Middle Management: UFC 155 is a Huge Night for Setting Things Straight In the Unheralded Middleweight Division

By Adam Martin Subscribe to Articles by Adam Martin

Although the main event of UFC 155 features heavyweights Junior dos Santos and Cain Velasquez, it’s actually another weight class that will have its fate decided at the promotion’s annual year-end event.

That would be the UFC middleweight division.

On the main, pay-per-view portion of the card, there are not one, not two, but three huge fights at 185 pounds that will determine the direction UFC matchmaker Joe Silva takes the division in 2013.

The first bout is between a returning Chris Leben and Strikeforce import Derek Brunson, who took the fight on short notice. Leben is coming back from a one-year suspension for using illegal painkillers, and since his last fight was a loss to Mark Munoz in the main event of UFC 138, he desperately needs to beat Brunson to keep his name in the mix at 185 pounds. As for Brunson, a win over Leben – the ultimate middleweight gatekeeper – would catapult him into the upper echelon of the division immediately. Safe to say the stakes are huge for both men.

Then, it’s a rematch between Yushin Okami and Alan Belcher, two middleweights in the top 10. The two fought six years ago at UFC 62 in both men’s debuts in the UFC, and Okami won via unanimous decision. Since then, Okami made it all the way up to the top of the division, only to lose to UFC middleweight champion Anderson Silva, while Belcher has had an inconsistent run, although he’s really come into his own over his last batch of fights. There is no doubt in my mind that if Belcher wins this fight, he will be one fight away from a title shot. As for Okami, if he can defeat Belcher again, he keeps himself at the top of the division, hanging around.

And finally, hard-hitting Costa Philippou takes on Tim Boetsch in what could be a real gritty scrap. Philippou is on a four-fight win streak at middleweight and is coming off the best win of his career over journeyman Riki Fukuda. But although he’s the betting favourite heading into this fight, Boetsch is coming off two massive wins, one via TKO over Okami at UFC 144 and the other a split decision victory over Hector Lombard at UFC 149, and clearly has more momentum right now. Boetsch gets no respect from anyone, but if he’s to continue his hot streak with another win over Philippou, he too will be one fight away from a title shot.

Clearly, the UFC middleweight division is a bit of a mess right now with Silva sitting out on the sidelines, No. 1 contender Chris Weidman injured, and Michael Bisping fighting Vitor Belfort at UFC on FX 7 in what is a potential title eliminator, at least for Bisping. But after these three big 185-pound bouts on Saturday night, the UFC should have a much clearer picture of the division, and expect the matchmaking to start making a little bit more sense as we head into 2013.

If you’re a fan of the middleweight division, this is your weekend. So enjoy the fights.

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