After failing to secure a No. 1 contender spot for a third time, Bisping has left the UFC to explore interesting options for a title shot against P4P king Anderson Silva. "The Spider" has already confirmed he'd like to be back in the octagon by spring.
Here are the five best possible opponents for the champ:
5. Hector Lombard
After an impressive showing against the always dangerous Rousimar Palhares, Hector Lombard is making a name for himself in the UFC. The former Bellator star destroyed Palhares in the first round and is now set to face Yushin Okami in March.
Besides his explosive fists, Lombard is a former Olympic Judo competitor and a black belt in BJJ. If the Cuban star gets past Okami's wrestling, expect him to face either Mark Munoz or the aforementioned Bisping. With a victory over at least two of these men Lombard should be in line for a title shot by the end of 2013.
4. Luke Rockhold
When Strikeforce came to end earlier this month, many fans were left pondering which fighters would make it over to the master brand. Without a doubt, the final champion of the middleweight division –Luke Rockhold– is a definite lock.
A product of San Jose's AKA gym, Rockhold entered Strikeforce in 2008 and didn't lose a bout on his way to the championship. He cleared the division with his precise kickboxing and top shelf BJJ . Make no mistake; Rockhold hasn't faced anyone near the level of Silva but a fight with the champ is a very possible scenario. We'd like to see him fight some top level contenders (Stann,Belcher) before he does get a shot at the title but don't be surprised if his first UFC bout is against the champ.
Just last week Vitor Belfort ended Bisping's title hopes with a stunning head kick that led to a hard earned TKO.
Yes, we know what you're thinking –"Belfort had his chance against Silva in 2011 and got kicked into oblivion." True –but after nearly submitting light heavyweight champ Jon Jones last year and with a victory over Bisping, the old lion has captivated our attention yet again. Belfort has the experience, speed and power to always be a dangerous opponent to any man — including Silva. Hopefully Belfort will continue to play spoiler to any possible contenders and end up being awarded with a shot himself. Hey, we'd watch it.
2. Rashad Evans
It's been well documented that wrestlers have given Silva trouble in the past and Rashad Evans is the best of the bunch.
After losing to Jon Jones last April, Evans has a date penciled in with Lil' Nog. If he comes out on top, a move to the middleweight division should greatly benefit Evans. He's alway been on the smaller side of the 205 division and now with a new array of giants entering the mix, this is the best possible time for Evans to make a move.
Besides his NCCA Division I wrestling pedigree, "Suga" is blessed with cat-like quickness and decent punching power. This could be a complete long shot but we would not rule this out.
1. Chris Weidman
The Chris Weidman Kool-Aid pitcher has been passed around lately and it's hard to deny after five straight impressive UFC wins that he is the biggest threat to Silva's crown.
NCCA Division I Wrestling.
Technical boxing and kickboxing.
A BJJ purple belt.
…all part of Wediman's repertoire, and he's just getting started.
It's impossible to ignore Weidman's highlight KO of almost No. 1 contender, Mark Munoz — and we want to see more. Weidman has been on the shelf as of late but reports indicate that he should be back to action by the summer. If Silva does end up fighting in the spring it would be a shame if it wasn't against Weidman. This is the fight we want to see. This is the fight YOU want to see. Let's keep those fingers crossed.
Zachary Hutton is the lead boxing writer and an MMA contributor for CraveOnline Sports. You can see what he's up to at his band's website myunclethewolf.com or also subscribe at Facebook.com/CraveOnlineSports.