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Flattening the Middle Weight Division

Editor’s Note:  We at last word are pleased to add Christian Leflur to our writing team.  He will be covering the world of MMA, starting with this week’s column which is an inside look at what is next for the UFC Middleweight Division.

This last Saturday’s UFC on FX 8 event helped straighten out the middle weight division, or if not straighten it out, it at least flattened the dimensions a little. What was at stake was the UFC debut of the former Strikeforce middle weight champion Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza(18-3), the last Strikeforce middle weight champion Luke Rockhold (10-2) and then there was Vitor Belfort (23-10).

Rockhold was pitted against Belfort in a number one contender matchup. Being the final champion of the now incorporated Strikeforce was going to give him the clout to walk in and take the UFC middle weight division by storm. He was supposed to demolish Belfort and then move on to claim, let’s be real, the gold that would probably still be hanging around champion Anderson Silva’s waist, after his bout with Chris Weidman.

Sadly for Rockhold these were simply delusions in an aborted timeline he will never get to be part of other than in his dreams. Luke ran into a Belfort that has not looked this good in years. There are many fingers pointing to reasons why this may be, but I will not be doing that right now. All I will say is that Belfort looked amazing and looked in control of the fight the entire time. He stuffed takedowns, threw punches at will and landed a spinning heel kick to put Rockhold down before finishing on the ground all in the first round. I am tired even writing it.

So where do these two go from here? Well Belfort should be getting the next title shot. He has finished, in devastating fashion as they say, his last two number one contender fights and he would have had the shot even sooner if he had not fought Silva for the belt in his second fight after returning to the UFC  and been face kicked into oblivion. And even though Rockhold does not get to live out his dream, his situation is not as dire as I may have let on. He is still one of the better fighters in the division and with his good looks and marketability he will need only be a few good fights against tough competition before he can get a title shot.  Assuming of course that he can pull it back together and string wins together in those fights. In fact, maybe we could see this rematch later on, but this time with the belt on the line. Who knows, but that is for a later time.

Now we move onto Jacare. I will be honest; I have got a thing for this guy. It is not often you run into somebody that searches for submissions the way Belfort looks for knockouts. I just wish Damian Maia was still a middle weight so he, Jacare and Roger Gracie could settle who the best grappler in MMA really is. Okay, enough with my dreams. Jacare was supposed to have a contender battle himself with “new to the top” Costa Philippou (12-2). It would have been a good fight but Philippou was hurt and Chris “Balls of Steel” Camozzi (19-6) stepped in to take the fight in his place. He did so on short notice, against Jacare, in Brazil; thus, balls of steel.

And so this fight went from a real contender fight to a “let’s see if Jacare chokes” spotting. He did not, and the fight went the way that most of us thought that it would. Jacare put his hands on Camozzi, who was worried about the takedown, and tried to defend it.  Once Jacare did get Camozzi down on the mat, he just went to work. I was impressed with Camozzi’s defense but in the end there was not much for him to do other than to go to sleep in the quickest arm triangle that I have ever seen.

So, now here is where it gets interesting. For Camozzi he goes back and tries to get his streak going again against mid-level competition. Jacare really lost nothing in how he won this fight. In his post-fight interview Jacare called out winner of the main event, but after the hurt Belfort put on Rockhold he later recanted. During the post-fight press conference Jacare went on to explain that he needs more experience before he will be able to take that fight. He did not outright turn it down, but he did make it clear he was not looking for Belfort as his next opponent. Now, maybe he thought Rockhold would win and he wanted another shot at the guy who took his title, maybe he just does not want to fight Belfort (I don’t blame him) or maybe he is just being practical and knows he probably won’t get that fight.

Either way that is not the fight I want to see.  Rather, I hope Jacare’s next fight to be against Belfort’s last victim. I would like to see Jacare fight Michael Bisping (24-5). I am curious to see if Jacare can submit the Brit and if Bisping wins, it will put him that much closer to a fight with Anderson Silva. A fight I have been longing to see for very selfish reasons for a long time. I will just say this, I see no way Bisping would win and I think it would be a lot of fun to watch.  Lets hope this weekend can lead us to see some of these interesting match-ups down the road.

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