The athletes competing in the UFC at 185 lbs never had it easy. Living up to Anderson Silva’s almost unsurpassable feat of winning for six years straight was always going to taking some beating. That’s why the Spider tops our list of all-time UFC middleweight legends.
But nothing ever lasts forever in fights sports, a statement that was hammered home by American Chris Weidman in a post-Anderson era. After claiming the belt from Silva, Weidman proved his worth as a worthy champion by successfully defending the silverware on several occasions. His tenure as top middleweight was shorter-lived, and once he lost the title the 185 lbs playing field levelled out.
Some say the lack of depth of quality was holding this weight class back. Even Michael Bisping strapped on the belt in a main event defence, which confirmed the theory that anything is possible in MMA. Despite an overhaul from the days of old, we’re blessed with young and hungry competitors in the form of Robert Whittaker and Kelvin Gastelum leading the charge.
Here are our best UFC middleweights in history.
1. Anderson Silva
No other middleweight fighter has had as distinguished a UFC career as Anderson ‘the Spider’ Silva.
Silva made his UFC debut in 2006 after a solid MMA career in Brazil, Japan and England, where he
fought in organisations like Pride and Cage Rage.
He finished Rich Franklin in just three minutes to win the UFC Middleweight belt at UFC 64 in what
was just his second fight in the Octagon. The Brazilian broke the record for most consecutive title
defences in UFC history (six) after beating Demian Maia in 2010, which he extended to 10 when he
beat Chael Sonnen at UFC 148.
Here are Anderson Silva’s UFC highlights
2. Rich Franklin
Rich Franklin was one of the top pound-for- pound fighters during the early and mid-2000s. He had a
19-1 MMA record in both the middleweight and light heavyweight divisions before he defeated Evan
Tanner at UFC 53 to win the UFC Middleweight strap.
Franklin successfully defended the belt twice before losing it to Anderson Silva. He lost another title
shot against Silva, but continued to have success in the UFC Middleweight and Light heavyweight
divisions before retiring from the sport to become the Vice President of Singapore-based promotion
Watch Rich Franklin’s highlight reel
3. Chris Weidman
A decorated All-American wrestler during his college years, Chris Weidman had a relatively easy
transition to MMA when he took up the sport. He made his UFC debut on short notice against Italian
Alessio Sakara, which he won via unanimous decision after three rounds of vicious ground and
Weidman won four more fights in the Octagon before being given a shot at the UFC Middleweight
strap against long-time champion Anderson Silva, which Weidman won in an upset. He successfully
defended the title against Silva, Vitor Belfort and Lyoto Machida before losing it to Luke Rockhold at
Watch Chris Weidman’s best UFC moments
4. Yoel Romero
A freestyle wrestling silver medallist at the 2000 Olympics, Cuban-born Yoel Romero had a
spectacular background for mixed martial arts. Romero, who had fought once in Strikeforce, made
his UFC debut following the absorption of that organisation into the UFC.
He won his first eight fights in the UFC, which included victories over the likes of Derek Brunson,
Lyoto Machida, Ronaldo ‘Jacare’ Souza and Chris Weidman. Romero then faced Robert Whittaker in
a UFC Interim Middleweight title match at UFC 213, which he lost by unanimous decision, his only
UFC loss to date.
Here are Yoel Romero’s UFC highlights
5. Luke Rockhold
Luke Rockhold was the last ever Strikeforce Middleweight Champion before he moved onto the UFC
in 2013. He UFC debut ended in a loss to Vitor Belfort, but it would end up being just a minor
stumbling block on Rockhold’s continued path to success as a middleweight.
He won four straight fights via stoppage after the Belfort loss before being given a title shot against
Chris Weidman. Rockhold beat Weidman via stoppage in the fourth round to win the UFC
Middleweight title, although he lost it just six months later after a shocking first round loss in a
rematch against Michael Bisping.
Here is Luke Rockhold’s highlight reel
6. Gegard Mousasi
There are few fighters at middleweight, or in any other weight class, who have had a career as long
and as stellar as Gegard Mousasi. The Dutchman had a stellar 33-3- 2 professional MMA record –
which included fights in Pride, Dream, Strikeforce and M-1 – before he was finally taken on by the
UFC in 2013.
Mousasi did not have a perfect start in the UFC, having gone 3-3 in his first six fights with the
promotion. However, he eventually found his groove and went on a five fight win streak, which
included wins over Vitor Belfort and Chris Weidman, before moving to Bellator.
Check out the career highlights of Gegard Mousasi
7. Robert Whittaker
Whittaker’s inclusion on this list may be seen by some as a bit premature, but in just seven fights
Whittaker has achieved more than most in the division. The Australian moved up to middleweight
after a solid career in the welterweight division, and immediately went about making the weight
class his own.
He won his first six fights in at 185 pounds, which included TKOs of Derek Brunson and Ronaldo
‘Jacare’ Souza, before getting a shot at the UFC Interim Middleweight championship. He fought Yoel
Romero – who was undefeated in the UFC going into the fight – and defeated him by unanimous
decision to become the interim champion. He was later promoted to undisputed UFC Middleweight
champion after George St-Pierre vacated the title.
Watch Robert Whittaker’s best UFC moments
8. Michael Bisping
A polarizing figure in MMA, Michael Bisping has had a long and consistent run in the UFC
Middleweight division. Bisping had showed himself to be a top ten fighter at 185 pounds almost
from the moment he moved down to the division in 2008, but lost the majority of his fights against
the best, including Dan Henderson, Chael Sonnen and Luke Rockhold.
However, the Englishman continued to display persistence and considerable self-belief, which came
handy when he fought Luke Rockhold on short notice for the UFC Middleweight title at UFC 199.
Bisping won via first round knockout in an upset to win the title, which he lost to Georges St-Pierre
at UFC 217.
Here are some of Bisping’s best UFC moments
9. Ronaldo ‘Jacare’ Souza
Better known as ‘Jacare’, the Portuguese word for Alligator, Ronaldo Souza has the reputation of
being one of the best grapplers in the history of the UFC Middleweight division. A former Strikeforce
Middleweight champion, Jacare won his first five fights in the UFC before losing a razor thin split
decision to Yoel Romero.
He has gone 3-1 in the Octagon since that loss, with victories over Vitor Belfort, Tim Boetsch and
Derek Brunson, and a loss to current UFC Middleweight champion Robert Whittaker.
Watch Jacare’s UFC highlight reel
10. Evan Tanner
Those who have watched MMA since the late 2000s or later may not know the name ‘Evan Tanner’,
but Tanner was one of the top MMA fighters in the world between the late 1990s and 2005. After
gaining a 27-4 MMA record in the heavyweight and light heavyweight divisions, Tanner moved down
to middleweight, where he immediately made in impact.
After beating Phil Baroni (twice) and Robbie Lawler, Tanner fought for the vacant UFC Middleweight
title against David Terrell at UFC 51, beating him in the first round via TKO. He lost the title to Rich
Franklin and tragically passed away in September 2008 during a desert adventure.
Watch Evan Tanner in action in the UFC