Going into UFC on FX 7 Michael Bisping was the next logical candidate to challenge Anderson Silva for the UFC Middleweight Title. He’d gone 6-2 in his last eight fights, with one of the two losses being debatable against Chael Sonnen at UFC on Fox 2 in Chicago, and was coming off a rousing victory over Brian Stann. He was facing off against one of the true legends of MMA, the last man standing from the early days of the UFC, in the Brazilian’s backyard. Anderson Silva was even in attendance, as well, to set up the TUF Season 3 winner’s long due title shot. You couldn’t have set this up better for Bisping to set up a big money title shot and give Silva a new challenger.
And then Vitor Belfort ruined it all by head-kicking him back to the middle of the card.
With Tim Boetsch being punched out by Costa Philippou and Alan Belcher ground out by Yushin Okami, Silva is now left without the crop of challengers that had seemingly popped up after the Chael Sonnen rematch. After the beatdown he gave to Stephan Bonnar in Brazil late in 2012 he had left it open when he’d defend the title again, as he wanted to take some time away from the sport before filming a movie with washed up has-been that barely was Steven Seagal. And after the last potential challenger to his title lost, and with Chris Weidman being out with a shoulder injury until the summer, even Silva has no clue who’ll he face next. On the Fuel TV show afterwards he said so.
“I don’t know. I don’t know. I need to talk to Dana & Lorenzo” the champion said and one has to believe he’s telling the truth. Vitor’s already been knocked out in spectacular fashion by Silva and would need two to three more wins in the division against top tier guys to get another chance at “The Spider.” Hector Lombard has to prove he’s the killer the UFC signed away from Bellator. Weidman’s going to be on the shelf for a while. Chael Sonnen won’t be getting a third crack at the apple nor will Yushin Okami get his second. Everyone else of note has lost recently, as well. Middleweight is full of challengers but none of them are going to cut it.
Couple this with Georges St. Pierre wanting to have a couple of fights under him before the super-fight for the ages Silva’s probably content to wait it out to see if someone else pop up to challenge for his middleweight championship. He’s earned his right to call that shot, of course, and one challenger remains that could perk his ears. There’s one candidate out there, if only by default, that he could face this spring without too much difficulty.
Strikeforce champion Luke Rockhold.
Rockhold still doesn’t have a first fight in the UFC despite having come over in the Strikeforce folding, of course. He wants Philippou on Fox in San Jose alongside his American Kickboxing Academy teammate Daniel Cormier, of course, but one imagines he’d jump at the opportunity to take on Anderson Silva instead. Right now Weidman would be the best candidate but he’s hurt and coming off a significant shoulder injury; he’s going to need a couple of fights under his belt before he’d be ready to face Silva. He looks spectacular but he doesn’t look ready. Especially with a shoulder injury like the one he’s suffered it’ll be a while before he gets back into his pre-surgery groove. Weidman wants that fight, of course, but odds are he won’t get it despite deserving it. No one who’s earned a shot by winning impressively on a Fuel TV has stepped to the front of the line and got a title shot.
Rockhold, on the other hand, is in the best possible spot right now. He’s holding a Strikeforce title, has a win over Silva’s teammate Jacare Souza and Gilbert Melendez is getting an immediate title shot in the UFC as Strikeforce lightweight champion. Champion vs. Champion would mean something for Silva, one imagines, and Rockhold is only a fight away from a title shot as is. Everyone else has lost and while Rockhold isn’t quite ready for Silva, as he would be better suited 2-3 fights down the road (to build his reputation and garner more of name to casual fans) as opposed to his next fight, he’s in the unique position to step to the front of the line. If Melendez can get a title shot with no prior fights in the UFC then Rockhold can argue for the same privilege. And right now it makes the best sense.
He’s a new matchup and while he might quite be ready for Silva he’s the best possible option right now.