Fight Club: Who stands in Anderson SIlva's way?

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Tainted legend: Anderson Silva.

Anderson Silva is back and ‘The Spider’ is ready and primed to crawl his way back to the top of the middleweight division.

On February 27, arguably the greatest fighter to have graced the UFC returns to the Octagon after a year on the shelf. The Brazilian takes on perennial title contender Michael Bisping in London for the first time since failing a drug test. And he wants his belt back.

It was a personal nadir for Silva after he tested positive in several tests following his victory over Nick Diaz at UFC 183. It has forever tarnished his legacy. Now, at 40 years old and with the 185lbs division brimming with talent and intrigue can he make a run at the division he once dominated? We take a look at the state of the middleweight picture.

The Champion

Luke Rockhold – At UFC 194 the former Strikeforce middleweight champ added the UFC strap to his collection. With his marketable good looks and just downright frightening skills in the Octagon, Rockhold has all the tools to dominate the 185lbs division for years to come.

He has just one defeat to his name in the UFC against Vitor Belfort but has proven himself to be one of the most complete fighters in the promotion. In his first title defence, Rockhold will face the man he stripped the belt from, Chris Weidman at UFC 199 and other threats are looming, too.

The Contenders

Chris Weidman – The former champ shocked the world – twice. Weidman did the unthinkable in ending Silva’s almost insurmountable win-streak and followed up with his 2014 Fight of the Year candidate with Lyoto Machida and demolition of Belfort. Of course, then he met Rockhold but he will have his chance of retribution this summer.

Anderson Silva – You can never count him out. Yes, he’s nearing 41 and yes he struggled in his last victory over Nick Diaz but a win over Bisping and a bit of luck could throw ‘The Spider’ right back into the mix. He wants his belt and Rockhold welcomes that challenge.

Jacare Souza – A submission specialist, Jacare sits at No. 2 in the rankings after Yoel Romero’s removal following a failed a drugs test. He was beaten by Romero at UFC 194, though many scored the fight in his favour, but remains in the picture with the Cuban’s future cloudy.

Michael Bisping – At 36 this is surely his last run at UFC gold. He’s lost three title eliminators and looked out of contention completely after being submitted by Rockhold. However, beat the former king this month and not only will he cement his spot as a top contender once more but his legacy, too.

Best of the Rest

Vitor Belfort – Rockhold wants Belfort on a platter to avenge his loss and that alone makes the Brazilian an enticing prospect. Many thought his days as a contender were done after the battering handed down by Weidman. However, ‘The Phenom’ has a de facto title eliminator scheduled against Jacare for May.

Robert Whittaker – At 25 he, unlike most of the contenders, has time on his side. His most notable win came against Uriah Hall as a short-notice replacement and he is 3-0 since moving up to 185lbs. Title contention beckons.

Lyoto Machida – A long shot, despite being ranked No4, he’s lost three of his last four fights and there is no rush to see him take on the elite again soon.

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