Pat Lovell-USA TODAY Sports
The UFC 171 fight card is as finely tuned a piece of matchmaking as you will ever see. One can almost imagine Joe Silva in safety goggles and smock, honing and sanding this bad boy until it reached the high shine of artisanal perfection.
See, while the show's main event will crown a new welterweight champion, its co-main should also determine the next No. 1 contender. That is, if everything goes according to plan during Carlos Condit’s scheduled battle with Tyron Woodley.
You may recall Condit as the man who ruled as interim champion for much of 2012, while St-Pierre was out rehabbing a serious knee injury. He has since lost back-to-back bouts to GSP and Hendricks but got off the schneid with a win over Martin Kampmann in August. He’d make fairly compelling opponent for either Hendricks or Lawler next summer.
By contrast, Woodley is a bit of an upstart. Another Strikeforce convert, he lost to Jake Shields at UFC 161 via controversial split decision but crafted impressive first-round KO victories in his other two UFC appearances last year. After Matt Brown fell out as Condit’s scheduled foe at UFC on Fox 9 in December, Woodley badgered Dana White via text message until he got the fight.
Score one for the wonders of modern communication.
If something goes amiss in Condit vs. Woodley, the UFC can always fall back on the winner of Rory MacDonald’s February fight against Demian Maia to find a top contender. That one is scheduled for UFC 170, where oddsmakers see MacDonald as a 2-to-1 favorite.
A victory would make the 24-year-old Canadian—St-Pierre’s training partner at Montreal’s TriStar Gym—7-2 in UFC career. The catch for MacDonald might be that his most recent appearance at UFC 167 ended in a split-decision loss to Lawler. In a perfect word he’d need at least one more win to qualify as anything resembling a No. 1 contender.
Maia is in a similar boat. After dropping to welterweight in 2012, he ran off three straight wins before he too lost a split decision to Shields, in October. A victory over MacDonald would do a lot to set him back on the right path, but No. 1 contender could be a bit lofty without another win or two.
The likely outcome: Condit holds serve by out-scrapping Woodley and Maia bucks the odds by grappling MacDonald into oblivion. So long as everybody emerges healthy, we can probably expect a rematch between Condit and Hendricks to highlight the UFC's summer schedule.
Maia will have to wait for another top opponent to become available. He’ll likely need to put together another win streak to convince UFC brass he’s championship material. At 36 years old, he doesn’t have an unlimited window in which to do it, either.