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Upon further review, the UFC has a deep middleweight division

I’ve gone on the record in the past to say that the UFC didn’t have much depth in its middleweight division. I’ve even said that I think middleweight is the weakest division on the roster. I’d like to take both statements back.

First, the UFC does have a very good middleweight division. Outside of Anderson Silva, you also have legitimate top ten middleweights such as Yushin Okami, Rich Franklin, Dan Henderson, and Nathan Marquardt.

There also also a lot of prospects such as Thales Leites, Ed Herman, Michael Bisping, and Demian Maia.

It occurred to me how much depth that the UFC middleweight division has when I tried to compile a top 30 to get a better understanding of what might lie ahead for Silva. Below is the top 30 that I compiled.

[TABLE=5]

* Current Champion
** Record according to Sherdog.com
MMA = Lifetime MMA Record
UFC = Lifetime UFC record

Some people are going to try and debate my rankings, which they are welcomed to do but that’s not why I am posting this top 30. I’m also aware that I’m missing a few middleweights such as Rob Yundt.

I am posting it to illustrate that the UFC really does have a deep middleweight division, it’s just a situation where, with the exception of Okami, Silva has already dominated the best the division has to offer.

Silva is not an opportunistic fighter. He’s the king of the deepest middleweight division in all of MMA. His reign is legit. Parity is an element that exists in most of the UFC’s weight classes, except for 185 lbs. But how can the UFC remedy the situation?

Once you get past the top tier of guys like Henderson, Franklin, and Marquardt, you have a second tier of guys like Leben, Herman, Leites, etc. In the case of Leben, Silva has already destroyed him. But when you look at the other second-tier guys, are there any names that you’d really be excited about if they were matched up with Silva? Maybe Bisping if he can beat a couple of top guys, but for right now, that’s it.

Fedor was pretty dominant but there was still a matchup against Josh Barnett that never took place so it’s tough to suggest that he cleaned out the PRIDE heavyweight division. Once Silva beats Okami, he will legitimately have cleaned out a division and there will be no one on the horizon for him that’s currently in the UFC.

Is it possible for a fighter to be too dominant for his own good?

39 COMMENTS
  • Gong says:

    Hmm. Maybe it’s not as er, shallow, as people are saying it is, but I think it’s still pretty telling when you have Cote as your #6 guy. He’s overall game’s far from complete, and only recently has he been on the up.

    I guess I’m trying to say that even though there’s more fighters than we thought, the difference of skill levels between them and Silva is still pretty staggering. As opposed to Rampage and the rest of his division, the top 5-10 guys have pretty realistic chances of beating him. Slim, but otherwise realistic. Just an opinion! Don’t kill me! XD

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  • Smashy says:

    Deep!!!!

    As the puddles I used to jump in when I was 5. This division is deep with contenders with minimal talent. When the division is dominated by one or two guys (A. Silva, Franklin) it shows that it is not deep but instead is just getting going.

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  • Zantetzuken says:

    “Once Silva beats Okami,”

    That is a pretty dumb comment to make, Okami is one of the best middleweights out there. I can’t wait to see that rematch and watch Okami annihilate Silva because everyone seems to think that he is 6-1 in the UFC for no reason, plus hes asian.

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  • Sam Caplan says:

    You know what I think is a dumb comment? You bringing up the fact that Okami is Asian. What does his ethnicity have to do with anything? What exactly are you trying to imply?

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  • garth says:

    Looking at the list, outside the top five most of those guys are turrrible, basically incomplete fighters. I think when most people say the MW div is a joke, they’re saying that there’s no one to challenge Silva.

    And I think that dude was saying people hate on Okami because he’s Asian. But he can speak for himself.

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  • Gygax says:

    Let’s look at some of the other guys in the various world rankings. Paulo Filho, Denis Kang, Yoshihiro Akiyama, Kaz Misaki, Robbie Lawler, Frank Trigg, and of course Matt Lindland. Filho is Silva friend and has already said he’s moving up in weight. Does anyone really think Lawler or Trigg could go with Silva? No way. That leaves Kang (legitimate opponent), Akiyama, and Misaki. I think Akiyama or Misaki would get absolutely picked apart by Silva.

