B/R MMA Rankings for January: Top 10 Welterweights in MMA
Until the 30th day of the month, December was rather uneventful for the welterweight division. At UFC 141, that changed drastically with a single punch.
Only 12 seconds into a 170-pound bout, up-and-coming Johny Hendricks blasted perennial contender Jon Fitch with a left hand. A heavy favorite heading into the fight, Fitch fell limp to the canvas.
Long considered the best welterweight not named Georges St-Pierre, Fitch's loss certainly shook up the division's rankings. With that being said, let's take a look at how Bleacher Report's official welterweight rankings now look as we head into the first month of 2012.
These rankings are the combined effort of some of Bleacher Report MMA's best writers, as we continue to try to provide you with the best content on the web.
10. Diego Sanchez
Previous Ranking: 9
MMA Record: 23-4
Most Recent Fight: Defeated Martin Kampmann at UFC on Versus 3
Next Scheduled Fight: Jake Ellenberger at UFC on Fuel 1
While his win over Kampmann may have been controversial, there was certainly a strong argument to be made that Diego Sanchez is a worthy winner of two straight welterweight contests against very tough opponents.
If the UFC felt any differently, they wouldn't be matching Sanchez up against one of the top welterweights in the world in Jake Ellenberger, a fighter who is coming off of a upset victory over Jake Shields.
If Sanchez can somehow find a way to beat Ellenberger, he will be in the mix for a shot at the 170-pound title. A loss, on the other hand, could mean Sanchez would be bumped out of the top 10 by one of many up-and-coming talents in the division.
9. Jake Shields
Previous Ranking: 7
MMA Record: 26-6-1
Most Recent Fight: Loss to Jake Ellenberger at UFC Fight Night 25
Next Scheduled Fight: Yoshihiro Akiyama at UFC 144
Jake Shields' stock in the welterweight division took a serious hit when he was knocked out by Ellenberger in his most recent appearance.
Not to take anything away from Ellenberger for that performance, but Shields was dealing with the death of his father in the immediate lead-up to that fight. It's impossible to say how much of an effect the loss had on Shields' preparation, but it certainly had to have been a major distraction.
Shields will look to make a move back up the rankings in February, when he will welcome former middleweight Akiyama to the 170-pound division.
8. Rory MacDonald
Previous Ranking: 8
MMA Record: 12-1
Most Recent Fight: Defeated Mike Pyle at UFC 133
Next Scheduled Fight: Che Mills at UFC 145
At 22 years old, Rory MacDonald is still growing as a fighter, but his impressive accomplishments to date already have some comparing him to training partner Georges St-Pierre.
Coming off back-to-back wins over a now-highly-ranked lightweight in Nate Diaz and a top 20 welterweight in Mike Pyle, many expected MacDonald to be thrown into the mix for a title shot.
However, the UFC seems to want to take things more slowly with MacDonald, as they have set him up for a bout with another up-and-coming middleweight in Mills.
7. Jon Fitch
Previous Ranking: 3
MMA Record: 23-4-1
Most Recent Fight: Loss to Johny Hendricks at UFC 141
Next Scheduled Fight: TBD
Jon Fitch's deflating loss to Hendricks this past Friday dropped him four spots from last month's issue of our welterweight rankings, but it could be argued that the knockout should have removed Fitch from the top 10 completely.
He was long considered the second-best welterweight in the world, but with Thiago Alves' recent slide from the top 10, Fitch's only win over a current top 10 welterweight was a split-decision victory over Diego Sanchez in September 2007.
The American Kickboxing Academy product has the skills to bounce back quickly, but he has a lot of work to earn that title shot he was campaigning for before UFC 141.
6. Johny Hendricks
Previous Ranking: NR
MMA Record: 12-1
Most Recent Fight: Defeated Jon Fitch at UFC 141
Next Scheduled Fight: TBD
With past wins over Charlie Brenneman and Mike Pierce, Johny Hendricks was certainly on the map as an up-and-coming fighter in the welterweight division. That being said, Hendricks wasn't given much of a shot to upset long-time contender Fitch at UFC 141.
