zuffa umbrella the past few years, makes his UFC debut against Brian Stann next month at UFC 130. Santiago is currently training with Rashad Evans, but Evans says he won’t divulge the secrets or weaknesses of his friend Stann.
8. Michael Bisping
Bisping is in a holding pattern until after Chael Sonnen’s troubles are cleared up. We expect him to coach The Ultimate Fighter opposite Sonnen. It’s a marketable fight fans want to see, and Sonnen’s verbal skills would add plenty of intensity to a great matchup.
9. Brian Stann
Stann’s bout with Jorge Santiago will represent a true test of where he stands in the division. If he passes with flying colors, the former Marine captain probably deserves a shot at the elite of the division.
10. Mark Munoz
Munoz takes a drastic step up in competition when he faces Demian Maia. He faltered against Yushin Okami, but a win over Maia would cement him as one of the UFC’s top middleweight prospects.