Middleweight is a difficult division when it comes to ranking the all-time best fighters in MMA history. One man, Anderson Silva, clearly stands alone at the top of the pack. But then comes a grouping of 8-10 men who all have strengths and weaknesses that could put them at No. 2 or No. 10.
There's Michael Bisping's longevity as a contender, Rich Franklin's turn as the UFC's best pre-Silva middleweight, Chris Weidman's brief but brilliant prime, Israel Adesanya's young and still developing legacy, and so on. These complications led to more spirited debate than any other division the CBS Sports experts have ranked in recent months.
But the ballots are in, and you can check out the middleweight rankings according to votes cast by Brent Brookhouse, Brian Campbell, Brandon Wise and Jack Crosby.
10. Yoel Romero
You can make a legitimate case that Romero should be undefeated at middleweight and should be the current UFC champ. He has not clearly lost a fight at 185 pounds in his career, dropping two fights to Robert Whittaker and fights to Paulo Costa and Israel Adesanya. Each of those fights had a contingent of fans who believe Romero should have been awarded the victory. Knockout wins over Luke Rockhold and Chris Weidman don't hurt Romero's standing in the division.
9. Robert Whittaker
Whittaker may be the ultimate example of how tight middleweight really is. With an 8-1 career record as a middleweight and a run as champion, Whittaker still ended up at No. 9. That is, in large part, due to his run of title fights. Whittaker beat Romero at UFC 213 to become interim champion and then won a split decision in the rematch -- a decision many felt was awarded to the wrong man. Though, the rematch is further complicated by Romero missing weight for the fight. Then, Whittaker was taken out by Israel Adesanya with a second-round knockout, ending an odd run as middleweight champion. There's still plenty of time for Whittaker to further build his legacy and finish his career even higher on the all-time rankings.
8. Rich Franklin
Before there was Anderson Silva, there was Rich Franklin. He was the face of the UFC middleweight division before Silva came in to blow the division away. The names during Franklin's run at middleweight aren't as impressive as some of the others, but in the mid-2000s, Franklin proved himself ahead of the rest of the pack in the pre-Silva UFC. He also didn't simply win, he was a finisher, stopping some of the toughest in the game before a late-career shift back to light heavyweight.
7. Vitor Belfort
Belfort's legacy is complicated by testosterone replacement therapy and allegations that go beyond the controversial practice. That said, Belfort was a wrecking ball at middleweight and picked up wins over Rockhold and Bisping as well as multiple wins over Dan Henderson -- though one was at light heavyweight. He never captured UFC gold at middleweight, costing him some points in the legacy department, but Belfort was a monster among the 185-pound ranks.
6. Gegard Mousasi
Mousasi was a force in Japan's DREAM, winning the 2008 middleweight grand prix. He then spent years at light heavyweight before eventually moving back to middleweight in the UFC. While that run got off to a rocky start, Mousasi eventually went on a five-fight winning streak in the Octagon, including wins over Thiago Santos, Belfort, Uriah Hall and Weidman before leaving for Bellator. He would go on to win the Bellator title and successfully defend it to add a legitimate title reign to his resume.
5. Luke Rockhold
Rockhold was the man in the Strikeforce middleweight division, winning the title against Jacare Souza and defending successfully in impressive showings against Keith Jardine and Tim Kennedy. His UFC debut against Belfort resulted in a knockout loss, but a five-fight winning streak to follow -- including wins over Bisping and Lyoto Machida -- culminated in a knockout of Weidman to become UFC champion. Things went downhill from that point, but Rockhold capturing two major championships and scoring big wins over elite fighters landed him in the top five of the CBS rankings.
4. Israel Adesanya
Thirty years old. 19-0. Current UFC middleweight champion. Wins over Anderson Silva, Kelvin Gastelum, Whittaker and Romero. If there's any man on the planet currently with any chance to challenge Silva for the status as best middleweight ever, it is Adesanya. With a more impressive showing against Romero, it's possible Adesanya could be ranked even higher on the list. But recency amplifies everything, for better or worse. Adesanya has been an amazing competitor to this point in his career and the sky is the limit for his long-term legacy.
3. Michael Bisping
Bisping's case is one of longevity. He spent more than a decade in the UFC's Octagon as a top contender without ever managing to earn his way to a title fight. When he finally was afforded the opportunity to contend for the belt -- a result of a Weidman injury -- Bisping knocked out Rockhold to become champion, an opportunity largely presented because he had managed to beat Anderson Silva in a disputed decision. That much of Bisping's prime was fought with one eye -- quite literally -- speaks to his toughness and incredible drive to be the best.
2. Chris Weidman
It feels like Weidman's prime came and went in a flash, but at his best, he was a true all-time elite. Weidman was the man who ended the mystique of Anderson Silva. First, by knocking a taunting Silva out to capture the middleweight title and then by retaining when Silva's leg snapped in half in a freak injury. Weidman started his career 13-0, beating Demian Maia, Tom Lawlor, Mark Munoz and Belfort in addition to the wins over Silva. A 1-5 record in his last six, including a desperation move to light heavyweight, signaled the end to Weidman's time as an elite fighter, but his prime years and performances can't be erased.
1. Anderson Silva
Anderson Silva is middleweight MMA. With 10 successful title defenses in the UFC, Silva was an unstoppable force that left the rest of the division looking nowhere near his level. Silva had to take light heavyweight fights just to spice things up and make it seem as though he was at risk of ever losing. The end came fast and hard for Silva, as just the slightest dip in speed led to getting caught by Weidman, but time catches up with all men, especially in the Octagon. With 16 wins to start his UFC career, Silva established himself as arguably the greatest fighter in the history of the sport, and certainly the best fighter in middleweight history.