As soon as Anderson Silva concluded his second-round TKO stoppage of Chael Sonnen at UFC 148, the question immediately popped to the fore.
Who is next?
Chris Weidman staked his claim by dominating Mark Munoz at UFC on Fuel TV 4 a few days later, and former champion Rich Franklin has expressed his interest in making another run at Silva before they both call it a career.
But after the explosion of attention surround Silva vs. Sonnen II, everything else seems to pale in comparison.
One other man that wants to lay claim to the coveted UFC middleweight title shot is Alan Belcher.
“I’ve put together a nice little streak,” Belcher remarked on a recent edition of AXS TV’s (formerly HDNet) Inside MMA.
That he has.
In his last seven trips to the Octagon, Belcher has only one blemish on his resume. He lost a split decision – in a fight many felt he won – to Yoshihiro Akiyama three summers ago at UFC 100.
He has since put together four consecutive victories over the likes of Wilson Gouveia, Patrick Cote, Jason MacDonald, and Rousimar Palhares, finishing all of them, only Cote making it to round two. Belcher most recently TKO'd Palhares at UFC on Fox 3 in May.
Whether or not that adds up to a shot at Anderson Silva is another matter.
“It’s all up to the UFC, what they think, what they want,” said Belcher.
“I think that I can challenge Anderson Silva. I think I have the tools to do that as good as anyone in the division right now.”
Tim Boetsch and former Bellator champion Hector Lombard square off at UFC 149 this weekend, and Michael Bisping is slated to fight Brian Stann in September, so there will soon be no shortage of fighters that want to take a crack at Silva.
It will just be up to the UFC to separate the wheat from the chaff and determine who will be the one to next step inside the Octagon with the widely regarded top pound-for-pound fighter on the planet.