AARON CRIDER, MMATorch Contributor
Not much really changes as far as rankings go. Yoel Romero still stays at No.1 with his win over Luke Rockhold, even though he missed weight and that may or may not have given him any sort of advantage. Rockhold remains No. 2, but has a long road to get back into the title picture. I would like to see Chris Weidman spring forward, maybe even get a shot at Robert Whittaker ahead of Romero. However, he’s still recovering from hand surgery to repair a dislocated thumb and there isn’t a clear timetable for his return.
SEAN COVINGTON, MMATorch Contributor
They should all go to Bellator from here, that’s the only way the matchups will be fresh and the only way anyone would get a shot at a title. As it stands right now, Yoel Romero vs Robert Whittaker 2 needs to happen with the winner facing Chris Weidman next. Otherwise the interesting fights are of the non-title variety, good fights but nothing of any real consequence or long-term impact. Michael Bisping vs. Chris Weidman and Luke Rockhold vs. Weidman 2, are your two biggest fights besides Romero vs Whittaker. Regardless, Weidman is going to be fighting for the title soon no matter who is the champion.
FRANK HYDEN, MMATorch Contributor
As long as it’s not to the sidelines, I’ll be happy. This division has been stuck in mud for far too long. I want to see UFC middleweight champion Robert Whittaker fight Yoel Romero again as soon as they’re able. In the meantime, I want to see Chris Weidman fight Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza, with the winner getting a title shot. Other than that, I want to see if Luke Rockhold responds the way we all expect and go on a title run. Maybe you throw Kelvin Gastelum in there somewhere but that’s about it. I could maybe see Michael Bisping fight Lyoto Machida in one final fight, but I think a lot in his camp will try to talk him out of that, as he doesn’t need to do that fight.
I’m not worried about the future at middleweight there, I’m sure someone will rise up and force their way into the title picture. That’s the exciting part, the not knowing what’s coming next. As long as what’s coming next isn’t some dreadful junk that slows the division down, I’m good with that.
DAVE KOULA, MMATorch Contributor
I don’t think the top of the division is all that murky. Yoel Romero granted, has already lost to Robert Whittaker, but his middleweight run has been absolutely stellar and while it was a last-minute replacement, beating Luke Rockhold clearly makes him the number one contender. Romero/Whittaker is a must.
Chris Weidman, whom I think is criminally under-appreciated, does not have a case to be the number one contender. Another matchup against Kelvin Gastelum is the right move to determine who is next in line – unless of course Romero beats Whittaker next, in which case I would support the final leg of a trilogy.
Michael Hiscoe, MMATorch Contributor
With Michael Bisping approaching retirement and Georges St-Pierre stepping aside, the UFC middleweight division has an opportunity to stabilize itself in 2018. Robert Whittaker appears to have cemented himself as UFC’s top middleweight, but unfortunately finds himself sidelined at the moment. A summer return for Whittaker would present several options for a title fight, but each has its drawbacks. The current frontrunner is Yoel Romero, coming off his knockout of Luke Rockhold at UFC 221. Romero is an explosive striker with top-level wrestling to boot. The strongest argument against a Romero title shot is that he lost to Whittaker via unanimous decision just last July and Whittaker has yet to fight since. But at 40, Romero’s time may be now.
After that, Jacare Souza is the next most deserving contender. Jacare is coming off an emphatic win over Derek Brunson but, like Romero, has also lost to the current champ in 2017 – in Jacare’s case, by knockout.
From there, you’re probably looking at Chris Weidman, who may have a slight edge in name value, but only has one win since 2015. Also, to Weidman’s benefit is that a fight with Whittaker would be a fresh match-up.
Or maybe UFC will throw us a curveball and give Michael Bisping an opportunity to retire as middleweight champion. Bisping has been a company man and did UFC may feel inclined to return the favor after Bisping took a short notice fight with Kelvin Gastelum three weeks after his championship loss to GSP. While Whittaker-Bisping has the most box office appeal of any of the above options, risking a Bisping win and thus muddying up the waters at middleweight once again will hurt in the long run.
COLE HENRY, MMATorch Contributor
Robert Whittaker is the champion, and Yoel Romero is the number one contender so to make things easy I’ll just say that they should fight. The first fight was competitive enough to warrant a rematch and I don’t really see any other options as far as realistic title fights go. Weidman is 1-3 in his last four, Jacare Souza was knocked out by the champion not long ago, Luke Rockhold obviously isn’t an option, and I don’t think Kelvin Gastelum is ready yet.
That pretty much leaves Romero as the only option. As far as the rest of the top 185ers are concerned I think Souza vs. Weidman, Rockhold vs. Derek Brunson, and Gastelum vs. the winner of David Branch and Thiago Santos will give us some clarity.
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