UFC Middleweight Fighters
In the early days of the UFC there were no weight classes which meant that smaller competitors were at a significant disadvantage. When the sport of mixed martial arts began to be regulated in the United States the first weight classes that saw any significant competition were the higher weights, particularly heavyweight and light heavyweight. As the sport has continued to grow the lighter weight divisions have become more of a focal point for promotions and fans alike. The middleweight class has an upper weight limit of 185 pounds with a minimum of 171, just above the welterweight limit of 170 pounds.
The middleweight division is currently ruled by Anderson Silva, a fighter that the UFC has tried with varying degrees of success to convince the masses that he's the 'pound for pound' best in the world. Many fans dislike his arrogance and often careless approach to fighting, and give the 'pound for pound' best nod to welterweight champion Georges St. Pierre. Silva has held the UFC middleweight belt for nearly five years defending it eight times, though critics often point out that his longevity is due as much to creative matchmaking as it is his own intrinsic skills. At his best, Silva is one of the most spectacular and devastating knockout artists in the sport as well as a very capable fighter on the ground. At his worst, he's a petulant underachiever who insults the sport and its fans with his antics.
For whatever reason, the middleweight division has never had the talent depth as the heavier and lighter weight classes. That's led to suggestions that Silva move up in weight and challenge for the light heavyweight title. The man Silva beat for the titleâ€”Rich Franklinâ€”is still a viable contender though the weak talent pool at the weight makes it hard to determine if he's actually still at the top of his game. Franklin held the middleweight title for a year and a half before losing it to Silva. There have been only three other UFC middleweight championsâ€”the late Evan Tanner, Murilo Bustamante and David Menne.
Silva's next title defense will be against the current #1 ranked contender, Yushin Okami (though most MMA media outlets do the UFC's promotional bidding which as much as anything explains Okami's status as #1 contender). Most objective observers consider Strikeforce champion Renaldo 'Jacare' Souza to be the top challenger to Silva's crown though he'll likely have to wait for a title shot due to the dysfunctional UFC matchmaking system. Souza's only career loss was something of a flukeâ€”he was knocked out with an upkick by Gegard Mousasi in a fight he was dominating. Souza will next defend his title against wrestling specialist Luke Rockhold.