    Now that Hendo has been defeated, many will also rally to Lindland’s chances. To me, Hendo is a more accomplished version of Lindland with a much better chin than Matt as well. I think Silva would hurt Lindland early coming in and finish the fight.

    So as Sam points out, the UFC MW class is well behind Silva, so is the rest of the world at this point.

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  • Derek B. says:

    that’s he’s not only a good fighter…but possibly know how to make a mean stir fry?

    Sam not sure if this is correct or not.

    5 Nathan Marquardt 5-1 26-7-2

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  • Jim says:

    I was about to post what Derek said: I think you got Marquardt’s records backwards. 5-1 in the UFC, 26-7-1 otherwise.

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  • Pretty good list. It just goes to show how big the disparity of skill level really is once you get past the top five guys there. Still the division certainly remains the deepest in MMA. There’s no other organization that comes close.

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  • Kelvin says:

    “Okami is one of the best middleweights out there. I can’t wait to see that rematch and watch Okami annihilate Silva because everyone seems to think that he is 6-1 in the UFC for no reason”

    Considering he has beaten..

    Mike Swick, Kalib Starnes, Evan Tanner, Rory Singer, Alan Belcher, Jason MacDonald…while only finishing 3 of them

    They are not exactly top ten guys…so I have no idea why you think he will annihilate Silva…LOL

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  • Nate says:

    I am impressed you could create a list of 30 guys, but have to agree with the early comments. Nobody else is any good. You can put him against more mediocre guys who might get lucky… but only about 5 guys on this list should even be considered near his level. (Though I feel like you sort of come to the same conclusion at the end of the article.)

    Thanks for the article, I enjoyed it…. it was also slightly depressing. Who can I look forward to Silva fighting next?

    (I wouldnt mind him fighting Dan again though, later if he “earns” it again)

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  • Jeremy says:

    I tend to agree with your assesment Sam. When I have looked at the division lately similar thoughts have come to mind. And the thoughts of the next TUF with many quality prospects in it has me thinking this division is going to explode once that show is over.

    As for the rankings, good job, I might have included Rousimar Palhares in there somewhere since he is set to fight shortly.

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  • Jarrett says:

    Sam, this list is great. Do us all a favor and put out a similar list for the other divisions. Big fan.

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  • Danny says:

    I just got back from OH and ufc 82 and i gotta get some stuff off my chest. I see that there are a lot of sore losers out there hating the fact the silva WHOOPED hendo. The end of the 1st rd wasnt that much of a big deal. dan was dropping baby punches on silva. and in the 2nd, silva took TWO of hendo’s “big right hand” and still kept coming. He landed ONE knee on hendo and he was wobbly legs after. Then Mr. USA wrestler trys another takedown AND ENDS UP ON THE BOTTOM. silva stuns him even more with HIS ground-n-pound and eventually submits him. the man has beat 2 strikers on the feet and 2 ground fighters on the mat. what more does he need to do 4 everybody to stop hating on this man. lets stop making excuses 4 hendo’s loss and silva’s wins and starting praising the fact that the ufc has another dominant champion not named liddell.

    As much as i love silva though, i think okami beats him in a fight. anyone care to debate that? lol

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  • Kelvin says:

    Danny…my question is how will Okami beat him?

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  • Grape Knee High says:

    Why is it such a bad thing if we get to see Silva destroy every other MW in the UFC? Watching him systematically dismantle every challenger is pretty entertaining.

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  • MMAStation says:

    Silva is just showing that his striking is above everyone else the division had to offer. franklin was long considered the best striker in the MW division of the UFC and got dismantled.

    Silva’s striking is actually what makes his ground game more effective. His opponents become so wary of his striking and trying to avoid it that they make silly mistakes when it goes to the ground.

    Noone in the UFC MW division will defeat Silva for a while to come. After he defeats Okami, they will throw him in against Leites or Marquardt, then hendo rematch and then you have nothing left to do with him. I predict he doesnt fight again till october/November so they can quickly build a contender.

