UFC 171: Who Every Welterweight Winner and Loser Should Fight Next
UFC 171 featured five welterweight contests on the 13-fight card from Dallas.
The event was sure to shake up the division, and it did. However, it did not make the title picture any clearer. There is still a bevy of contenders who are waiting for title shots and a slew of top-tier fighters who are close to throwing their names in the mix.
Johny Hendricks defeated Robbie Lawler in an instant classic to capture the vacant UFC Welterweight Championship that many thought he should have won last year against Georges St-Pierre.
Now, the page turns to what's next.
Here are suggestions for whom each welterweight winner and loser should fight moving forward from UFC 171.
Alex Garcia Defeats Sean Spencer by Split Decision
Spencer moves to 2-2 in the UFC after a narrow defeat at UFC 171.
It was an exciting bout, but he came out on the losing end. Thus, he will not move forward in the division.
The best option for him is another welterweight who is coming off a recent loss. Omari Akhmedov makes a lot of sense. He dropped to 1-1 in the UFC earlier this month. The timetable works for this welterweight matchup.
Garcia showed a lot of promise, but he isn't ready to take on some of the division's big boys just yet.
The UFC should line him up with another exciting, young welterweight. Nicholas Musoke fills that role well.
Musoke is 2-0 in the UFC. He's coming off a win in February and would provide a fun stylistic matchup for Garcia. It would make sense to place the fight on a UFC card in Canada.
Kelvin Gastelum Defeats Rick Story by Split Decision
Story will drop out of the official UFC rankings, but he will remain right on the cusp. The tough welterweight is an interesting case for matchmakers. Do put him against up-and-coming talent or throw him back in with a vet?
The former makes more sense, but the division is so deep that the UFC needs more Top 15-caliber bouts.
Recently coming off a loss, John Hathaway is the fight to make. The winner could see a Top 15 ranking, and it should be an interesting clash inside the cage.
Despite his young age, Gastelum has proved to be one of the better welterweights in the division. As such, he should earn a big fight next time out.
It is a bit early to toss him in the cage with one of the premier fighters from UFC 171, and that leaves few options of ranked fighters for him.
The one that jumps off the page is Dong Hyun Kim.
He is coming off a big KO win over Hathaway. This fight could be for a Top 10 ranking and headline a UFC Fight Pass card in Asia.
Hector Lombard Defeats Jake Shields by Unanimous Decision
Shields is an interesting case. Lombard thoroughly outclassed him, but he remains one of the top 10 welterweights in the world. As such, he deserves a good fight for his next outing.
UFC 172 features a welterweight clash between Tarec Saffiedine and Jake Ellenberger. The loser of that fight is a terrific opponent for Shields. In the case of Ellenberger, it would be a rematch that Shields should want.
The dominant victory over Shields should put Lombard in the mix for a title shot, but he is likely one win away from getting it.
The list of title contenders following UFC 171 is slim. Two of the options are his American Top Team teammates Robbie Lawler and Tyron Woodley. Matt Brown, another title contender, has a fight booked against Erick Silva.
Given so few options, the UFC should approach American Top Team with a title eliminator between Lombard and Lawler. It would be an electric fight with huge implications.
Tyron Woodley Defeats Carlos Condit by TKO (Injury)
It's hard to suggest anyone for Condit at this point. He injured his knee in the fight and will likely be out for the majority of 2014.
He is an elite welterweight, and whenever he can return, he deserves another Top Five-ranked fighter.
It's too early to tell who will be ranked that high when he returns.
The win puts Woodley into position to potentially challenge for the title. The choice may come down to Woodley and Rory MacDonald.
Woodley has a longer win streak and just knocked off the No. 2-ranked fighter. If we are looking at it from a sporting perspective, then Woodley should get the next title shot.
The fight would even have an interesting backstory, as Johny Hendricks beat Woodley in the 2005 Big 12 wrestling tournament finals.
Johny Hendricks Defeats Robbie Lawler by Unanimous Decision
I suggested the fight in a previous slide, and I would love to see Lawler take on Hector Lombard.
They are teammates, but there is a chance that the UFC could book this fight by making it a title eliminator. Both fighters are worthy of that level of fight, and it would be an amazing contest between two guys who love to throw down.
After his UFC 171 performance, Lawler should only be a win away from challenging for the title once more.
The big question following UFC 171 is: Who will challenge for the title next?
Rory MacDonald, Tyron Woodley, Hector Lombard or even Nick Diaz? The UFC has a few options.
From a business standpoint, Diaz makes the most sense, but from a sporting standpoint, it should be Woodley. I suggest the UFC continue to showcase that MMA is a sport where the top contenders earn title shots.
The former Big 12 wrestling foes make for good UFC championship counterparts.