Can The Spider be defeated? Will his dominant reign over the UFC’s middleweight division ever come to an end? These were often the thoughts going through many viewers minds when they would get to see Anderson Silva fight.

As of late is has been quite different, Silva has been getting criticized for his past two performances. Is it that we may be spoiled as the audience, and as of late he has faced some good competition? Or is it the opposite, and Silva is just toying with his current opponents because the competition is not good enough for him?

I tend to think it’s been a little of everything but today we’re not going to talk about Silva much, but more of the possible contenders who could dethrone him of his belt and give him his first loss in the UFC.

First in line: Demian Maia

10-0 submission ace Demian Maia is considered to be a strong contender to the throne and widely recognized to be one of the elite ground fighters in the business. His most recent victory was a complete domination of WEC import Chael Sonnen, which ended by a triangle in round one at UFC 95.

This man is said to make many black belts in Jiu-Jitsu feel like nothing more than a blue belt if that. Frank Mir has been one to confess that he thought he was actually good until he rolled with Maia. This is one of the reason’s the dangerous Brazilian is Mir’s head Jiu-Jitsu coach for his upcoming fight with Brock Lesnar at UFC 100. Maia has expressed his excellent mastering of his skills in his 8 submission wins out of his 10 wins.

As it stands Maia is 5-0 since joining the UFC in 2007, he has ended every fight by submission in the UFC with only 2 of his victims making it out of round one. With the way the division is going it looks like Demian is most likely to be next in line for a title shot, all we can hope for is that he tries to bring more of a fight then what was presented with the last contender at UFC 97. I am confident he will bring his A game if he get’s to fight Silva next, one of the main reasons I am confident in his ability is because he is now fighting with the Wand Fight Team which is lead by none other than former Pride-FC middleweight champ Wanderlei Silva. Who knows if he will be next, but if I was in the shoes of Matchmaker I know who would be first in line.

Almost there: Yushin Okami

When people hear the name Yushin Okami they can’t help but think to themselves one of a couple things, one being that he is known as the very un-marketable decision king, and the other being that he is one of the most overlooked contender’s in the UFC’s middleweight division.

I can’t help but to be on the latter end of things, I see him as a clear cut contender and potentially bringing Silva some stiff competition, which seems to be missing in his previous two outings. Okami is a fighter known for great wrestling ability, a good chin, and solid stand up. Many people have complained that he has too many decision wins, well I beg to differ seeing that 8 of is 23 wins have come by (T)KO, and 4 by Submission. What that shows me is that he can be dangerous where ever the fight goes and isn’t a one trick pony.

In my opinion the match of Silva and Okami is great, because the champs last loss was back in 2006 ten fights ago to Okami at Rumble on the Rock 8. The loss occurred in the first round of the fight. After Silva had been taken down, and with Okami in his guard he threw an illegal right kick to his head knocking him nearly unconscious.

Okami in no way had been dominant of Silva during the bout, while on the feet he was continually hit with hard kicks to his leading right leg and even went down twice during the bout. It was a good single leg takedown from Okami that brought the match to the ground. Even while on the canvas Silva was able to control most of the damage Okami was trying to apply. Up until the disqualification it was still looking in favor of The Spider.

Since that match Silva has been on a 10 fight win streak and the dominant champion in the UFC middleweight division, Okami has gone 9-2 in his past 11 fights, with his two losses being decisions to Jake Shields following directly after his bout with Silva at Rumble On The Rock 9, and then to Rich Franklin at UFC 72. Both fighters are so close in records and size. They both stand at 6’2” and their records are but one win shy of being the same Silva has a record of 24-4 while Okami holds a record of 23-4.

Okami looks to improve his record in his upcoming match at UFC 98 when he faces some stiff competition in Dan Miller. If he gains a win he would be 4-0 in the UFC, and in my opinion 1 or 2 fights from the title. Finally the UFC takes him serious seeing that he was not relished away to the undercard, instead he is featured as one of the fights on the main card.

Last but not least: Nate “The Great” Marquardt

Having started off in the UFC with a good streak of 4 wins, Marquardt was suddenly derailed on his path to the title when he lost by TKO to none other than Silva at UFC 73. Since his loss it has been a rocky path in his fight back into title contention.

Following directly after Marquardt’s first TKO loss he came back with a dominating submission victory over long time MMA veteran Jeremy Horn in round two of UFC 81. He then faced a tough match in a split decision loss in favor of recent title contender Thales Leites at UFC 85. Many people felt he won this match but it was the two fouls within the fight that cost him the win.

Since his last defeat he has gone 2-0, defeating some very good competition in both Martin Kampmann at UFC 88 and Wilson Gouveia at UFC 95. Marquardt ended both fights with TKO victories.

Marquardt is the man that made Kampmann decide he was to small for the middleweight division, and forced him to move down to welterweight after being dominated and finished in the first round. When he faced Gouveia it was a tough match, but the cardio and intensity that Marquardt would bring in round three is what secured the win with a big knee and a flurry of punches.

All in all it upsets me when people say there is no more contender’s left for Silva to Fight, because in my eyes I see a line of people awaiting a fight with the always elusive champ.

Still in the mix of things:

Also a few interesting fights people should watch for are the upcoming main event at UFC 99 when Wanderlei Silva and Rich Franklin face off at a catch weight of 195, if Silva does really well this could possibly usher in a new weight class or give him the incentive to make the cut down to 185 where he could prove to be effective.

I am also looking at the winner of The Ultimate Fighter coaches, when Michael Bisping and Dan Henderson face off at the extremely stacked UFC 100. The match should be great seeing that Bisping is on a three fight win streak since dropping to 185. After he faced a split decision loss to current light heavyweight champ Rashad Evans at UFC 78. Bisping most recently recorded a decision victory over Chris Leben at UFC 89.

While on the other end Henderson has gone on a 2 fight win streak since his loss to Silva at UFC 82, he most recently beat Rich Franklin by a split decision in a close contested fight at UFC 93.

I could see it going one of two ways with these results; The winner of Bisping and Henderson getting a title shot, or facing whoever is victorious in Silva vs. Franklin. Alhough if Bisping is victorious at UFC 100, don’t be surprised if he is first in line for title contention.

Either way it’s good to see possible fresh blood in a division that many people see as lacking. I also tend to believe Silva should truly clean out his own division before looking at possible matches at light heavyweight.