By: Jamie Penick, MMATorch Editor-in-Chief
Heading into Saturday night's UFC 155 event, the UFC's middleweight division was starting to get a little cluttered with potential challengers. However, things cleared up considerably after the event, with two rising challengers suffering setbacks.
Alan Belcher's bid to break into the title conversation came to a screeching halt against the man who defeated him six years earlier in his UFC debut, Yushin Okami. The one-sided decision halted a four fight winning streak, and sent Belcher back to the middle of a crowded field.
Then Tim Boetsch had his own four fight winning streak snapped in the next fight, as a possible broken hand and a poke to the eye ultimately led to a loss against Costa Philippou.
Both of those results cleared a path for longtime UFC vet and Ultimate Fighter 3 winner Michael Bisping.
UFC President Dana White confirmed after the event that Bisping will be the next challenger to Anderson Silva's UFC Middleweight Championship, provided he defeats Vitor Belfort next month at UFC on FX 7 in Brazil. Bisping's got no obstacles left in his path, save Belfort, and is the one clear option if he wins that fight next month. Saturday's results just affirmed that status, and he's got just one thing left to do to get that elusive shot.
Penick's Analysis: Things cleared up greatly on Saturday for the next year, but it also created a new issue in the division. The next two challengers are almost assuredly going to be Bisping and Chris Weidman, as Weidman will just need one win to get the next shot after Bisping. But after that, where do they go? All of the rising challengers will have a recent loss, and though Philippou has won five straight fights, he's not necessarily an attractive option at the moment. And he could still lose between now and when he'd get a shot. There's a lot that's at play, but for now the one thing that is clear is Bisping's next in line. He just needs to beat Vitor Belfort.
[Michael Bisping art by Grant Gould (c) MMATorch.com]
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