UFC weight classes are like the atmosphere — the higher you go, the thinner it is. The search for viable challengers for Anderson Silva is getting more difficult with each passing year.
Updated March 13
Anderson Silva (16-0 UFC, 33-4 overall): Chael Sonnen seemed to be his Kryptonite, but Silva’s beaten him fairly twice. The champion dabbles at 205 and beats people up in one round, most recently Stephan Bonnar (Oct. 13). Next? Next: Chris Weidman, July 6
Chris Weidman (5-0 UFC, 9-0 overall): Wins keep getting more impressive. Seemed a little giddy on Twitter after Bisping’s loss, as if he thinks he’s now next in line. He is. Interesting footnote: He has a KO win over TUF star Uriah Hall. Last: KO Munoz (July 11). Next: Anderson Silva, July 6
Vitor Belfort (11-6 UFC, 22-10 overall): UFC/Pride career highlights would take a while. Lost title shots at 185 (Anderson Silva TKO-1) and 205 (Jon Jones Sub-4, after Belfort nearly made him tap). After beating Bisping (Jan. 19), he wants another title shot, but in what weight class? Next: Luke Rockhold, May 18
Luke Rockhold (0-0 UFC, 3-0 Zuffa, 10-1 overall): Strikeforce champion has been talked up a bit for “unification” fight with Silva but is getting a huge UFC test first. Next: Vitor Belfort, May 18
Michael Bisping (13-5 UFC, 23-5 overall): TUF 3 winner keep climbing, only to hit a ceiling. He was once again a fight away from a title shot, but Belfort stopped him one rung short (Jan. 19). Next: Alan Belcher, April 27
Roger Gracie (0-0 UFC, 2-1 Zuffa, 6-1 overall): Sole loss is to Mo Lawal. Next: Tim Kennedy, July 6
Tim Kennedy (0-0 UFC, 2-1 Zuffa, 15-4 overall): Won everything but the title in Strikeforce. Next: Roger Gracie, July 6
Ronny Markes (3-0 UFC, 14-1 overall): Won first three, last vs. Craig (Jan. 19).
Mark Munoz (9-3 UFC, 12-3 overall): 2-0 in WEC. Losses to Okami and Weidman. Next: Tim Boetsch, July 6
Rousimar Palhares (7-4 UFC, 14-5 overall): Still someone you don’t want to face on the ground, but he’s on a two-fight losing streak.
Costa Philippou (5-1 UFC, 12-2 overall): Lost TUF prelim, lost UFC debut. Now on five-fight streak, with win over TUF champ Court McGee. Next: Jacare, May 18
Nick Ring (3-1 UFC, 13-1 overall): TUF 11 alum won questionable decision over Court McGee to match the one he got on TUF. Next: Chris Camozzi, March 16
Jake Shields (2-2 UFC, 27-6 overall): Former EliteXC welterweight and former Strikeforce middleweight champion (beating Dan Henderson) has been inconsistent in the UFC and flunked a drug test.
Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza (0-0 UFC, 3-1 Zuffa, 17-3 overall): Dangerous submission man and former Strikeforce champion. Next: Costa Philippou, May 18
Alan Belcher (9-5 UFC, 18-7 overall): Good four-fight streak before Okami loss. Next: Michael Bisping, April 27
Rich Franklin (14-6 UFC, 29-7 overall): Former middleweight champion has fought everyone at 185 and 205, from Tanner and Shamrock to Silva and Le.
Ed Herman (7-6 UFC, 7-6 Zuffa, 20-9 overall): Loaned out to Strikeforce for final card and lost to Jacare.
Cung Le (2-1 UFC, 9-2 overall): Movie career finally taking off for former Strikeforce mainstay. Highlight-reel KO over Franklin not bad, either.
Tom Lawlor (4-4 UFC, 8-5 overall): My story and video about one of his weight cuts didn’t do justice to his sense of humor. Often a bonus contender aside from dull loss to Carmont. Next: Michael Kuiper, April 6
Chris Leben (12-8 UFC, 22-9 overall): TUF 1 star looked rusty in return loss to Brunson.
Hector Lombard (1-2 UFC, 32-4-1 overall): Losing UFC debut to Tim Boetsch is one way to lower expectations. KOd Palhares, lost to Okami (March 2).
Yushin Okami (13-4 UFC, 29-7 overall): Still the last man to beat Anderson Silva, albeit by DQ. Lost rematch. Beat Lombard (March 2).
Tim Boetsch (7-4 UFC, 16-5 overall): Phillipou stopped his win streak. Cracked initial UFC ranking at #10. Next: Mark Munoz, July 6
Chris Camozzi (5-2 UFC, 18-5 overall): Three straight wins. Next: Nick Ring, March 16
Luiz Cane (4-5 UFC, 12-5 overall): Once a well-regarded light heavyweight but lost three of his last four at that weight, then lost 185 debut to Camozzi.
