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Three Fighters Who Are Set to Wrest Away Title From UFC Middleweight Champion Chris Weidman

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COMMENTARY | On July 6, 2013, at UFC 162, Chris Weidman shocked the world with his surprising knockout of former six-year middleweight champion Anderson Silva.

However, the bout was shrouded with controversy. Many believed that Silva's loss was more associated with his showboating than with Weidman's actual ability.

In fact, during the second half of the first round, Weidman was stifled. Silva hit the New York native, almost at will. Weidman suffered devastating leg strikes at the hands of his Brazilian counterpart. During the second round, the former NCAA Division I All-American wrestler attempted takedowns that were unsuccessful. As Silva gained momentum, he put his hands down and began to mock Weidman. While doing so, the Brazilian, with his chin exposed, fell to a left hand that put him down permanently.

The Weidman win actually opened up the middleweight division and granted others title shot opportunities that they wouldn't necessarily have against Silva. In fact, Weidman's inexperience and lack of quality opponents on his journey to UFC 162 play well into the hands of other name fighters in the middleweight division. Some of these well-established combatants include but are not limited to Vitor Belfort, Chael Sonnen, and, of course, Silva.

The latter mentioned fighters present interesting match-ups for the Weidman. In that, his reign as champion may be heavily compromised and greatly short-lived. Now that Silva has vacated the helm of the middleweight division, a variety of opponents wish to seize the opportunity and become the next UFC middleweight champion.

Anderson Silva

In the wake of UFC 162, Silva was granted an immediate rematch on December 28, 2013, at UFC 168. Now that the Brazilian has recorded his first loss in the UFC, his response to the defeat will be telling. In a recent video, Silva simply stated, "I'm back. Trust me. I'm back."

In the video, Silva appeared confident that he will reign supreme at UFC 168. With his experience and unorthodox skill-set, even at 38 years old, the former champion is more than capable of defeating Weidman and returning to the head of the middleweight division.

Vitor Belfort

Should Weidman make it past Silva on December 28, a former champion in Belfort could present stylistic problems for his 185-pound counterpart. "The Phenom" possesses a tremendous amount of experience in the Octagon. He is 23-10 and is riding a two-fight win streak over MMA veteran Michael Bisping and the former Strikeforce middleweight champion, Luke Rockhold.

With the wins, the No. 2 middleweight contender believes that he has earned himself a title shot. Right before UFC 162, in support of his case, Belfort stated:

"Think about this: Cain got knocked out in a devastating loss to 'Cigano,' and after one fight he gets another title shot. Then after being massacred by Velasquez for five rounds, now Cigano gets another chance for the title. In order for a rematch to take place, the champion must accept a challenge. Both Cigano and Velasquez accepted. But I, on the other hand, crushed all the contenders that were put in front of me, and it seems that I have earned nothing, not even the respect I deserve for all I have done for the sport."

In addition to his record and contributions to the sport that is mixed martial arts, Belfort is a high-level Brazilian jiu-jitsu practitioner and has tremendous knockout power. His intensity and ability to bully his opponents keep him at the top of his division.

Chael Sonnen

Like Weidman, Sonnen is a former NCAA Division I All-American wrestler. He greatly utilizes his wrestling skill-set to his advantage. With 16 of his 23 wins coming by way of decision, Sonnen is accustomed to taking his opponents down and grinding out wins.

The Oregan native is a wrestling workhorse and is more than capable of out grappling the current middleweight champion to another decision. Sonnen is also larger, and a win over former light heavyweight champion Mauricio "Shogun" Rua on August 17, 2013, would heavily pad his resume and give credence to his stature.

Most recently, Sonnen stated that regardless of the outcome against Rua, he plans on returning to the middleweight division. In that, he wishes to fight none other than the Brazilian Phenom and the former light heavyweight champion in Belfort. Sonnen stated to ESPN:

"There are two guys I want to get matched up with, first there's Vitor Belfort because he's awesome. And the second is Wanderlei [Silva], who I've just found out is going back to middleweight. I have a new contract and I'm returning to the weight class."

A win over Rua and then Belfort could possibly set Sonnen up for a fourth shot at an UFC championship title.

With Silva's loss at UFC 162, he no longer has possesses the iron grip on the 185-pound division. As Sonnen stated, "The [middleweight] landscape has completely changed."

Clinton Alexander Bullock has been a Brazilian jiu-jitsu practitioner for many years. He has studied mixed martial arts for 12 years and has been published in Yahoo! News, Bleacher Report, Philadelphia Sunday Sun Newspaper, and Next Step Magazine. Follow him on, Facebook & Twitter @clintonbullock.

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