UFC Middleweight Michael Bisping
Photo Credit: Martin McNeil/ESPN

Who Is The Top UFC Middleweight Contender?

The UFC middleweight division has been a mess ever since Michael Bisping won the belt. Since that day (UFC 199 – June 4, 2016), Bisping has defended it once; that defense being against legend (but undeserving) Dan Henderson. Now, the UFC middleweight division has a logjam of contenders, all with impressive resumes, but who is most deserving?

Bisping vs GSP

Obviously, we know who’s getting the next middleweight title shot – Georges St-Pierre. The former welterweight king is returning from hiatus to face Bisping at … I’m not sure.

We still don’t know when or where this “super fight” is happening. According to Bisping, it probably won’t happen until the fall, but he wants to fight on International Fight Week (UFC 213 – July 8). If the UFC make this happen then they should, but chances are we have to wait until September or later.

Everyone has their own opinions on this fight (even me!). From a purest’s lense, I like it because both Bisping and GSP are phenomenal fighters and I’m very interested in the match up. However, as someone who likes order and structure, this drives me crazy. There’s no way St-Pierre should be coming back to challenge for a title in a division that he’s never fought at.

But nevertheless, it’s happening.

If Bisping wins, he said that he’ll face whoever the top contender right away. But … what if GSP wins? It’s very unlikely we’ll see GSP defend the middleweight belt. I think he vacates it and lets two deserving middleweight contenders fight over it.

Who are those contenders?

Yoel Romero?

Romero was considered the top contender for quite a while. He has yet to lose under the UFC banner, and holds knockout wins over Derek Brunson, Lyoto Machida, and Chris Weidman. He also has a controversial split decision over ‘Jacare’ Souza to his credit.

That’s pretty impressive by itself, but what separates Romero from the rest of the pack is his entertainment aspect. Romero is one of the scariest fighters in the sport, and his explosive, volatile movements in the cage make him must-see TV.

There aren’t many knockouts as violent as a Romero knockout. I think a lot of people want to see Michael Bisping on the receiving end of a Romero flying knee.

Robert Whittaker?

Before last weekend, Whittaker really wasn’t in the mix. He was on the cusp of the elite, but didn’t have any solid wins under his belt. That is, until he absolutely dismantled and destroyed ‘Jacare’ Souza.

Very few saw this coming, but now the Aussie sits as a serious darkhorse in the UFC middleweight division. He doesn’t have as many quality wins as other contenders like Romero do, but he’s 6-0 at 185 lbs. Plus, nobody else, not even Romero, has a finish over ‘Jacare’ Souza.

A potential match up between Michael Bisping and Robert Whittaker has fireworks written all over it. Hell, Whittaker vs anybody in the top 5 is guaranteed action.

Luke Rockhold?

Before eating Bisping’s left hook from hell in their rematch, Luke Rockhold was the man to beat. He has devastating wins over Lyoto Machida, Michael Bisping and Chris Weidman. Also, don’t forget his win over ‘Jacare’ Souza stemming from the Strikeforce days. However, since losing the belt, he’s been virtually inactive.

Rockhold was supposed to fight ‘Jacare’ Souza in Australia (UFC Fight Night 101 – November, 2016), but pulled due to injury. In a division with so many killers, I believe activity needs to be valued. Even though Rockhold is a former champion, he hasn’t done anything since, and in my opinion doesn’t have as much priority to that top contender’s spot at the others.

That being said, Rockhold and Bisping have some unfinished business as they are 1-1 with a lot of bad blood.

Gegard Mousasi?

Lastly we arrive at the sassy moose. Mousasi has been very outspoken about wanting to prove he’s the best, and getting paid like the best. He has yet to sign another contract with the UFC, but I imagine that will happen in the coming weeks.

Even though Mousasi lost to ‘Jacare’ Souza not too long ago, he’s 1-1 against him. Additionally he has TKO wins over Chris Weidman and Vitor Belfort. It’s not the recent wins that make Mousasi a top contender, but rathre his nearly 50 professional fights. He’s one of the most seasoned veterans in the game today.

Preferred Scenario

All of this really depends on who wins between Bisping and St-Pierre. If Bisping wins, then there will be room for one contender to challenge for the belt. In my opinion, it comes down to Whittaker and Romero.

Mousasi simply isn’t quite there yet. His biggest win (Weidman) is shrouded in controversy. And Rockhold has simply been too inactive even though he has a rivalry between him and the champ.

If I had my preference over Whittaker or Romero, I’d still probably choose Romero. He was labeled as the #1 contender before Whittaker defeated Jacare, and in my eyes is still there.

Bisping vs Romero for the middleweight strap sounds good to me.

But … what if GSP defeats Bisping? St Pierre would be the middleweight champ, but I’d say there’s a 95% chance of him immediately vacating and dropping back down to welterweight.

If the title is vacated that will mean two middleweight contenders out of the batch will fight for the vacant belt. And, interestingly, Bisping could be one of those contenders.

A lot of intriguing match ups come to mind, but I have a hard time believing Bisping won’t be given a chance to reclaim his belt (if he doesn’t retire afterward). In that case, we still might see Bisping vs Romero for the vacant belt. If Bisping isn’t given a chance to reclaim, then Romero vs Whittaker for the vacant UFC middleweight strap makes the most sense to me.

In the meantime, Mousasi and Rockhold and duke it out.

About Casey Hodgin

Casey is a passionate MMA writer and journalism student at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

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