Tim Credeur (3-2 UFC, 12-4 overall): TUF funnyman has fought once since September 2009, and he’s fought only once since — a short June 2011 loss to Herman.
CB Dollaway (7-4 UFC, 13-4 overall): Saved UFC career by ending Jason “Mayhem” Miller’s, then won bonus money in win over Sarafian (Jan. 19).
Riki Fukuda (2-3 UFC, 19-7 overall): Former DEEP champion has alternated losses and wins. Last: Lost to Tavares (March 2).
Jared Hamman (2-4 UFC, 13-5 overall): Highlight so far is a win over Dollaway. Lost last two.
Jason MacDonald (6-8 UFC, 25-16 overall): Likable Canadian submission expert announced his retirement at the end of February. We’ll leave him here for another couple of months out of respect.
Alessio Sakara (6-7 Zuffa, 15-10 overall): The expansively tattooed “Legionarius” won three then lost three, the last a DQ against Patrick Cote.
Karlos Vemola (2-3 UFC, 9-3 overall): Loss at heavyweight, win then loss at 205, win then loss at 185. So … welterweight?
Francis Carmont (4-0 UFC, 20-7 overall): Can we forgive him for forcing Tom Lawlor into a dull fight? Next: Lorenz Larkin, April 20
Andrew Craig (2-1 UFC, 8-1 overall): Did Markes (Jan. 19) expose some holes in his game?
Rafael Natal (3-2-1 UFC, 15-4-1 overall): No, not the tennis player. Last beat Sean Spencer (Jan. 26), who took fight on short notice.
Brad Tavares (5-1 UFC, 10-1 overall): Didn’t make huge impression on TUF 11 but has done well so far. Beat Fukuda (March 2).
Derek Brunson (1-0 UFC, 4-1 Zuffa, 10-2 overall): From my former home of Wilmington, N.C.! Won UFC debut over Chris Leben.
Magnus Cedenblad (0-1 UFC, 10-4 overall): Nicknamed “Jycken,” which ought to challenge Bruce Buffer. Had to pull out of bout with Natal.
Tom DeBlass (0-2 UFC, 7-2 overall): Good jiu-jitsu credentials. Has a Bellator fight April 4, so should we assume he’s cut?
Cezar “Mutante” Ferreira (1-0 UFC, 5-2 overall): TUF Brazil champion and Belfort protege.
Michael Kuiper (1-1 UFC, 12-1 overall): Dutchman lost debut, won next one. Jan. 26 bout(s) fell through. Next: Tom Lawlor, April 6
Lorenz Larkin (0-0 UFC, 4-0 Zuffa, 13-0 overall): Loss to Lawal was overturned; came back to beat Lawler. Awaiting UFC debut. Next: Francis Carmont, April 20
Caio Magalhaes (0-1 UFC, 5-1 overall): Lost debut to Buddy Roberts.
John Maguire (2-2 UFC, 8-5 overall): Listed at welterweight but might be moving up.
Stanislav Nedkov (1-1 UFC, 12-1 overall): Apparently the first Bulgarian to win in the UFC. Loss to Thiago Silva was tossed out when Silva tested positive. No such luck after loss to Watson (KO Feb. 16).
Thiago “Bodao” Perpetuo (1-0 UFC, 9-1-1 overall): TUF Brazil star won debut against Leonardo “Maccarao” Mafra.
Buddy Roberts (1-1 UFC, 12-3 overall): Bad luck started when opponent’s locker-room injury on fight night scrubbed his UFC debut.
Yoel Romero (0-0 UFC, 0-1 Zuffa, 4-1 overall): Lost to Cavalcante in Strikeforce. Next: Clifford Starks, April 20
Daniel Sarafian (0-1 UFC, 7-3 overall): Injury kept him out of TUF Brazil final. Lost his belated debut to Dollaway (Jan. 19) but won bonus.
Sean Spencer (0-1 UFC, 9-2 overall): Just popped up on short notice and lost to Natal (Jan. 26).
Clifford Starks (1-1 UFC, 8-1 overall): Debuted with win, lost next. Next: Yoel Romero, April 20
Tom Watson (1-1 UFC, 16-5 overall): Who can forget his awesome duels with Jack Nicklaus? Actually, this Tom Watson would be on the other side of the Ryder Cup — he’s English and held the BAMMA belt for a while. And he took two bonuses in his win over Nedkov Feb. 16).
Alexander Shlemenko (47-7 overall): Won Season 5 tournament, lost title bout against Hector Lombard. With Lombard in the UFC, he fought for the vacant title against Maiquel Falcao and obliterated him.
Season 8 final: Brett Cooper (TKO Dan Cramer) vs. Doug Marshall (def. Sultan Aliev). Semifinals were March 7.
Mamed Khalidov (26-4-2 overall): Some success in Japan, now beating up UFC vets in KSW in Poland.