|Jason (The Athlete) MacDonald (right) battles with Wilson Gouveia at The Ultimate Fighter 8 Finale. At UFC 97: Redemption in Montreal, MacDonald takes on Nate (Rock) Quarry. (UFC photo)
Of the five weight classes in the UFC, middleweight is the most frequently maligned by fans for its 'shallow' talent pool.
Despite being home to many great fighters like Rich Franklin, Dan Henderson, Nate Marquardt, Demian Maia and Yushin Okami, the division can't seem to catch a break.
For Canadian UFC middleweight Jason (The Athlete) MacDonald, this can only be attributed to one man: 185 lbs. champion Anderson (The Spider) Silva.
"I would say the division is full of talented fighters, but middleweight has quite possibly the best fighter in the world and everybody else pales in comparison," MacDonald said. "Anderson casts a pretty big shadow over the division. If he was to retire tomorrow and his belt was to become vacant, I think you'd see some tremendous matchups.
"If you look at any other division, they have great fighters but they don't have such a dominant champion. Even welterweight -- you have Georges St. Pierre who's a great fighter and champion, but he's not dominating people in the fashion that Anderson Silva is."
MacDonald, who is coming off a December loss to Wilson Gouveia, will take on Nate (The Rock) Quarry on the undercard of UFC 97 in Montreal. In the main event, Silva will defend the middleweight title against Thales Leites.
MacDonald said the key to a successful MMA division isn't a strong champion, but rather tough competition.
"Look at the light-heavyweight division," MacDonald began. "You had Chuck Liddell, who was dominating everyone for so long, but then he loses to 'Rampage' (Quinton Jackson), 'Rampage' loses to Forrest (Griffin) and Forrest loses to Rashad (Evans). It really opened up a whole new chapter in that division. I think the same thing would happen with middleweight if you were to factor Anderson Silva out."
Going into UFC 97 a small part of MacDonald has to be cheering on Leites, but he doesn't hold out hope for the Brazilian Jiu Jitsu black belt.
"If Thales Leites wins this weekend, it will really open things up," MacDonald said. "There are a number of exciting fights that you could throw at him that would give the division some new life.
"I don't think Thales Leites stands a chance. That's nothing personal. He's a great fighter, but I've heard from many sources that Anderson has some amazing Jiu Jitsu guys in his camp and they're not able to submit him. So I don't think Thales will bring anything to the octagon that Anderson isnít ready for."