With so many fights coming up spread across seven different weight classes, it's easy to lose track of what's happening in every division. Here, we take a look at where a particular division stands right now, and where it's headed.
Last week, a bombshell piece of news hit the UFC Welterweight division: dominant champion Georges St. Pierre is injured and a new interim champion will be crowned. It's been nearly 4 years since anyone other than GSP held that belt, and now, some new names finally have a chance to get their foot in the door. Who will make the most of this opening, and who will be waiting for GSP when he returns? Let's see who has a shot.
Next in Line:
At UFC 143 it will be the #3 ranked Nick Diaz vs. #5 Carlos Condit for the Interim Welterweight title. Great fight there, and one that has come about in a very convoluted series of events. What started at GSP vs. Nick Diaz at UFC 137 evolved into GSP vs. Carlos Condit when Diaz famously no-showed his media obligations. Then GSP was hurt, leading to the Diaz vs. B.J. Penn main event. After Diaz won, Diaz vs. GSP was back on, only for it to be switched yet again, this time to today's Diaz vs. Condit. Will we see more switches before February 4? I hope not, as this is a fight that really interests me, but we'll just have to wait and see.
Key Match Ups:
Looking over the division, the loss of the champ actually comes at a rather opportune time. Often when I put these lists together, there are 2 or 3 big fights to highlight. Not so this time. Take a look at the ridiculous action the 170 pounders have in store for us in the coming months:
- #2 Jon Fitch vs. #17 Johny Hendricks (UFC 141) - Jon Fitch may easily end up the big winner from this whole GSP situation. A Fitch vs. St. Pierre rematch seems more and more unlikely as time passes, but Fitch is beyond a doubt the dominant #2 in the division. If he can get past Hendricks (and I expect Hendricks won't be able to stop the Fitching), he could easily get a crack at the Diaz vs. Condit winner and find himself the interim champ awaiting GSP's return.
- #24 Siyar Bahadurzada vs. Erick Silva (UFC 142) - Yes I know, these are two new fighters who are still a fair bit outside the top of the division, but I believe both of the chance to be serious long-term contenders. One will take a nice step up by winning on a PPV card.
- #16 Charlie Brenneman vs. Daniel Roberts (UFC on FX) - Brenneman made a name for himself beating Rick Story as a last minute replacement for Nate Marquardt this summer, but needs another win to remind fans of that one. Roberts is on a 2 fight losing streak, and a loss to Brenneman will likely mean his UFC career ends for now.
- #6 Josh Koscheck vs. Mike Pierce (UFC 143) - Koscheck is the big loser in the GSP/Condit/Diaz scenario as he was set to face Condit at this show. Now he's against Pierce in a fight that doesn't do much for Koscheck if he wins, but really sets him back if he loses.
- #4 Jake Ellenberger vs. #11 Diego Sanchez (UFC on Fuel TV 1) - Ellenberger is on a great streak right now with his KO over Jake Shields capping a new rise up the ranks. Diego is only on a 2 fight win streak since his return to Welterweight, but he's a very established name with strong history in the UFC. Winner here is my pick for next challenger after Diaz vs. Condit.
- #7 Jake Shields vs. Yoshihiro Akiyama (UFC 144) - I've long felt a move to 170 would be good for Akiyama, and he's finally doing so at UFC 144. Unfortunately, he makes that move in a debut against the top ranked Shields. This is a weird fight where you have two highly skilled fighters who just have not gotten it together lately. Winner could be stepping closer to title contention - loser could be cut.
- #9 Martin Kampmann vs. #12 Thiago Alves (UFC on FX 2) - I love this fight. Two entertaining fighters who are sure to go at it here. I don't see either man getting up to title contention soon, but it's still a very good fight that deserves a close look.
- #13 Rory MacDonald vs. Che Mills (UFC 145) - MacDonald returns to action here after being briefly sidelined. It's a shame he missed out on the planned fight with Ebersole, which would have been much more exciting. This fight feels like he is treading water for a bit, waiting for a bigger fight next time out.
In The Mix:
Just in case that wasn't enough, here is another handful of fighters who could make a big impact in their next fight:
- #15 Rick Story - Poor Story has lost most of the momentum he had mid-year. After beating Thiago Alves and being scheduled to face Nate Marquardt, he looked on the verge of the top 5. He's now on a 2 fight losing streak, but definitely has the skill to get back in contention.
- #21 Brian Ebersole - That UFC 140 win over Claude Patrick wasn't pretty, and it won't do his quest for a title shot any favors. But he is still a worthy contender, who should have a good fight next time out.
Others to Consider:
And finally, a few names that may not find themselves in the title picture any time soon, but should be mentioned:
- #10 Anthony Johnson - He's facing Vitor Belfort at Middleweight at UFC 142, but has stated that he's still unsure if that is a permanent move up to 185 or just a one time thing. I think a move would be wise, but we'll see how that fight goes.
- #8 B.J. Penn - Is he retired? Taking a break? It's unclear, but if the former champion returns, he'll absolutely be right back in the top of the division.
- Matt Hughes - Is he retired? Taking a break? It's unclear, but if the former champion returns, he... will get a notable fight, but won't be a relevant factor in the division. Sorry.
- Carlos Eduardo Rocha - One of my favorite up and comers in the division to watch for. He's 9-1 with that only loss coming against Ellenberger in a fight where Rocha had some very good success.
- #18 Tyron Woodley - Pretty much the entirety of the Strikeforce Welterweight division; he'll face Jordan Mein on January 7.