By Adam Martin
The middleweight division is wide open for the taking, and at UFC Fight Night 84 in London, two veterans of the sport meet with the chance to emerge as the next title contender at 185 lbs.
In the main event, the great Anderson Silva returns from a one-year PED suspension to take on Britain's Michael Bisping in a five-round middleweight fight. And in a wide-open middleweight division that needs new title contenders, the winner of this fight will put himself in prime position to challenge the winner of UFC 198's Luke Rockhold vs. Chris Weidman for the UFC Middleweight Championship.
Silva may be nearly 41 years of age, and he may be coming off of a long break after being caught using a banned substance, but he remains one of the sport's iconic figures, and there will always be interest from fans in watching him compete for the title. What Silva needs right now is a win. He hasn't won a fight officially since October 2012, when he knocked out Stephan Bonnar in a light heavyweight superfight, and his last middleweight win was in July 2012, when he TKO’d Chael Sonnen in their rematch. Since then, Silva has been brutally knocked out by Weidman, had his leg snapped on a checked kick by Weidman, and had a decision win over Nick Diaz overturned due to the aforementioned failed drug test. But even with the lack of wins, the former longtime champion remains a popular fighter, and a win over Bisping, especially if it's by stoppage, would put him right back in the thick of the title mix.
Bisping, on the other hand, has never fought for the UFC middleweight title, and after a decade of fighting in the Octagon, this might be his last run at the belt. Bisping has won back-to-back fights over CB Dollaway and Thales Leites, with his last loss coming against the current champ Rockhold, so a big win over the former champ Silva might be just what he needs to finally break through at 185 lbs. With his ability to sell a fight, Bisping's always someone the UFC could market as a title challenger. The problem is he always loses in these #1 contender fights. But if he finally bucks that trend against Silva, it would be huge for his career.
In the current state of the middleweight division, the champion Rockhold taking on Weidman in an immediate rematch after destroying him just two months ago shows you just how shallow the top of the division is. With Yoel Romero in limbo after a possible failed drug test and with Ronaldo "Jacare" Souza having just lost to Romero, there really aren't any other credible contenders for the belt. That's why this fight against Silva and Bisping is so key for the division. So if you tune into UFC Fight Pass this weekend, you might just see the winner of this fight score that title shot, and put himself in the position to be competing for the belt before the year is up.
UFC Fight Night 84: Silva vs. Bisping takes place on February 27, 2016 at The O2 in London, England.