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  • Nick says:

    Sam, I usually love your writing, but I am all over your rankings. You have some huge holes that I need explained by you, I hope you are reading these remarks. First off, Patrick Cote at #6?? Off the strength of beating kendal grove and Mcfedries? I don’t think he belongs in the top 10. Ed herman at 8? For knocking out Joe Deorkson? Not sure about that either. Leites should be ahead of both in my opinion. Michael Bisping at 13? He hasn’t even had a fight at middleweight yet. How could you possibly rank him that high. Martin Kampman at 22?? I know he hasd been hurt, but before he got hurt he was in line for a shot at franklin. He should be top ten. And the last one that really stuck out…Jeremy Horn at 26???? I mean…come on! I welcome a rebuttal from you.

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  • cyphron says:

    Okami is better than most people think. I think he would beat Franklin in a rematch. However, I think the best he could do is lose in the third round against Silva. That in itself is an accomplishment.

    MMA needs superstars. An unbeatable force, a Mike Tyson or Ali. . It’s a shame that Silva can’t speak English that well or else he would catapult the sport into the stratosphere. Lets hope GSP and BJPenn can be as dominant as well in their respective weight classes.

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  • Danny says:

    Kelvin,

    Okami is a more systematic striker than hendo. hendo swings 4 the fences on his punches and often leaves himself open 4 huge counters. okami has patience and thats something no fighter has shown against silva. he’s strong, quick, and young. and okami is a different type of fighter on the ground where as not only is he gonna try to GNP but also look to pass try some subs. dont get me wrong. i wouldnt be surprised to see silva walk thru him too. i just think that okami has a VERY serious chance to beat him.

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  • Sam Caplan says:

    Nick, you completely missed the point of my article. The point in creating a top 30 wasn’t to stir debate about where I perceive certain guys to be. It was to illustrate that the UFC has a lot of quality middleweights under contract but that none of them pose a serious challenge to Silva.

    My point is to basically say, after Okami, what is going to be left for Anderson Silva to accomplish in the UFC?

    Your comments about my rankings are more than welcome, but I’m not here to debate them today. I’m here to talk about the future of Anderson Silva.

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  • Travis says:

    Sam,

    Good round up regardless of what people say. I may disagree on the positioning. Would you mind sharing with us some of the other divisions, I lost track of quite a few of these middleweights and I do thought that the MW division lacked depth.

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  • Nick says:

    Sam, I have two college degrees. I even read at a 5th grade level. I understood the point of your article, and quite frankly I agree. You did say underneath your rankings that you welcomed debate on them, so I did.
    As far as your article point, my way of thinking is a little different. I think MMA needs a mythical figure. A “Mike Tyson” so to speak. Liddell was that for a while, hell he may be it again for all we know. Silva has an opportunity to be bigger than life. I say the UFC shoudl fight him as much as possible. Keep feeding him the middleweight contenders. Each comic book finish he has sways a few more casual fans over to the sport. I don’t think the worry is who Silva will fight next. I think the worry is what do they do when he loses.

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  • How Nathan Marquardt can have an MMA record of 5-1, but have a UFC record of 26-7-2?

    I take it that these numbers are reversed?

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  • jaydog says:

    This ranking, regardless of order, show a lot of talented fighters that I’d love to see battling each other for a shot at the champ. Sure, that’s already happening, but I think Sam is right to point out that the MW div has numerous rising stars and entertaining fighters. In the end, I agree with Grape Knee High: let’s just watch Silva prove himself every three months against each of these guys until someone comes up from 170 or down from 205 to give us another champ vs. champ situation. As a fan, I’m not complaining or wasting my breath saying talking about Silva’s lack of competition. If the guy is a riddle, let each fighter try to solve him in the octagon. $50k bonus (from Dana, not me) for the first person to get out of the 2nd round.

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  • Joe says:

    Sam! I understand perfectly the point of your article. I think it was very good. Besides, I have to agree with “Grape Knee High”, I love watching Silva destroy everybody at their own game. Don’ even bother replying to #3, that’s a bunch of crap.-
    I also agree with Danny (#14). If there was one lesson to be learned form UFC 82 is that Silva is right now, without a doubt, the other dominant champion the UFC has seen. As you said Sam, he isn’t an opportunistic fighter. He has fought the best, and has never dodged a fight. Okami is the next natural fight, but I think the outcome is kind of predictable.

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  • d-train says:

    War # 28… truthfully i think if pete sell fought mike bisping, sell would win via whatever he wants… that should be the match for bisping’s welcome to the middleweight division

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  • Zane says:

    D-Train, sorry to say but Pete Sell sucks.

