Ten years ago this week, Anderson Silva, in dominant fashion, beat Rich Franklin to capture the UFC Middleweight Championship. The following is MMATorch senior columnist Shawn Ennis’s assessment of the Middleweight Division after Silva became king.
New Middleweight Champion Anderson Silva lived up to his reputation as perhaps the world’s most potent striker with his victory over Rich Franklin Saturday night. While hardly a huge upset, the ease with which Silva took out Franklin shook up the Middleweight Division of the UFC. So where does that leave us? Let’s have a look.
Anderson Silva: Silva proved that he deserved a title shot with his devastating Muay Thai-themed victory over the seemingly unstoppable Rich Franklin. “The Spider” is one of the most devastating strikers in the sport today, and he’s going to be tough to bring down from his pedestal atop the UFC middleweight division.
Nate Marquardt: He was apparently supposed to get a title shot after his lackluster decision victory over Ivan Salaverry at the first Ultimate Fight Night, but the plans changed when Marquardt tested positive for steroids (he still denies ever having taken them.) Since then, the skilled submission artist has beaten Joe Doerksen and, most recently, Crafton Wallace on Tuesday night. We haven’t seen much of Marquardt in the UFC, but he is very skilled both on the feet and on the ground.
Mike Swick: After beating Joe Riggs and David Loiseau decisively, there’s no way you can’t have Swick on this list. In fact, it wouldn’t surprise me if he got first crack at the champion Silva. I don’t think he’d stand much of a chance of outstriking Silva personally, but it certainly wouldn’t be a boring fight.
A STEP OR TWO AWAY
Dean Lister: One win over a credible opponent puts Lister on the short list of title contenders. Did you see the triangle choke he put on Alessio Sakara while fighting at light heavyweight? I’m still speechless about that one. A thing of beauty. There may not be a better ground artist in the Middleweight Division. Lister’s only losses have come by decision, and his only losses since 2001 have come to Jeremy Horn, Amar Suloev, and Ricardo Arona.
Yushin Okami: He picked up a quality win over Kalib Starnes on Saturday, and he’s been very active this year, putting together a record of 5-1 since January. The only loss came against Jake Shields in the 185-lb Rumble on the Rock tournament—a tournament in which Okami picked up a win against Anderson Silva himself. Of course, the win was via DQ due to an illegal upkick (Okami was on his knees while Silva was on his back, and Silva landed a kick to the face which knocked Okami out, so technically Silva kicked a downed opponent in the head, even though he was down himself.) Okami will need another quality win or two, and he’ll have to wait in line, but a rematch with Silva would be intriguing down the road.
UP AND COMERS
Kendall Grove: The TUF 3 winner only has a 7-3 record, but you might as well disregard what happened before Grove hooked up with Team Punishment. He’s got a ton of heart and a natural height advantage (6’6″) over a lot of other middleweights, and the win over Ed Herman at the finale was huge. I’d like to see him take on Jason MacDonald, or Chris Leben, or David Terrell, or any number of other potential contenders. He’ll probably be brought along relatively slowly with all the talent at the top of this division, but he’ll definitely make some noise eventually.
Jason MacDonald: MacDonald made some big noise with a quick submission victory over Ed Herman last week, and with that win he continued what has been a very successful 2006 in which he’s compiled a 5-1 record. MacDonald has been inconsistent and streaky in his career, with runs of eight wins and four losses at different times. He holds an overall record of 17-7. The UFC will probably throw MacDonald to the dogs pretty quickly, since he gained instant credibility by taking out Herman, but they don’t really have anything invested in him. They’ll put him in with some tough competition and see how he does. If history is any indicator, MacDonald will probably have varying success, but if he can keep his roll going, he could be very dangerous.
Ed Herman: Call it a gut feeling, but I don’t think Herman’s two straight losses to the other two gentlemen in this category did a lot of damage to his stature in the UFC Middleweight Division. I think he’s still one nice stoppage win away from finding himself in the thick of the field of title contenders. But that may be just me.
ON THE REBOUND (new category)
Rich Franklin: Franklin did not look like himself in his devastating loss to Anderson Silva. I think Silva may have actually intimidated him from the way things looked, but to the now-former champ’s credit, he never turned tail or tried to buy time. It didn’t do him much good to wander in with sloppy punches, and buying time might have done him some good, but he definitely went out on his shield. Franklin will look to string together some victories before demanding a rematch with “The Spider”, and that would be the smart thing to do. Franklin needs to get his confidence back with some nice wins. Let it not be forgotten that three days ago, “Ace” was considered by most to be the best middleweight in the world. He’ll be back at the top, but he’ll take his time.
Chris Leben: “The Crippler” will always be a draw for the UFC, but he’s a long way from a title shot for as long as Silva is champ. It’ll be hard to get a rematch after being as thoroughly dismantled as Leben was by the champion. But I can definitely see him being used for a while as a litmus test for guys who want a title shot of their own.
OUTSIDE LOOKING IN
David Terrell: Terrell should not be in this category. He’s 2-1 in the UFC with wins over Matt Lindland and Scott Smith, but he’s had three fights in the organization over the last three years. Maybe there’s something I don’t know about why Terrell has been so inactive… I know he’s still been training other fighters, but I wonder if there’s been some problems with UFC brass or something. He fought and won on Friday night in the WEC, and I’d love to see him make a return and really make a run in this division. He’s got a ton of potential, but he’ll need to be more active.
David Loiseau: After two straight uninspired decision losses to top competition, Loiseau will need to get on another roll. I don’t doubt that he’ll be able to do so…he’s in a similar situation to that which he was in a couple of years ago. He had lost two in a row to Jorge Rivera and Jeremy Horn, after which he put together five straight wins. Loiseau is so talented and so explosive, and he’s a long way from done. He just needs to find his confidence again.
WHO CAN HELP
Matt Lindland: “The Law” seemed on the verge of a title shot before he was released by the UFC. Word on the street was that UFC brass didn’t want to see a fighter with the lay-n-pray reputation take a decision victory over their poster boy Rich Franklin. But Lindland showed in his last two bouts (a decision loss to Quinton Jackson at 205 lbs and a knockout victory over Jeremy Horn) that he is no longer the same fighter that he was. With Lindland’s improved standup to go along with his excellent wrestling pedigree, he could really strengthen the division.
Robbie Lawler: Lawler has always been an exciting fighter with heavy hands, and even if he couldn’t
hang with the top of the division, he’d play a good role in filtering out contenders from pretenders. I think the UFC needs guys like this. Guys who might not be able to get to the very top (not that Lawler couldn’t, but I’m just using the example), but they’d be potential fan favorites because of their styles, and they could prove newer talent.
I should mention that I only mention real possibilities in the last section, because it’s useless to talk about how great guys like Denis Kang and Paulo Filho and Kazuo Misaki could be in the UFC when they’re all
under contract with Pride. I also didn’t mention the guys from TUF 4, because I’d like to see how the show ends and what they do on the finale before I rank them. Two guys who I think have potential that I didn’t mention are Alan Belcher and Kalib Starnes. I’d like to see where those two go.
Now check out the previous 10 Years Ago MMATorch Flashback: 10 YRS AGO: The fallout of UFC 64 headlined by Anderson Silva beating Rich Franklin, plus Fitch, Fisher, Sherk impress