1. Anderson Silva
The questions regarding Anderson Silva now aren’t so much about whom in the middleweight division can defeat him, but who in mixed martial arts? He has had six fights since entering the Octagon – capturing the UFC championship in only his second bout for the promotion – and he has yet to be taken outside of the second round. Finishing off Dan Henderson, Nate Marquardt, Travis Lutter, Chris Leben, and Rich Franklin… twice, what else is left for him? Yushin Okami is a likely challenger, but now speculation has started that he may soon have to step outside of the middleweight division for a marquee challenge.
2. Paulo Filho
Despite rumors of recent bouts with depression, what really counts in MMA is what happens in the cage, and there is no questioning of Filho’s accomplishments there. A training partner of Ricardo Arona and Anderson Silva, he has managed to keep his perfect record intact, to an impressive 16 wins and no defeats. He will rematch Chael Sonnen later this month in defense of his World Extreme Cagefighting championship, but despite early struggles in their first bout, he still found a way to win, as he always has.
3. Rich Franklin
The only man to stop Franklin since he emerged in the UFC has been Anderson Silva, and so far, that hasn’t seemed to be anything to be ashamed of, as Silva has been running rough shod through everyone. Franklin has remained a constant contender in the division by defeating everyone else he has faced, including Okami, Jason MacDonald, Evan Tanner, Dave Loiseau, and others.
4. Denis Kang
One of the most consistent and active fighters in the sport, Kang has only lost two bouts in the past five years. That is over a span of 26 fights. His only decisive loss was a knockout by Yoshihiro Akiyama; the other defeat during that time being a split decision loss to No. 7 ranked Kazuo Misaki. Kang established himself on the world scene with wins over Amar Suloev, Murilo Rua, and Akihiro Gono while fighting for Pride FC.
5. Robbie Lawler
Following an up-and-down patch before he exited the UFC in late 2004, Lawler has become one of the more consistent fighters in the middleweight division. He has since posted a 7-1 record and captured the Icon Sport and EliteXC middleweight championships, defeating fighters such as No. 10 ranked Frank Trigg, Murilo “Ninja” Rua, and Joey Villasenor.
6. Nathan Marquardt
The only stumble for seven-time King of Pancrase Nathan Marquardt since making the move to the UFC two-and-a-half years ago has been the same as everyone else, Anderson Silva. Outside of this lone defeat in the Octagon, Marquardt has racked up five wins, including bouncing back from the loss to Silva with an impressive submission of Jeremy Horn, a veteran of 100-plus fights.
7. Kazuo Misaki
Misaki has consistently been on the cusp of cracking the upper half of the middleweight ranks, but always seems to hit a roadblock. Following wins over Phil Baroni and former Pride champion Dan Henderson he dropped a bout to Filho, bounced back with a win over Denis Kang, but then couldn’t get past Trigg. Misaki recently scored a victory over highly touted Siyar Bahadurzada, following a no contest with Akiyama.
8. Yushin Okami
Despite a slip against Franklin at UFC 72, Okami has rebounded to put himself back into title contention and could easily be the next in line to challenge Silva. He has gone 6-1 in the UFC, but that record has been dotted with decision victories, which likely has held him back from the main event. His recent outing at UFC 82, however, was an impressive knockout of former UFC champion Evan Tanner. That win, and a disqualification victory over Silva in Rumble on the Rock, is likely to raise his stock enough to get him a shot.
9. Dan Henderson
Henderson is a bit of an enigma in mixed martial arts, constantly floating back and forth between light heavyweight and middleweight. Even though he lost his last outing at middleweight – like everyone else, to Anderson Silva – the bout returned his eligibility to the middleweight division. His re-entry just goes to show the respect that Silva has garnered as not many fighters re-emerge in the rankings following a loss, but victories over Misaki, Gono, Ryo Chonan, and former UFC champion Murilo Bustamante, stack up well against just about anyone else’s victories in the division.
10. Frank Trigg
Since leaving the UFC in 2005 after running into brick walls named Matt Hughes and Georges St. Pierre, Trigg has put together a solid record of 4-2, fighting sporadically for various promotions. His wins include impressive performances against Misaki and Jason “Mayhem” Miller, amidst tough losses to highly ranked fighters Carlos Condit and Robbie Lawler.