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SportsMixed Martial Arts

Tracking the championship: UFC middleweight division

The UFC introduced its 185-pound championship at UFC 33, coinciding with the new Unified Rules of Mixed Martial Arts taking effect around the nation. Follow the path of the middleweight belt from 2001 to today.

Dave Menne

Successful title defenses: 0. Dave Menne became the
Photo Credit: Getty Images / Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC

Successful title defenses: 0.
Dave Menne became the inaugural 185-pound champion with a decision victory over Gil Castillo at UFC 33 on Sept. 28, 2001. While Menne's win was one of the more interesting fights of the night, UFC 33 always will be remembered as an underwhelming card that featured three title fights, none of which delivered a finish. In a competitive five-rounder, Menne dominated on the scorecards (49-43, 49-44, 49-45), beating Castillo for the defining moment of his MMA career.

Murilo Bustamante

Successful title defenses: 1. Murilo Bustamante entered the
Photo Credit: Getty Images / Zuffa LLC

Successful title defenses: 1.
Murilo Bustamante entered the UFC with a strong background in Brazilian jiu-jitsu, but he ended Menne's short title reign with his hands at UFC 35 on Jan. 11, 2002. Bustamante landed a right hand early in the second round that dropped Menne before finishing on the ground. The Brazilian successfully defended his title once against Matt Lindland before vacating his title to sign with Pride in October 2002.

Evan Tanner

Successful title defenses: 0. The UFC waited more
Photo Credit: Getty Images / Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC

Successful title defenses: 0.
The UFC waited more than two years to fill the vacant middleweight title, eventually pairing Evan Tanner against David Terrell at UFC 51 on Feb. 5, 2005. Tanner fought off a deep guillotine attempt early in the first round, eventually getting on top of Terrell and finishing the fight with punches to grab the title. Tanner competed in the UFC until 2008. In September of that year, Tanner died from heat exhaustion while on an excursion in the Southern California desert.

Rich Franklin

Successful title defenses: 2. Rich Franklin made his
Photo Credit: ASSOCIATED PRESS / Peter Morrison

Successful title defenses: 2.
Rich Franklin made his UFC debut in 2003 with a TKO win over Evan Tanner. He repeated the feat two years later at UFC 53 on June 4, 2005, to win the middleweight championship. The title fight ended by doctor's stoppage because of a cut on Tanner's eye. Franklin was the first true star to hold the middleweight belt, serving as coach on Season 2 of "The Ultimate Fighter" and successfully defending his belt twice with wins over Nate Quarry and David Loiseau.

Anderson Silva

Successful title defenses: 10. After making a name
Photo Credit: Getty Jeff Bottari

Successful title defenses: 10.
After making a name for himself in Pride and London-based Cage Rage, Anderson Silva made his long-awaited UFC debut in 2006 and didn't look back. A quick knockout of Chris Leben put Silva in line for the title, which he easily took from Rich Franklin with another first-round knockout at UFC 64 on Oct. 14, 2006. "The Spider" became the greatest champion the UFC has yet to see, successfully defending his title 10 times. He defeated some of the best 185-pounders in the world during his reign, including Franklin in a rematch, Pride champion Dan Henderson in a title unifier, Demian Maia, Vitor Belfort and Chael Sonnen twice. He also moved up to light heavyweight for an added challenge three times while champion, winning each bout by first-round knockout.

Chris Weidman

Successful title defenses: 3. Chris Weidman was seen
Photo Credit: Mario Gonzalez

Successful title defenses: 3.
Chris Weidman was seen as a potential challenge for Silva from the beginning of his MMA career, and the Long Island native came through. Following a year of uncertainty because of injury and Hurricane Sandy, Weidman entered the cage against Silva at UFC 162 on July 6, 2013. He capitalized on Silva's showmanship to knock out "The Spider" in the second round. A few months later, Weidman defeated Silva again a few months later when Weidman checked a leg kick, breaking Silva's leg. "The All-American" successfully defended the belt twice more against Lyoto Machida and Vitor Belfort. His three successful title defenses and three and a half years as middleweight champion are each the second longest in UFC history.

Luke Rockhold

Successful title defenses: 0. A former Strikeforce middleweight
Photo Credit: AP / John Locher

Successful title defenses: 0.
A former Strikeforce middleweight title holder, Luke Rockhold took the belt from Chris Weidman at UFC 194 on Dec. 12, 2015. After Weidman threw an ill-advised spinning kick in the third round, Rockhold took him to the ground and went to work. Rockhold couldn't get the finish in the third, but stayed with it in the fourth to win via TKO.

Michael Bisping

Successful title defenses: 1 Rockhold's time as champion
Photo Credit: Getty Images/ Jayne Kamin-Oncea

Successful title defenses: 1
Rockhold's time as champion came to a quick end in his first title defense at the hands of Michael Bisping. When Chris Weidman pulled out of a rematch against Rockhold at UFC 199 due to injury, Bisping stepped in following a decision win over Silva in his previous bout. The former "Ultimate Fighter" winner pulled off the upset, knocking out Rockhold with punches in the first round. In his first title defense, Bisping won a close decision over Dan Henderson at UFC 204.

Georges St-Pierre

St-Pierre returned from a four-year hiatus and submitted
Photo Credit: Mario Gonzalez

St-Pierre returned from a four-year hiatus and submitted Michael Bisping via rear naked choke in the third round to win the middleweight title at UFC 217 at Madison Square Garden on Nov. 4, 2017. St-Pierre became the fourth fighter to win title in two UFC weight divisions.

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