Who exactly is next for Anderson Silva?
“Do you really want to know my answer?” Silva asked.
“Yeah,” White responded.
“My clone,” Silva joked.
White shook his head, because he knows he cannot find another Anderson Silva. We may never see another combination of skill, discipline, accurate striking and finishing ability in MMA for a long time. White reiterated Saturday that Silva is the greatest Mixed Martial Artist ever.
But Silva is not retiring. And unless he has an unexpected change of heart about moving up to 205 pounds to challenge Jon Jones, we will not see a champion vs. champion mega-fight anytime soon.
So who is next in line for “The Spider” at middleweight? HeavyMMA takes an in-depth look at the contenders.
Hector Lombard (31-2-1)
Why it makes sense: Lombard is on an astounding 24-fight win streak, which includes one draw in that stretch. While Silva has dominated the middleweights in the UFC, Lombard has done the same in other organizations. Lombard is a vicious striker with solid judo and takedown defense. Lombard would arguably be the hardest hitter Silva has ever faced in the Octagon. There's been a lot of discussion for years among hardcore MMA fans that Lombard would be the biggest threat to Silva if Lombard ever got to the UFC. Now that Lombard is signed with Zuffa, we may find out.
Why it doesn’t make sense: Lombard has yet to fight in the UFC, and detractors would say it’s premature to give him a title shot. Lombard most recently dominated in Bellator, but that’s nothing close to the competition he’s about to face. Lombard will be favored when he fights Tim Boetsch at UFC 149. But if Lombard loses or doesn’t impress in victory, Lombard probably won’t get the call next to face Silva. Many fighters struggle entering the Octagon for the first time. Lombard has to prove he can perform under the bright lights.
Chances: 50 percent
Mark Munoz (12-2)
Why it makes sense: Munoz has the style that’s proven to give Silva fits. Munoz has as good a wrestling pedigree as Sonnen, but the “Filipino Wrecking Machine” also has punching power. Perhaps the thing that hurt Sonnen most in his two fights against Silva was once he scored the takedown, Sonnen didn’t have enough strength in his ground and pound to finish the fight. The heavy-handed Munoz finishes fights both standing up and on the ground. Munoz could present a unique challenge to Silva, whose only hole in his game appears to be takedown defense against elite-level wrestlers.
Why it doesn’t make sense: Munoz hasn’t fought since last November due to an elbow injury. He had a huge No. 1 contender’s bout cancelled against Sonnen earlier this year. Now, Munoz steps back into the cage Wednesday on Fuel TV to face undefeated Chris Weidman (8-0), which is not an easy fight. Munoz must shake the rust and look great against Weidman to make Munoz-Silva a sellable fight.
Chances: 40 percent
Michael Bisping (22-4)
Why it makes sense: Bisping has been underrated and on the cusp of a title shot for years. He’s fought the best of the best in the UFC and may be due. With no clear No. 1 contender at middleweight, Bisping’s name deserves to be in the mix. There are many who thought he was short-changed in his decision loss to Sonnen in January. Had Bisping won, he would have fought Silva ay UFC 148 this past weekend. White says Bisping has been in his ear about a middleweight title shot. Bisping thinks he can do better than Sonnen did against Silva, which is saying a lot.
Why it doesn’t make sense: The harsh truth is Bisping hasn’t come through in big fights. He lost to Sonnen. Bisping was knocked out by Dan Henderson and also lost via decision to Rashad Evans. Bisping might be one of those fighters who is very good, but just not great. There’s nothing wrong with that. But if you’re looking for someone to knock Silva off his perch, you have to be great in big fights.
Chances: 10 percent
Others on the list: Alan Belcher, Brian Stann, Rashad Evans