There have been a number of much-hyped title fights, like Jon Jones vs. Rashad Evans, Anderson Silva-Chael Sonnen and Junior dos Santos-Frank Mir. There’s also been a few pay-per-view bombs. Frankie Edgar’s rematch with Benson Henderson and Urijah Faber’s bantamweight fight with Renan Barao come to mind. Injuries have decimated card after card.
Who would have ever thought that the final fight the UFC would schedule for 2012 would signal an exciting new place to watch for developing rivalries and killer fights — and that the place to watch would be the formerly decimated middleweight division?
FOXSports.com has learned that two top contenders in the middleweight division, Chris Weidman and Tim Boetsch, were just signed to fight on the UFC’s final card of the year, UFC 155 on Dec. 29 in Las Vegas.
As recently as July, the middleweight division seemed to be a wasteland that Silva had decisively cleared out with his pummeling of Sonnen. He’d beat everyone who was anyone. He was considered the top pound-for-pound fighter in today’s UFC, if not UFC history. He hadn’t lost since 2006 — and even that was on a disqualification. It was a division where everyone was fighting for second place.
But some nifty promoting by the UFC’s president and marketing genius, Dana White, turned a dead — or at least static — division into one of the UFC’s most lively. The announcement that Silva wasn’t going to fight until 2013 seemed to further the "Death of the Middleweights" narrative — until White announced that he’s planning a Cowboys Stadium superfight between Silva and welterweight champ Georges St-Pierre, the consensus pick for second-best, pound-for-pound fighter in the UFC. That left a little bit of wiggle room at the top of the middleweight division.
At UFC 152 on Sept. 22, middleweight Brian Stann will be fighting Michael Bisping. The winner of that fight ought to take on the winner of Weidman-Boetsch — which could then set up a perfect opponent for Silva once he comes back to the middleweight division after taking on GSP.
Barring injuries, the UFC’s marketing moves could make the middleweight division the one to watch for the rest of 2012 and into 2013. And don’t forget that top middleweight contender Vitor Belfort is taking a bullet for the UFC and stepping up to light heavyweight to fight the supposedly unstoppable Jon Jones at UFC 152.
White was exuberant for the Weidman-Boetsch fight.
“This is a huge fight for the middleweight division, which is stacked right now,” White said.
For his part, Weidman said he didn’t want to wait for Silva before he sets foot in the Octagon again. So he signed on for the coming fight for Boetsch.
“I think I’m the man to take the title from Anderson Silva,” Weidman said. “I think I’m the No. 1 contender in the division, but with Anderson not fighting for the rest of 2012, I want to stay busy, keep getting better and take on the best out there. I think I’m the best middleweight in the world and I’m going to prove it against another top contender.”
Which is exactly what the UFC needs right now: A fluid middleweight division that’s not simply stalled by an all-time great sitting at the top. Everyone is shooting for the number two slot. The Cowboys Stadium superfight combined with these two upcoming middleweight fights is a stroke of marketing genius at the exact time when the UFC needs it most.