By Adam Martin
The UFC middleweight division has never been deeper, and while that's a great thing for fans, it's a not-so-great thing for the second tier of contenders banging on the door to the division's elite.
At the top of the 185-pound hierarchy is UFC Middleweight Champion Michael Bisping. Arguably the most improbable champion in UFC history, Bisping knocked out Luke Rockhold in stunning fashion earlier this summer at UFC 199 to take the title, and then he defended it with a unanimous decision "Fight of the Night" win over Dan Henderson in the main event of UFC 204.
The champ is currently on the sidelines mending some injuries, but when he returns in 2017, his next title defense will come against Yoel Romero, the #1 contender who knocked out Chris Weidman in devastating fashion at UFC 205 to seal his title shot.
After Bisping and Romero at the top are Ronaldo "Jacare" Souza, who is long overdue for a title shot, as well as Gegard Mousasi, who has been running through the middleweight division with four wins in 2016 alone. In addition, you can't forget about Weidman or Rockhold, plus former longtime champion Anderson Silva is always lurking around. That's the top seven fighters in the 185-pound weight class. In other words, those seven men are the middleweight division's elite.
At number eight and nine are the men fighting in the main event of this weekend's UFC Fight Night 101 event, Derek Brunson and Robert Whittaker. Brunson is an impressive 7-1 in the UFC and has won his last five fights, including four-straight knockout wins. After being labelled as a boring wrestler earlier in his career, Brunson has worked hard to improve his finishing ability, and the results speak for themselves, as he's clearly become one of the most exciting middleweights in the world right now.
Much of the same can be said of Whittaker, the TUF Nations winner who has looked incredible since moving up a weight class. After going 3-2 as a welterweight, Whittaker moved up in weight and has since gone 4-0 at his new weight class. He has massive power in his punches and has looked extremely fast at his new weight class, and considering he's just 25 years old, he has all the potential in the world to remain a top contender at middleweight for years to come.
With other young fighters like Krzysztof Jotko -- who has won five straight fights himself -- also quickly moving up the middleweight ladder, both Brunson and Whittaker are in a tough spot, as they need to keep winning to keep their places in the middleweight rankings. And considering how stacked the division is right now, not only do they need to win, they need to win in impressive fashion to really show the fans and the UFC matchmakers they are legitimate title contenders.
The UFC Melboune card this weekend isn't very good, but it does feature a fantastic main event between Brunson and Whittaker. The two middleweights are closing in on their division's elite
but need a big win this weekend to keep their names in the title talks, as a few losses and injuries to the other top contenders could change their fates for the better. Ultimately, though, only one can keep winning, even if both need to.
November 25, 2016
UFC Fight Night 101: Brunson, Whittaker Need Signature Win At UFC Melbourne To Keep Title Hopes Alive
By Adam Martin