UFC 158: What's at Stake for the Top Welterweights on Saturday?

Sean SmithAnalyst IMarch 15, 2013

Mar 15, 2013; Montreal, Quebec, Canada; UFC president Dana White (center) steps in between Georges St.Pierre and Nick Diaz during the weight-in for UFC 158 at the Bell Centre. Mandatory Credit: Eric Bolte-USA TODAY Sports
Eric Bolte-USA TODAY Sports

Georges St-Pierre and Nick Diaz headline a UFC 158 fight card that will feature five top-ranked fighters in the welterweight division.

In addition to the 170-pound championship between the event's featured fighters, Johny Hendricks and Carlos Condit will battle in a bout that could determine the next welterweight title challenger. Also, Jake Ellenberger will try to retain his spot amongst the top-10 fighters in the weight class by beating returning UFC veteran Nate Marquardt.

On an incredible roll, Hendricks is already considered by many to be a more deserving top contender than Diaz, but he was passed over after St-Pierre requested a grudge match with his long-standing rival.

After being released by the UFC in 2011, Marquardt went on to capture the Strikeforce welterweight championship before losing that title in his final fight with the now-defunct promotion. Ellenberger is also not far removed from a setback, his coming via knockout against Martin Kampmann.

With all the big welterweight names set to throw down at UFC 158, the event is sure to shake things up in the 170-pound division. 

Here are the official UFC rankings heading into Saturday's fights:

Champion: Georges St-Pierre

  1. Johny Hendricks
  2. Carlos Condit
  3. Nick Diaz
  4. Rory MacDonald
  5. Demian Maia
  6. Jake Ellenberger
  7. Martin Kampmann
  8. Tarec Saffiedine
  9. Robbie Lawler
  10. Josh Koscheck

For St-Pierre and Diaz, the stakes are clear for their bout at UFC 158. The winner will walk away with a shiny UFC belt around his waist, while the loser will be left to ponder what remains for his MMA career since both men have spoken openly about retirement in the past.

Being the top two contenders in the official rankings, it is also obvious that a lot will be on the line for Hendricks and Condit on Saturday. Hendricks is looking to earn a title shot that he feels he already deserves and Condit will be trying to avoid a second straight loss that would likely knock him out of relevancy in the welterweight title picture for the foreseeable future.

Rory MacDonald will be heavily invested in the main and co-main events of UFC 158. Hoping for a rematch with Condit, who he had been scheduled to fight on Saturday before suffering an injury, MacDonald will likely be pulling for "The Natural Born Killer" and training partner St-Pierre.

Dark horses in the hunt for a welterweight title shot, Demian Maia and Tarec Saffiedine are also sure to be glued to their televisions on Saturday. Given that both fighters are coming off of big wins, Maia in a grappling match with Jon Fitch and Saffiedine in a kickboxing bout with Marquardt, their next opponents could emerge from UFC 158's festivities.

After bouncing back from his loss to Kampmann by beating Jay Hieron, Ellenberger will need a win over Marquardt to remain within striking distance of a title shot. Kampmann might as well be in Ellenberger's corner, as his stock in the welterweight rankings is sure to rise and fall with his previous opponent's success against Marquardt on Saturday.

With Marquardt being given an opportunity to meet an elite welterweight on short notice, Robbie Lawler and Josh Koscheck will also be on the edge of the spotlight this weekend. Lawler's inconsistency and Koscheck's recent upset loss to Lawler have both fighters hanging on to their top-10 spots by a thread, and they could easily be bumped off of the media-chosen list should Marquardt stun Ellenberger at UFC 158.

If you weigh 170 pounds and compete inside the Octagon for a living, chances are you'll be watching Saturday's fights.

Few times in UFC history has a single event meant so much to a single division. No matter the results on the UFC 158 main card, the welterweight landscape is sure to undergo change over this weekend.