Rory MacDonald and Erick Silva Control Legacy of UFC Welterweight Division

Craig AmosFeatured ColumnistJune 9, 2012


The UFC's welterweight division has a long history of being a promotional strength.

When Matt Hughes was the welterweight champion, he resonated as one of the sport's brightest stars. Then, Georges St-Pierre took the torch and became the most recognizable face in all of MMA.

Throw legends like B.J. Penn and Royce Gracie into the mix, and you can see why the division has been a powerhouse for so long.

Since GSP has ruled the roost, he has thwarted the claims to his crown of newer blood like that of Jon Fitch, Jake Shields, Josh Koscheck and Thiago Alves.

Now, he faces the ever-present threat of guys like Carlos Condit, Nick Diaz, Martin Kampmann, Jake Ellenberger and Johny Hendricks, a group that preserves the prestige of welterweight contendership as much as GSP preserves the honor of the division's crown.

Ever since Hughes put his thumbprint on the welterweight division, the classification has not missed a beat raising up legends and providing them with elite contenders to fan the flames. 

For the past half-decade, we have lived in the St-Pierre era, and given the level of the current contenders and the promise of two futures stars, it seems highly improbable that the strength of the division will die with the dominance of the French Canadian superstar.

While GSP may be irreplaceable as a public figure and MMA icon, his talent, dominance and success in the Octagon may ultimately be replicated. 

It is not inconceivable that any one of the aforementioned talents rises above the rest and takes the torch from the current kingpin, but the next few years will stand as a regency rather than a reign.

Rory MacDonald obliterates Che Mills
Rory MacDonald obliterates Che MillsKevin C. Cox/Getty Images

Why? Because there are two heir-apparents waiting to wage civil war once a power vacuum is created by the subsiding of St-Pierre's dominance.

One belligerent is St-Pierre's own choice for successor: Rory MacDonald. The other, an upstart Brazilian by the name of Erick Silva.

MacDonald has long been heralded as one of MMA's best up-and-comers, and he has repeatedly shown that he deserves every bit of the hype he has received.

Silva has shown an explosive killer instinct during his 2-1 UFC career. (His loss was by controversial disqualification, ala Jon Jones vs. Matt Hammil.) Silva looks to be every bit the part of a future champion.

It is almost inevitable that MacDonald and Silva will eventually be the strongest players in determining who the next great welterweight champion will be.

The only question is who will etch his name in behind Hughes and St-Pierre in the list of welterweight monarchs.  

For now, both remain subject to GSP, as does the rest of the welterweight division.

But when the time comes that St-Pierre begins to lose his edge—whether that is later this year or many years down the road—the prestige and honor that he and Hughes have worked to attach to the welterweight title will be maintained.