mma / Columns

UFC Middleweight Forecast: Cloudy with a Chance of Interim Titles

February 13, 2019 | Posted by Evan Zivin
Robert Whittaker UFC

Didn’t there used to be a time when the UFC’s weight classes were simple and easy to follow, without so much murkiness caused by unreliable champions and a backlog of challengers who are either unproven and being rushed to the top for their perceived marketability or are proven and just get jerked around because they’re cursed with the ability of understanding their own value?

Or am I imagining the UFC was ever like that? Man, I wish we could go back to pretending this company had integrity. SAVE US, LORENZO!

That’s not to say the middleweight division is as messed up as some of the other divisions, like the welterweights, or the lightweights, or the bantamweights, or the flyweights, or the heavyweights, or the light heavyweights, or…um…what was I talking about?

Hey, remember when the featherweight division was a mess? Those were the days…

The morning of Saturday’s UFC 234, there weren’t any major controversies to talk about when it came to the middleweights. Robert Whittaker, the man who became UFC Middleweight Champion after Georges St-Pierre performed a mic drop on Michael Bisping’s head and then vacated the title, was set to defend his championship against another man who was successful in finding a way to get Bisping to stop talking for at least a few seconds in Kelvin Gastelum.

And then he wasn’t, as it was announced hours before the event that Whittaker had to undergo emergency surgery to repair a hernia that, had it been targeted in a fight, could have led to a disaster for the UFC’s legal department.

Oh, and for Whittaker and all his loved ones too, I guess.

So, we lost our title fight and, in the only real move UFC could make without either canceling the event or seeing if Reebok’s website has any Donald Cerrone kits left, they elevated the co-main event to the main event.

That co-main event, however, is what complicates things further for the 185’ers, as it was a contest between rising star Israel Adesanya and former champion Anderson Silva in a fight marketed as a #1 contenders match.

Yeah, we all laughed at the thought of the UFC’s #6 ranked fighter taking on the #15 ranked fighter and saying the winner is deserving of the next title shot but it if wasn’t going to be the winner of this fight, then who was it going to be? Jacare Souza? Don’t make me laugh…

It’s all right, Jacare. Just a couple more years and that title shot will be yours! Maybe!

Either way, if the purpose of promoting the Adesanya vs. Silva fight was to push the ever-improving dynamo that is the 29 year old who many a President of the UFC has called “The next Anderson Silva” then…mission accomplished?

That’s not to say Adesanya put in a bad performance Saturday night. He looked good going toe to toe with Anderson and winning a unanimous decision against the Brazilian GOAT but it didn’t exactly feel like it was a performance that stayed on the same tracks as the hype train that’s been rolling since Adesanya entered the UFC a year ago.

Still, a win’s a win, and it came against a former champion and a ranked fighter (never mind Anderson only re-entered the rankings after the fight was announced because the UFC’s rankings are a joke). Plus. if Adesanya truly is a clone of Anderson, then maybe a fight with Anderson was the toughest matchup for him. Maybe now he’s going to run through everyone put in front of him, including the UFC Middleweight Champion.

That will depend, of course, on whether he gets to fight the UFC Middleweight Champion…

…Oh who am I kidding? Of course he will, with the Kamaru Usman level of praise Dana threw at him after the fight. The bigger question is whether Gastelum will get to fight the UFC Middleweight Champion.

Personally, I hope so. I mean, if Adesanya is considered worthy of a title shot, then Gastelum definitely is, fake title belt and all.

Seriously, what was up with Kelvin carrying a fake belt around in Australia? He can’t really think he’s champion just because Whittaker had to go under the knife on short notice, can he? Because if there’s anything fans love, it’s a champion who becomes one by default. Ain’t that right, DC?

C’mon, Kelvin. Get back to your Chael Sonnen tape study. You can do better.

If anything, it seemed like Kelvin was carrying around the belt in a poor attempt to look like he was still deserving to fight for it so Dana doesn’t pass over him once he’s done negotiating with Israel’s manager over how many of Izzy’s babies he’s planning to have.

The way forward for the middleweight division will obviously come down to when Whittaker will be back, which could be as soon as four weeks, although I highly doubt he’d want to fight again that soon after almost being murdered by his own intestines.

One thing we do know is he’ll be back. This wasn’t no nasal surgery or sinusitis. The man almost died!

And who will be waiting for him? Could be Gastelum. Could be Adesanya. Could be both. Won’t be Jacare.

This almost seems like the perfect opportunity for Dana to unleash his fetish for interim titles and have Kelvin and Israel square off to determine who, without a shadow of a doubt, is deserving of that title shot. This would be a situation that almost warrants it, especially if Whittaker sits out longer than expected.

And if he’s back quick? Then give Kelvin the shot and have Israel wait for the next one. Don’t be a jerk about it, UFC. Kelvin had the shot. Don’t take it away just because the champion pulled out hours before the fight.

I’m not joking. If Kelvin can’t be rewarded for the one time he actually does make weight, then this world truly is as cold and dark as it appears every time I close my eyes…

No, you’re the one with deep seated emotional problems.

It’s definitely amazing how quickly a division can be thrown into flux. Hopefully it gets resolved soon and we can return to life because, as messed up as this is, it’s still better than having Michael Bisping as champion, am I right?

Too soon?

Evan Zivin has been writing for 411 MMA since May of 2013. Evan loves the sport, and likes to takes a lighthearted look at the world of MMA in his writing…usually.

article topics :

Robert Whittaker, UFC, Evan Zivin