UFC Welterweight Division: State of the Union

UFC 129 St-Pierre vs Shields on April 30, 2011 in Toronto, Canada. (Photos from Al Bello/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images) via UFC.com

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.

Thanks to last week's Georges St. Pierre, Carlos Condit, Nick Diaz, B.J. Penn mayhem surrounding UFC 137, the Welterweight division has been receiving a lot of attention lately. We're also less than a week away from the next Fight Night, where a big Welterweight showdown between Jake Shields and Jake Ellenberger headlines. So today, we break down the 170 pound division and try to figure out where things are heading.

Overall, Welterweight is in a weird place, and has been for some time. The dominance of GSP, and the only slightly lesser dominance of Jon Fitch, can give the impression that it's a shallow division. But it's not. At all. Welterweight is stacked with some heavy hitters and a lot of relative newcomers looking to break into the top level.

Next in Line:

A week ago we thought it was Nick Diaz, but now Carlos Condit has cut ahead in line and will challenge St. Pierre at UFC 137. After the Condit fight, things get a bit complicated. One obvious choice is the winner of Nick Diaz vs. B.J. Penn, also at UFC 137. But will the UFC give Diaz a title shot so soon after taking the shot away? And if Penn and GSP both win, do we really need Georges St. Pierre vs. B.J. Penn for a 3rd time?

The other option is the constant #2 in the division - Jon Fitch. He's set to face Johny Hendricks at UFC 141. It's easy to overlook Fitch, but he has a truly astonishing record, with only one loss in the last 9 years and an incredible 13-1-1 UFC record. But he may need a big win over Hendricks instead of grinding out a decision if he wants that rematch.

Key Match Ups:

Lots of other big fights coming up that will help set up the next wave of contenders.

  • Jake Shields vs. Jake Ellenberger (UFC Fight Night 25) - Ellenberger is on a solid 4 fight win streak, while Shields is just one fight removed from actually having a bit of success against GSP. The winner here will be taking a solid step towards a future title shot.
  • Josh Koscheck vs. Matt Hughes (UFC 135) - With both men holding two losses each to St. Pierre, neither of these guys is getting a title shot soon. But Koscheck in particular is a fighter who will forever be right at the top.
  • Charlie Brenneman vs. Anthony Johnson (UFC on Versus 6) - Brenneman somewhat came out of nowhere early this summer when he stepped in for Nate Marquardt on late notice and upset Rick Story. If he can pull off a 2nd upset by defeating Johnson, his stock will soar. Johnson has established himself as one of the heavy punchers in this wrestler-heavy division. He returned from a year plus layoff earlier this year to impressively dominate Dan Hardy, and a lot of people think he'd make a real challenge to GSP.
  • Rick Story vs. Martin Kampmann (UFC 139) - Story looked like a breakout star of 2011 until Brenneman upset him in June. He'll look to regain that momentum against Kampmann, who is a skilled fighter, but unlikely to ever break out of his gatekeeper status.
  • Rory MacDonald vs. Brian Ebersole (UFC 140) - Two of the division's newest and most exciting names here. MacDonald is receiving a ton of hype, and at only 22 is already seen as a possible title challenger in the not distant future. Ebersole only has 2 UFC wins, but both are solid victories, and if he derails the MacDonald train, it will be huge.

Others to consider:

And finally, a few fighters with no upcoming fights set up, but who need to be considered.

  • Carlos Eduardo Rocha - He's just 1-1 in the UFC, 9-1 overall, and coming off a loss, but I still think this 30 year old has a world of potential. He could easily begin a run to the top soon.
  • Diego Sanchez - Set to face Hughes later this month, Sanchez was sidelined with an injury. I'm not sure he can get back up to contender status, but he consistently draws quality opponents.
  • Tyron Woodley - Yes, he's in Strikeforce, but does anyone really think that matters at this point? With Diaz gone, Woodley is the best talent left in Strikeforce's division. There's not much for him to do there, and a move to the UFC would be great.
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