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With Michael Bisping Out of the Picture, Who Will Anderson Silva Face Next?

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With Michael Bisping Out of the Picture, Who Will Anderson Silva Face Next?
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With Michael Bisping Out of the Picture, Who Will Anderson Silva Face Next?

Before Saturday night got started, Anderson Silva walked into the arena in Sao Paolo with the idea that he might leave with a new No. 1 contender ready to face him in a few months.

Vitor Belfort totally ruined those plans however after knocking out Michael Bisping in the second round with a highlight reel head kick, pushing the Brit back out of the title picture.

Now as impressive as Belfort's win was, UFC president Dana White has stated in the past that there's little interest in doing a second Silva vs. Belfort fight after the first one ended so dramatically. Silva finished Belfort in the first round with a now infamous front kick to the face that completed what at the time was the champion's eighth consecutive title defense.

Silva vs. Bisping would have done big business for the UFC on pay-per-view, but now with his loss, there doesn't appear to be a clear-cut No. 1 contender at middleweight, and the Brazilian legend's options for his next fight are wide open.

“I don't know, I need to talk to Dana (White) and Lorenzo (Fertitta),” Silva answered when asked by Fuel TV who he wanted to fight next.

Taking a look at what could come next for the greatest champion in UFC history, the waters are muddy right now and it may take a big part of 2013 to actually figure out whom Silva will take on later this year.

Chris Weidman

In the middleweight division, Chris Weidman currently stands as the best fighter at 185 pounds not named Anderson Silva, who already has wins in the UFC. The problem is Weidman is out until the summertime dealing with an injured shoulder, and by the time he returns it will have been almost a year or more since he last fought.

Weidman's wins over Demian Maia and Mark Munoz are still impressive, but Silva didn't express much interest in facing the New Yorker when he was at his hottest moment coming off a win last July. How much more will Silva want to face him after Weidman's been off for a year?

Weidman is quite interested in challenging Silva when he returns, however, as he posted on Twitter following the fights on Saturday.

“I'll be back in summer and that's when Anderson wanted to fight. Coincidence? I think not,” wrote Weidman.

It's unclear though if the UFC will pull the trigger on making the fight between Silva and Weidman after already having the chance to do that in 2012 and not putting it together.

Luke Rockhold

The last ever Strikeforce middleweight titleholder poses an interesting debate because immediately the UFC can bill a “champion vs. champion” fight with Anderson Silva. Rockhold's issue is that he's also been out since last July, his name is not widely recognized in the UFC yet, and his biggest win came over Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza in 2011.

The win over Souza is great, but it was in Strikeforce at a show that went largely unnoticed by the masses, and much like Rockhold, Souza isn't a well-known commodity in the casual MMA community. Rockhold's best chance to get a crack at Silva would be to try to convince the UFC to face someone like Vitor Belfort in his Octagon debut, fresh off the win on Saturday night.

Rockhold said via Twitter on Saturday, “I'm healthy and ready to fight whoever UFC wants,” which is a bit odd considering he dropped out of his scheduled bout on Jan. 12 due to injury, but that's neither here nor there.

If Rockhold can beat Vitor Belfort, that goes a long way in proving he belongs with the best middleweights in the world.

Hector Lombard

Former Bellator champion Hector Lombard falls further down the list because currently he only has one win in the UFC, and that's after he lost his debut fight to Tim Boetsch.

On the positive side, however, Lombard does have a chance to move up the ladder when he faces former title contender Yushin Okami on March 3 in Japan. If Lombard can blast his way through Okami the same way he did Rousimar Palhares last December, he could make a case for his spot in a middleweight title fight.

It's not likely Lombard will get the shot, but he's a dark horse in the race.

Jon Jones

This is probably the most intriguing possibility, and the one that actually may hold the most value in the list.

Both Jon Jones and Anderson Silva scoffed at the idea of a superfight several months ago, but lately they've warmed to the idea of facing off. Jones still has business ahead of him in April when he faces Chael Sonnen at UFC 159 in New Jersey, but if he comes away victorious it could clear the road for potentially the biggest fight in UFC history.

White has teased about a show in November landing at Madison Square Garden in New York, celebrating the promotion's 20th anniversary, and that a monster fight would headline that card.

What could be bigger right now than Anderson Silva vs. Jon Jones?

Of course, there are still a lot of hurdles to jump before that fight could happen, but unless a true contender emerges at 185 pounds in the next few months, Silva may potentially sit out a big part of the year waiting for the right fight to come along.

Jon Jones might be the perfect fly to land in the Spider's web.

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