Part three of my installment of the UFC divisional rankings focuses on the 185 lb Middleweight division where the best MMA fighter in the history of the sport currently reigns supreme.
Anderson Silva, 34, is the owner the UFC's longest win streak at 10 fights and counting. Longer than the record nine set by UFC legend Royce Gracie. Silva also is set to break Chuck Liddell's record of five consecutive title defenses this Spring when he faces Vitor Belfort.
In a sport that continues to grow, Silva has to be the star most easily connected with it. As his manager Ed Soares recently said, "Anderson Silva is the best fighter on the planet...any Anderson Silva fight that is on, people should be buying that pay-per-view. Not because he's my fighter, but you know what, he to me is like Muhammed Ali of MMA...The UFC has been around since 1993, nobody [else] has 10 consecutive wins in the UFC. Anderson has had 10 fights in the UFC, only one has ever gone to a decision."
Champion: Anderson Silva
No. 1 contender: Vitor Belfort, Nate Marquardt
Two wins away (4-10 range): Yoshihiro Akiyami, Damien Maia, Michael Bisping, Chael Sonnen, Rousimar Palhares, Yushin Okami, Alan Belcher
Three wins away (11-15): Ricardo Almeida, Goran Reljic, Kendall Grove, Wilson Gouveia, Nate Quarry
Status uncertain: Wanderlei Silva (has yet to fight at 185 lbs), Patrick Cote (hasn't fought since UFC 90 where he blew out his knee),
Bottom Tier (18+): Drew McFedries, Lucio Linhares, Chris Leben, Jake Rosholt, CB Dolloway, Tim Credeur
Analysis: As you can probably see this division is pretty log-jammed in the 4 to 10 range in which I would say each fighter is a good two solid performances away from getting a title shot.
The wild cards in this division are guys like Wanderlei Silva -- who has yet to fight at 185 lbs -- Patrick Cote who seems close to returning after being out close to 18 months with a knee injury and Ricardo Almeida, who when focused on fighting, looks like one of the best 185 lb fighters in the world. However, as is the definition of being a wild card, each one of these fighters have major question marks surrounding them right now that will hopefully be answered shortly.
The division is considerably deep but perhaps lacking in up-and-coming prospects not to mention top end talent. Other than Vitor Belfort and Nate Marquardt there really isn't any fighter that looks ready to challenge Anderson Silva just yet. The loss of Dan Henderson certainly hurt the division in the short term.
In 2010, the most promising middleweight prospects look to be Akiyama, Maia, Reljic and Gouveia despite his recent loss. All of these guys are supremely talented, young and have the drive to try to make a run at Silva's belt.
We will just have to wait and see how it shakes out.