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  • robnashville says:

    “The point in creating a top 30 …..was to illustrate that the UFC has a lot of quality middleweights under contract but that none of them pose a serious challenge to Silva.”

    Take Silva out of the equation……leaving 29…. the bottom 25, none of them pose a serious challenge to the top three or four (Hendo, Franklin, Marquardt, Okami?)… the UFC has a lot of quantity, but not much quality…. a lot of these guys you label prospects would be better described as suspects…..imho.

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  • Sam Caplan says:

    You don’t think Maia, Leites, and Bisping are legit prospects?

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  • Kelvin says:

    “Okami is a more systematic striker than hendo. hendo swings 4 the fences on his punches and often leaves himself open 4 huge counters. okami has patience and thats something no fighter has shown against silva. he’s strong, quick, and young. and okami is a different type of fighter on the ground where as not only is he gonna try to GNP but also look to pass try some subs. dont get me wrong. i wouldnt be surprised to see silva walk thru him too. i just think that okami has a VERY serious chance to beat him.”

    Danny,

    Franklin nor Marquardt swung for the fences…both were cautious and showed patience…the end result was the same…a relative easy win for Silva….and Okami will be no different…lol

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  • Ross B says:

    Agreed, middleweight is nowhere as near shallow as it has been portrayed. Silva has an excellent challenge ahead of him in Okami, which could come in the next six months. “After that” is a long way away in MMA terms, especially in a flexible division such as 185 lbs where many guys can quickly drop down from 205 lbs, and there is also the possibility of big welterweights moving up. GSP could move up if he lost to Serra. BJ could move back up in two/three fights from now, he has expressed great interest at fighting middleweight before.

    There is also a wealth of talent outside the UFC at 185 lbs. Lawler, Lindland, Shamrock, Le, Louiseau, and more are out there. As unlikely as it might seem some of these would/could be contracted by the UFC, this is MMA, unexpected things happen. If the UFC is REALLY in need of a contender for Silva in the future, they can make unexpected things happen. I really don’t see them having trouble keeping their middleweight division well stocked with contenders.

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  • robnashville says:

    Bisping and Herman? Definite suspects… i have a hard time seeing either of these guys evolve into Top 10 MW’s. Maia? jury is out on him…he’s a great bjj guy but really haven’t seen enuff of him to know if he is a possibly great mma fighter….. Leites i would give a shot at evolving into a possible upper shelf guy.

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  • Ross B says:

    Oh and Almeida looked sensational in his return last month, he could quickly become a number one contender after Okami gets his title shot. If there is six to eight months between the Okami fight and the next title shot, is it really a big deal?

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  • Andrej says:

    I would add Timothy Creduer, CB Dollaway and Dante Rivera as decent prospect’s but we will see In the next TUF season.

    I’m not sure about Patrick Cote ranked so high? Maybe A Fight with Ricardo Almeida or Dean Lister. Then I might rank him 10-15. My Top 10 are – (in UFC only) – 1. Anderson Silva, 2. Rich Franklin, 3. Yushin Okami, 4. Dan Henderson (If he stays), 5. Nate Marquardt, 6. Ed Herman, 7. Chris Leben, 8. Martin Kampmann, 9. Jason MacDonald, 10. Thales Leites. not to shabby in my mind.

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  • nate says:

    Silva is the freaking man. such a consistently entertaining fighter.

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  • orlando says:

    i want to see damien maia against him man…..his brazilian also…but i think he might give him the best run thats the best grappler in mma today barnone…..

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  • Chuck says:

    you have just insulted fighters #19-#30 …. KGrove “should” be #31, at best !

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  • Zantetzuken says:

    By stating Okami’s asian ethnicity i was simply trying to show how everyone under estimates not only him but ANYONE that enters the octagon that is not American. It happens everytime theres an American Vs a non-Amercian. The only person who didn’t hear the “USA” chants durring the Okami fight and the Herring fight AND the GSP Vs Hughes rematch and so many more were sleeping durring the fights because even a blind, deaf, and dumb person heard it. The guy sitting next to me was wondering why i was jumping out of my chair yelling when Okami KOed Tanner. His exact words were “You were going for the asian?”. I guess ill be the only one placing a bet on Okami when he gets his title shot.

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