It's pretty obvious that the UFC's welterweight division is confusing right now. The departure of Georges St-Pierre and the subsequent ascension of Johny Hendricks to the 170-pound throne last night was entertaining, but what now? None of the other top fighters have put themselves ahead of the pack and it's tough to see what the future holds for many of them. But that's why you come here, so that's what I will attempt to do. Without further ado, here are the bouts I would book for the next trip to the octagon for each of the UFC 171 main card fighters.
Johny Hendricks - I firmly believe GSP won't be coming back for that next fight, and Lawler won't be getting a rematch. So it's pretty wide open. Will Johny take some time off? If he doesn't defend again until the fall or winter, they could easily book a bout number-one contender spot in June or July. They did try to push Rory MacDonald as the next contender at the end of the show as well, but I don't think he'll get the nod. Here's what I think happens though - Hendricks defends in August against Woodley. He's the best matchup on paper and they're similar fighters. He beat Condit and even if the finish isn't want people wanted, he got the W over the guy ranked at the top.
Robbie Lawler - As stated, I don't think Lawler gets a rematch. Depending on how long Condit is out, I would love to see him meet Robbie next. It's the most logical matchup right now. I wouldn't mind seeing Lawler face the winner of the Jake Ellenberger vs. Tarec Saffiedine bout either, but Condit is a much better choice.
Tyron Woodley - I think he's next in line for the title shot. He can wrestle with Hendricks, he hits as hard as the champ, and despite what Joe Rogan would have you believe, I don't think he'd gas out in one round. I never thought I'd be the one touting Woodley for a title shot since I always thought he was overrated, but here we are. The win over Condit is better than anything his rivals have on their recent resume. That's the decider for me.
Carlos Condit - What an unfortunate turn of events. He did clearly lose the first round, but there was plenty of time to take over. In terms of matchmaking, Condit getting bumped from the title picture for the time being might be a good thing though, since he has already lost to the champ (although I loved the fight). As mentioned, I'd like to see him fight Lawler next if his knee injury isn't serious. If he's on the shelf for a long time, the division will likely look very different when he gets back so it's nearly impossible to predict who he'd get next a year from now or something.
Myles Jury - Well, he certainly deserves to be ranked at lightweight now. A bout with someone at or near the top ten should be up next, and the most natural fight would likely be the winner of the Jim Miller vs. Bobby Green scrap at UFC 172.
Diego Sanchez - He says he wasn't himself due to food poisoning. But it's pretty clear that Sanchez isn't in the top 15 at lightweight and he should be booked as such. So you can book him one of two ways - as a gatekeeper, like he was here against Jury. Or against other guys in the middle of the division that might produce an exciting fight. There are a few guys that come to mind - Joe Lauzon and Evan Dunham, for example. But they're booked, so the best option might be the either the loser of the Sam Stout vs. K.J. Noons bout at the TUF Nations Finale, or Melvin Guillard. I prefer the former over the latter.
Hector Lombard - Based on all the matchmaking I did above, this leaves Lombard to fight Rory MacDonald in a top contender's bout. The winner has another scalp and a more legitimate claim on a title shot, while the loser goes back into the hopper and could still climb back up. It's also an intriguing matchup - will it be totally boring? Or will one of them choose to make it exciting since they know a title shot might be at stake?
Jake Shields - I honestly think we might have seen the last of Shields in the UFC. He's one of those guys they can afford to release and he's not going to drive ratings in another organization. And he won't be the guy that de-rails potential title challengers with his fan-unfriendly style any more. As I have said before, I appreciate Jake's skills and I'd re-sign him (he's either a free agent now, or he will be after one more fight). But I can definitely see the UFC getting out of the business of promoting someone the fans aren't super interested in seeing.
Ovince St. Preux - That was a crafty win from a solid fighter that has quietly picked up a 3-0 record in the UFC. The perfect option for his next bout would be Rafael Cavalcante to me. The two men match up very well.
Nikita Krylov - What a rookie mistake. I don't think he gets cut simply because the UFC has so few guys at 205. But he should be fighting the bottom of the barrel and hoping to win. Let him fight Steve Bosse when he eventually makes his UFC debut. He won't have to worry about a Von Flue choke at least. Just fists in his grill.