Dana White Noncommittal on Welterweight Contender, Leaves Division in Limbo

Steven RondinaFeatured ColumnistMarch 16, 2014

Johny Hendricks, left, and Robbie Lawler exchange punches during a UFC 171 mixed martial arts welterweight title bout, Saturday, March 15, 2014, in Dallas. Hendricks won by decision. (AP Photo/Matt Strasen)
Matt Strasen/Associated Press

With a new welterweight champion minted at UFC 171 in Johny Hendricks, the logical question is: Who will be his first challenger?" When the MMA media asked UFC president Dana White at the post-fight press conference, he flatly refused to answer.

It's an odd stance, frankly, given how incredibly unclear the title picture is for the 170-pound division at this time. While the UFC has done excellent work over the last six years when it comes to constantly grooming new contenders for its top champions, the void left by Georges St-Pierre has put the division in an awkward position.

There is no clear-cut top contender right now, and what's worse for the UFC, none of the logical candidates is a box-office draw.

Carlos Condit, a familiar name and the former WEC champion, wound up losing to hot up-and-comer Tyron Woodley. While Woodley got the better of the early goings of the fight, the bout ended when Condit crumbled with a knee injury. Though the injury came about due to a takedown and leg kick from the hulking wrestler, it's hard to convince fans that he rightly beat the fan favorite when the fight ended due to injury.

Not only that, but in the third welterweight bout of the main card, Hector Lombard dominated former Strikeforce and EliteXC champion Jake Shields. Unfortunately, Lombard's performance was panned for his lack of urgency and questionable cardio. In a crazy coincidence, though, in his two fights in the welterweight division, he has beaten the only two fighters to best Woodley: Shields and Nate Marquardt.

To top it all off, other fighters who have been in the mix like Rory MacDonald, Jake Ellenberger and Demian Maia have suffered recent losses that put them in a tough spot in the division.  A few fighters of note have lengthy winning streaks, such as Dong-Hyun Kim, Matt Brown and Tarec Saffiedine, but they are nowhere near being major draws.

That might just open the door for Nick Diaz, but he is coming off back-to-back losses (one of them to Carlos Condit). It's tough for the UFC to justify giving him a title shot.

As such, the welterweight division is stuck with an ugly pileup of contenders for the foreseeable future. This may or may not change in the coming days, so keep an eye on Bleacher Report.