Don’t bother exhaling. In the shadow of the fallout from UFC 148, and Anderson Silva’s second-round TKO of Chael Sonnen to conclude their bitter feud, the UFC production team will fire up in mere days when Mark Munoz and Chris Weidman headline UFC on FUEL 4 in San Jose, Calf., Wednesday night. I interviewed Weidman (8-0) 24 hours before Silva-Sonnen II while the Baldwin, N.Y., resident packed for the cross-country trip and asked for a prediction. Weidman never picked a clear-cut winner, instead offering scenarios that would favor him no matter who emerged victorious.
"If I had to put all my money on who I think is going to win I think I'd put it on Anderson Silva," Weidman said. "As a fan I'd want to see Chael Sonnen win. As a fighter, a guy who wants to beat the legacy of Anderson Silva himself, I'd rather have Anderson Silva win. Either way it's a no-lose situation for me."
I’ll have a lot more on the biggest fight of Weidman’s young career before Wednesday, but I’ll reveal this now: If he beats Munoz, he’s expecting either being named No. 1 contender, or at least being granted a No. 1 contender’s bout.
"We’ll see what happens, but I have to prove myself against Mark Munoz first," Weidman said.
There is speculation that a Munoz victory earns the NCAA Division I wrestling champion out of Oklahoma State the next shot at the Spider – assuming the UFC doesn’t pull the trigger on Silva vs. Jon Jones at the end of the year (assuming Jones successfully defends his light-heavyweight championship against Dan Henderson). Munoz (12-2) has been on a tear since a razor-thin loss to Yushin Okami in August 2010, but Michael Bisping, Alan Belcher and Brian Stann are all in the picture. Though Bisping is off a loss to Sonnen, it was a fight many thought he won and the Count has yet to receive a title shot in his six years in the UFC.
Both Belcher (5-1 in his last six) and Stann (back on the winning trail after a 2011 submission loss to Sonnen), have expressed a desire to fight Bisping, and a wild-card, or monkey wrench (depending on your point of view), at 185 is Hector Lombard. The undefeated and former Bellator champion was lined up to headline UFC on FOX 4 before Stann pulled out with a shoulder injury. Lombard’s debut is later this month at UFC 149 against Tim Boetsch, a sleeper in the division following his comeback win over Okami. If Lombard impressively defeats the Barbarian, that may be enough for him to get the title shot, which wouldn’t sit well with Bisping and most definitely Munoz.
If Weidman wins, expect the UFC to feed him at least one more top contender. My guess it’s either Lombard or Belcher, while Stann is matched with Bisping. Ditto if it’s Munoz. If Silva-Jones is to ever happen, it has to this year, so let that superfight conclude 2012 while the rest of the middleweight division sorts itself out.
Follow Jon Lane on Twitter: @JonLaneNYC