Guess who’s back?
After leaving the B/R rankings for nearly a year following his retirement at UFC 137, BJ Penn has found his way back in the mix.
“The Prodigy” is set to step back into the cage later this year against top prospect Rory MacDonald, and his reputation alone has earned him his spot among the division’s elite once again.
With Penn-MacDonald set to go down at UFC 152 and the four top ranked fighters in the division likely to fight at UFC 154 in November, the welterweight division is going to be turned upside down by the end of the year and a new crop of contenders are finding ways to move up in the division.
These rankings are the combined efforts of some of Bleacher Report MMA's best writers, as we continue to try and provide you with the best content on the web.
Most recent fight: Unanimous decision Loss to Nick Diaz at UFC 137
Next fight: Rory MacDonald at UFC 152
Previous ranking: N/A
“The Prodigy” is back.
Less than a year after announcing his retirement following a loss to Nick Diaz at UFC 137, BJ Penn has decided to return to the Octagon and make one last run at a UFC title.
The fighter in Penn’s crosshairs is rising star Rory MacDonald, and if Penn can find a way to take out the man that many are calling “The Next Georges St-Pierre” he will end up shooting up this list.
MacDonald is one of the toughest stylistic matchups that Penn could find himself up against in the welterweight division, but if BJ is able to shut down MacDonald’s explosive wrestling he could easily win the bout on the feet.
Most Recent Fight: Loss to Jake Ellenberger at UFC on Fuel TV: Sanchez vs. Ellenberger
Next Fight: N/A
Previous Ranking: 9
One of the most intense fighters in MMA, it’s been a long time since fans have seen a boring Diego Sanchez fight.
Sanchez has gone at all of his UFC opponents full throttle, and his ability to outwork his opposition has earned him a good portion of his UFC wins.
Despite losing his last fight to Jake Ellenberger back at UFC on Fuel 1 in February, Sanchez is still considered to be one of the top fighters in the sport, and although a possible drop down to 155 has been discussed, he remains one of the top fighters in the welterweight division.
Most recent fight: TKO loss to Johny Hendricks at UFC 141
Next fight: N/A
Previous ranking: No. 7
One of the most consistently dominant fighters in the history of the UFC’s welterweight division, Jon Fitch has been in the top ten of the weight class for a very long time.
Fitch suffered a rare loss when he stepped into the cage against Johny Hendricks last December at UFC 141, where he was knocked out in less than ten seconds.
After an injury forced Fitch to pull out of a scheduled bout against Aaron Simpson, he will be forced to sit on the sidelines a little longer. However, after suffering just his second loss of his UFC career it seems foolish to bet against Fitch in his next fight.
Most recent fight: TKO loss to Martin Kampmann at TUF 15 finale
Next fight: N/A
Previous ranking: 6
Jake Ellenberger was throttling the UFC’s welterweight division prior to his stoppage loss to Martin Kampmann last month, and he will need to rebound quickly if he wants to regain some of the momentum he had going into the bout.
With wins over tough fighters like Diego Sanchez and Mike Pyle over the last few years, Ellenberger has proved he is one of the best in the 170lb weight class and could easily find himself back in the title picture if he is able to earn himself a big win later this fall.
Most recent fight: Split decision loss to Johny Hendricks at UFC on FOX 3
Next fight: N/A
Previous ranking: No. 5
The improvements Josh Koscheck has made since entering the UFC in 2005 have been well publicized, but the former wrestler’s transformation into a solid striker really has been something to behold.
Koscheck’s been one of the most consistent stars the UFC has had since the sport gained notoriety following the first season of The Ultimate Fighter, and he is still going strong in the ultra competitive welterweight division.
While Koscheck dropped his last bout to Johny Hendricks at UFC on FOX 4, the fight was insanely close and Koscheck was likely a takedown or a decent punch away from climbing right back into the title picture and could easily end up back in the mix if he can win his next bout.
Most recent fight: TKO victory over Che Mills at UFC 145
Next fight: BJ Penn at UFC 152
Previous ranking: 8
The hottest prospect in MMA has been quietly climbing the B/R rankings over the last few months, and he is only getting better.
A lot of fans were hoping for a top contender in the welterweight division as MacDonald’s next opponent, but in a surprising move MacDonald decided to call out UFC legend BJ Penn and was able to draw the Hawaiian out of retirement for another bout in the Octagon.
A win over a legend like Penn will do wonders for MacDonald’s young career, and as long as he continues to improve, his ascent up the welterweight ladder isn’t going to stop anytime soon.
Most recent fight: TKO victory over Jake Ellenberger at TUF 15 finale
Next fight: Johny Hendricks at UFC 154 (Rumored)
Previous ranking: 4
After two incredible come from behind victories over Thiago Alves and Jake Ellenberger, Martin Kampmann is suddenly a win away from a shot at the UFC welterweight title.
With a win over current interim champion Carlos Condit on his resume, Kampmann already has a decent case to get a shot at the interim belt, but much like the next fighter on the list he is being held back by the logjam at the top of the division.
Kampmann could easily be on a seven-fight win streak if it wasn’t for a few close decision losses to Jake Shields and Diego Sanchez, and his current win streak has easily been the most impressive of his career.
Most recent fight: Split decision victory over Josh Koscheck at UFC on FOX 3
Next fight: Martin Kampmann at UFC 154 (Rumored)
Previous ranking: 3
Possibly the owner of the greatest beard in MMA, Johny Hendricks has been making sure he becomes known for more than his outstanding facial hair over the last year.
After taking out two former title challengers in Jon Fitch and Josh Koscheck in his last two bouts, Hendricks has opened a lot of eyes in the welterweight division. If it wasn’t for Georges St-Pierre he likely would have been given a title shot by now.
Since Hendricks is still a win away from a welterweight title shot, his next bout will be the most important of his career and if he is able to defeat Martin Kampmann, “Bigg Rigg” will finally get his shot at UFC gold.
Most recent fight: Unanimous decision victory over Nick Diaz at UFC 143
Next fight: Georges St-Pierre (date to be determined)
Previous ranking: 2
After using a picture perfect game plan to defeat Nick Diaz at UFC 143, Carlos Condit has been diligently waiting on the sidelines for UFC champion Georges St-Pierre to finally get healthy and set up a title unification bout.
While Condit has taken a ton of flack from the MMA media for not giving out any interim title fights, he obviously realizes that a big time fight with GSP is best for his career and is smartly making sure he gets the recognition he deserves prior to his next fight.
If Condit is able to take out St-Pierre, he will easily take the top spot in these rankings, but it will undoubtedly be the toughest fight of his career.
Most recent fight: Unanimous decision victory over Jake Shields at UFC 129
Next fight: Interim champion Carlos Condit (date to be determined)
Previous ranking: 1
For nearly five full years, Georges St-Pierre has dominated the welterweight division.
A couple of knee injuries have kept St-Pierre from competing since April of 2011, but he was recently cleared to train full time for the first time since late last year and he is targeting a November return against interim welterweight Carlos Condit in his native Canada.
GSP has beaten everyone from Josh Koscheck to Matt Hughes during his run as the 170lb champion, and until someone finally finds a way to defeat him, he’ll stay at the top of the weight class until the day he retires.