Nunes vs. Shevchenko Romero vs. Whittaker provided an extremely hard fought main event in which a damaged Robert Whittaker climbed his way back after losing the first two rounds to win the Interim Middleweight title. Robert Whittaker’s next test should in all likelihood be injured Middleweight Champion Michael Bisping. Whoever prevails in this highly anticipated matchup of champions will continue to receive dangerous opponents moving forward. The revamped 185 pound division stands as talented as ever before.
There was a time when the Middleweight Division was ruled by a superhuman named Anderson Silva. The talent in all reality may have been as good as it is now, but it is impossible to know for sure because of the manner in which Silva disposed of challengers. The current champ, Michael Bisping, may have went down as the best Middleweight to never hold the title had father time not snuck up on the Spider. There is a very good chance Yoel Romero finds himself in a similar position for different reasons, primarily his age and consistency of talent within the division. All things considered, where does Yoel Romero rank among the best Middleweights of all time never to become champion in a major organization (UFC, Pride, Bellator, Strikeforce)?
5. Thales Leites (27-7 Overall, 13-6 UFC MW)
Thales Leites is best known for his unusual championship matchup at UFC 97 against Anderson Silva. The fight saw him constantly pulling guard in an attempt to lure the striking phenom into a BJJ match. That is exactly what Silva did to all his opponents, he made them question their abilities on route to an inevitable defeat. Aside from this match up, Leites has been very successful over a very long period of time. He makes the list due to the elite BJJ skills and longevity of success, but lack of high level victories holds him at #5. His most notable wins are over Nate Marquardt, Ed Herman, and Tim Boetsch.
4. Demian Maia (25-6 Overall, 9-4 UFC MW)
At #4 on the list is a fighter who had an equally awkward bout against long time 185 pound kingpin Anderson Silva, Demian Maia. Maia is the greatest BJJ talent ever to step foot inside the Octagon but like many others, Silva managed to render his skills obsolete. The title fight was bizarre but Maia’s Middleweight resume is still impressive with wins over Chael Sonnen, Nate Quarry, and Jorge Santiago. Additionally, Maia has continued to progress his skills with time and now looks to be a force at a much more fitting 170 pounds.
3. Yoel Romero (12-2 Overall, 8-1 UFC MW)
It seems like just yesterday Yoel Romero burst onto the UFC Middleweight scene and his run to a title shot has been nothing short of amazing. Yoel is arguably the most physically impressive specimen to step foot inside the Octagon and his wrestling skills are among the most decorated. He narrowly missed out on UFC gold against Robert Whittaker and it is hard to argue that anyone else currently in the Middleweight Division can defeat him. It is unfortunate Romero got a late start in MMA because he likely doesn’t have many years left in the tank. Regardless of only being on the UFC roster just over 4 years, his resume is incredible. Romero holds stoppage wins over Brunson, Kennedy, Machida, and Weidman as well as a decision victory over Jacare Souza.
2. Yushin Okami (33-10 Overall, 13-5 UFC MW)
At #2 is another one of Anderson Silva’s victims, go figure. Aside from the highlight reel KO in his challenge to the title, Okami has been nothing short of a force at Middleweight. Okami sat among the most feared fighters in his division for a long period of time by utilizing his above average strength, durability, and wrestling skills. Additionally, his resume holds a victory from Rumble on the Rock over the GOAT, even if it was a DQ. Okami has impressive wins over Belcher (twice), Tanner, Munoz, Marquardt, and Lombard during his UFC tenure. Undoubtedly Okami is one of the best never to reach the pinnacle.
1. Gegard Mousasi (42-6-2 Overall, 8-3 UFC MW)
The ultra talented killer known as “The Dreamcatcher” (seriously bro?) often flies under the radar as he is a soft spoken fighter that focuses only on the task at hand, winning fights. Mousasi has held the Strikeforce crown at Light Heavyweight as well as DREAM Middleweight and Light Heavyweight titles at the same time, but never the UFC title. What is even more unbelievable is the fact he has never had the chance to challenge for the UFC title. This is largely in part to his professionalism and overall demeanor being a fight hyping liability to the UFC brass. Regardless of whether he will ever receive a UFC title shot at Middleweight, it is undeniable that he ranks among the most talented to ever fight in the division. Mousasi holds victories over a who’s who of fighters including Jacare, Henderson, Munoz, Leites, Belfort, and Weidman. It also must be noted he holds a submission victory over Heavyweight Mark Hunt in the DREAM Super Hulk Grand Prix, what a psychopath. I still have hope Mousasi captures the UFC Middleweight title one day, but if not at least he reigns at the top of this prestigious list.
Editor’s Note: Mousasi just signed with Bellator and ruined my day. Instead of facing Bisping, Whittaker, Romero, Souza, and Rockhold in can’t miss fights he will now face Rafael Carvalho and, well, that’s it. Damn, at least he got his title shot now.
Honorable Mention: Chael Sonnen, Matt Linland, Vitor Belfort, Nate Marquardt, Tim Boetsch