Top 5 Fighters Who Could Dethrone UFC Middleweight Champ Chris Weidman

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5 Fighters Who Could Dethrone Chris Weidman

Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA Today Sports

Chris Weidman is the true, legit middleweight champion of the UFC. There are no doubts about it. He did not beat Anderson Silva the first time because of a lucky punch, and was dominating “The Spider” for the majority of the first round in the second fight before the freak accident that allowed the champ to hold on to his title.

Silva wasn’t the first opponent who felt the potential wrath of “The All-American.” Just ask Mark Munoz, who had his head split by Weidman before getting knocked out. The same thing goes for Tom Lawlor and Jesse Bongfeldt, who were both defeated by submission.

Inside the UFC, Demian Maia and Alessio Sakara have been the only two men to make it to the finish line against Weidman. The Maia fight was a sluggish fight for Weidman, who accepted the bout on short notice, but the result was the same. Weidman won by unanimous decision.

A fight against Weidman is not a walk in the park. He has submission skills and can take down just about anybody in the division. He also has the striking capabilities to stand if he is forced to do so. He is a hungry fighter that will do whatever it takes to win, which is something he hasn’t gotten a lot of praise for.

The fact of the matter is that there are some fighters who are just tailor-made for other fighters, and there are plenty of fighters out there who may have the skill set necessary to defeat Weidman. That fighter may not be the best in the business or be close to a legend like Silva, but he is out there.

With that being said, here are the top five fighters who have the best shot of defeating the champ if given the opportunity in 2014:

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The Dark Horse: Michael Bisping

Brad Penner-USA Today Sports

Talk about a fighter who doesn’t get enough credit in the UFC. Love him or hate him, Michael Bisping is talented. Though only 3-2 in his past five fights, it is possible for “The Count” to land a title shot with some help from other contenders losing.

Bisping is one of those all-around good fighters. If you look at him in single dimensions, he isn’t terrific in one specific area. He has decent stand up and takedown defense, stopping the takedown 64 percent of the time according to Fight Metric. The biggest question mark in Bisping’s game is his mind. He just can’t seem to win the big fights. He lost a controversial decision to Chael Sonnen that cost him a shot at Anderson Silva and lost to Vitor Belfort with title implications on the line again.

Now coming off a win against Alan Belcher and still ranked fifth in the UFC rankings, Bisping could be just a few fights way from a title shot (if other top contenders lose along the way). If that opportunity does come, expect Bisping to try and keep the fight standing. That would be the only way for him to win the fight. The champ is too dominant if the fight goes to the ground.

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5. Luke Rockhold

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The former Strikeforce middleweight champion got a rude welcome to the UFC when the organization matched him with the current no. 1 contender Vitor Belfort. It didn’t take long for “The Phenom” to knock Rockhold out. That fight is in the past now and Rockhold still possesses the tools necessary to make a run for the title.

Despite being spoon-fed in Strikeforce, Rockhold does have some fights on his resume that count for something. He has battled and beaten Ronaldo Souza and Tim Kennedy. Rockhold knows what it takes to go five rounds, something Chris Weidman has yet to do as champ. If Rockhold wins at least three fights in a row, expect the UFC to start wondering when to give Rockhold that opportunity.

Rockhold is another all-around fighter, but his stand-up game is where he is most talented and comfortable. Though he has six wins by submission, those were against suspect opposition during his earlier days. As he transitioned toward better competition, trading with people seems to be what he is best at. If he gets a title shot against Weidman, the feet is probably where he would want the fight to take place.

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4. Francis Carmont

Kyle Terada-USA Today Sports

The TriStar export is finally beginning to make his way up the ladder in the middleweight division. It took a dominating performance against Constantios Philippou to do it. Training in the same gym as Georges St. Pierre has to have a positive effect on a fighter.

Carmont is on a six-fight win streak in the UFC and hasn’t been defeated in the organization. He hasn’t beaten the best competition, but outside of the top-10, there isn’t much competition in the division to build on. He does have a great ground game, as was displayed in the Philippou fight. He also doesn’t mind grinding a fight out to win.

Against Weidman, there is a chance Carmont could grind out a victory in an ugly fashion. Of course, the flip side is possible as well. If Carmont finds a way to defeat Ronaldo Souza in his next fight, expect us to find out which is true.

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3. Vitor Belfort

Jason da Silva-USA Today Sports

“The Phenom” will be the first person other than Anderson Silva to get a crack at the new middleweight champion. Chris Weidman winning the title was the best thing that could have ever happened for Vitor Belfort, who was being kept away from a title shot since losing to Silva in embarrassing fashion. Now he will get another shot at UFC gold.

Everyone knows Belfort is an explosive fighter. He can turn on the engine at any point in a fight and finish an opponent in the blink of an eye. He did so in his past three victories (Dan Henderson, Luke Rockhold and Michael Bisping). He could very well do the same against Weidman. The only thing keeping Belfort from being no. 1 on the list is his ground game.

Belfort is a Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt, which means he may be comfortable being taken down by Weidman in an attempt to catch the wrestler in a submission. If that happens, Belfort is finished. He will need to keep the fight standing if he wants to win against the champion.

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2. Lyoto Machida

Jason da Silva-USA Today Sports

Lyoto Machida is a puzzle that hasn’t truly been solved. He is a fighter that no one in the division has fought. His karate is superb, to put it lightly. He knows how to use it and can take advantage of crazy angles. He is also good at baiting people into fighting his fight. It’s hard to say if there is anyone at middleweight that will be able to beat this man.

“The Dragon” has only fought once at middleweight, but the weight cut doesn’t seem to be affecting his skills set in any way. He is a fighter who may possess the perfect storm to defeat the champ. If Chris Weidman got too aggressive against Machida, he would get caught. If Weidman was too comfortable against Machida, he could get picked apart.

The only thing Weidman could try to do is grab a hold of Machida and hope to take him down. The only thing is that Machida is not easy to keep down once he is there.

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1. Ronaldo Souza

Jason Silva-USA Today Sports

The man who possesses all the tools to defeat Chris Weidman right now is Ronaldo Souza. The former Strikeforce champion has steamrolled his opponents in his first two UFC outings and is riding a five-fight win streak dating back to 2012. In his last outing, he made a very good fighter in Yushin Okami look like an amateur.

Souza possession the best jiu-jitsu in the middleweight division and also has the ability to knock people out, as shown against Okami. He has championship experience, so he knows what it is like to train for a five-round fight. He would be comfortable no matter where the fight went if he were to be matched up against Weidman.

He is another fighter who just seems to be tailor-made to defeat Weidman. He is comfortable off his back and good enough off his back to catch Weidman sleeping for half of a second, which is all it takes for Souza to lock in a submission to win the fight. The fight would probably be even on the feet, but it’s almost certain that Weidman would try to take the fight to the ground to prove a point, which is where Souza would catch him eventually.

If Souza makes it past Francis Carmont, he should receive the next bid for the title.