Nonetheless, it took Hendricks only 12 seconds to put Fitch away with a left hand. In the process, Hendricks skyrocketed up the rankings and is now within striking distance of a shot at the welterweight division's belt.
5. Josh Koscheck
Previous Ranking: 6
MMA Record: 16-5
Most Recent Fight: Defeated Matt Hughes at UFC 135
Next Scheduled Fight: Mike Pierce at UFC 143
After Georges St-Pierre was forced out of a title fight with Nick Diaz at UFC 143, Carlos Condit was pegged as St-Pierre's replacement to set up an interim title fight with Diaz.
Originally scheduled to meet Condit at the event, Josh Koscheck will now fight Pierce. Obviously, the change of opponents probably came as a disappointment for Koscheck, who recently stated that he is only interested in taking the biggest fights available.
Though, if Koscheck keeps winning and another contender is able to dethrone St-Pierre, who has beaten Koscheck twice, it's not out of the realm of possibility for the former NCAA wrestling champion to get one last title shot.
4. Jake Ellenberger
Previous Ranking: 5
MMA Record: 26-5
Most Recent Fight: Defeated Jake Shields at UFC Fight Night 25
Next Scheduled Fight: Diego Sanchez at UFC on Fuel 1
Much like Johny Hendricks, Jake Ellenberger made a huge move in the rankings by taking out an elite welterweight, Shields, with an unexpected first-round knockout.
Despite the huge win, Ellenberger will take what some may perceive as a step back in level of competition, as he is scheduled to meet Sanchez in his next Octagon appearance.
With another dominant win, though, Ellenberger will surely be a win or two away from a shot at the welterweight crown.
3. Nick Diaz
Previous Ranking: 2
MMA Record: 26-7
Most Recent Fight: Defeated B.J. Penn at UFC 137
Next Scheduled Fight: Carlos Condit at UFC 143
Karma took a shot at Nick Diaz by cancelling his UFC 143 fight with UFC welterweight champion Georges St-Pierre. Diaz was originally expected to compete against St-Pierre at UFC 137, but his failure to show up to multiple press conferences cost him the title fight.
Now, Diaz will be thrown into an interim title fight against Carlos Condit. While there is a belt on the line, both Diaz and Condit would obviously prefer to get their shot at the division's true champion.
If Diaz wants a fight with St-Pierre to be scheduled for a third time, he will have to get past Condit in February.
2. Carlos Condit
Previous Ranking: 4
MMA Record: 27-5
Most Recent Fight: Defeated Dong Hyun Kim at UFC 132
Next Scheduled Fight: Nick Diaz at UFC 143
Former WEC and Strikeforce welterweight champions will clash for the interim title at UFC 143. With Georges St-Pierre out of commission due to injury, Carlos Condit will attempt to steal Diaz's shot at the true welterweight king for a second time.
A win over Diaz would give Condit his fifth straight win and would likely set up a highly-anticipated title fight with St-Pierre, assuming the 170-pound titleholder doesn't suffer any setbacks in his rehabilitation.
1. Georges St-Pierre
Previous Ranking: 1
MMA Record: 22-2
Most Recent Fight: Defeated Jake Shields at UFC 129
Next Scheduled Fight: TBD
Since hitting the age of 30 in mid-2011, injuries have become a significant issue for Georges St-Pierre.
An eye injury suffered in his title defense against Shields needed some time for healing, and now, St-Pierre has been forced to withdraw from two scheduled title defenses due to injury.
As a result of his extended absence, the UFC has decided to make a bout between Nick Diaz and Carlos Condit an interim title fight.
While it appears St-Pierre will be able to recover in a reasonable amount of time from his latest injury, you have to begin to wonder what toll these injuries may begin to take on the all-time great.