Back on March 22, I wrote a piece detailing my belief that the winner of the June 1 bout between Martin Kampmann and Jake Ellenberger—and not the mercurial Nick Diaz—should be the next contender in line for a UFC welterweight title shot.
Today, the UFC announced that the winner of that fight will indeed get a title shot:
The welterweight division is stacked and Jake Ellenberger and Martin Kampmann are going to fight for the chance to earn a title shot. They will headline the season finale of TUF Live on FX to crown the next Ultimate Fighter. There's a lot at stake for the guys competing on this card at the Palms.
It's the right move. We know that Georges St-Pierre will likely make his return to the Octagon in November, and he'll face Carlos Condit to unify the welterweight and interim welterweight titles. We know that Nick Diaz is—at least as of right now—suspended for a year, and he's possibly retired for good.
With Diaz out of the picture for the time being, the UFC will need to move to set up a challenger for the winner of the St-Pierre/Condit fight. Ellenberger and Kampmann are perfectly deserving candidates. Johny Hendricks is also a deserving contender, but he's got a tough fight ahead next month against Josh Koscheck. If Koscheck were to win that bout, I can't imagine him being put back in title contention, especially if St-Pierre beats Condit later in the year.
That leaves Ellenberger and Kampmann.
If not for two questionable decision losses to Jake Shields and Diego Sanchez, Kampmann would be riding a six-fight winning streak. When a fighter loses close and controversial decisions, the UFC's response is to book them as though they won the fight despite the loss on his official record. That seems to be the case for Kampmann.
Ellenberger has a legitimate six-fight winning streak of his own, and his last loss came via a controversial decision to Condit in his UFC debut. The potential of a rematch with Condit and the chance to settle the question marks left by that fight makes him a perfect championship candidate.
Plenty of you believe Diaz should get the fights with Condit and St-Pierre. If he's able to get his suspension reduced—and if he decides to continue fighting, as many believe he will—I suspect Diaz will get his chance. He's one of the most popular fighters in the UFC, and that gives him an edge over guys like Kampmann and Ellenberger.
But in the meantime, Ellenberger and Kampmann will rightly get the chance to jump into championship contention. It's the correct move.
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