UFC 171 was highlighted by the fight between Johny Hendricks and Robbie Lawler for the vacant UFC Welterweight Championship, but there were several important divisional battles on the card.
Which fighter should get the next title bout?
Add in several other welterweight fights and several viable challengers rising through the ranks, and the blow from the loss of former champion Georges St-Pierre has been softened by the depth of the division.
Here are my latest divisional rankings after a wild night of welterweight fights.
Breaking Down Who Should Be No. 1 Contender
While Tyron Woodley was able to take home the victory on Saturday against UFC’s No. 2 ranked welterweight Carlos Condit, the knee injury to Condit that ended the fight early has cast a shadow of doubt on the win.
Woodley dominated Condit for much of the fight and likely would have won if the bout had continued. The challenger rocked Condit with heavy punches throughout and used his elite wrestling skills to take him down before Woodley could sustain much damage.
After the fight, Woodley spoke to Steven Marrocco of MMAJunkie.com about his desire to win the world championship in his division:
I asked for this fight because I didn’t think I was going to lose it. You guys fail to realize I’m in this to be a world champion, and I went after the top guy, and everybody was so quiet, and I blew [Dana White's] phone up until he probably couldn’t take it any more, because I want to be the world champ, and I think that alone, the persistence, warrants me a world title shots. Me and Johny Hendricks have some unfinished business from the big-12 days of wrestling, and I would love to get my hands on him.
Fighters like Hector Lombard, Rory MacDonald and the other top contenders will all claim that they deserve a shot at the newly crowned Hendricks, but Woodley proved he was better than the former No. 2 fighter in the division.
Hendricks' first title defense should come against Woodley.
Saturday’s Biggest Winner: Hector Lombard
Woodley was ranked 11th before Saturday’s pay-per-view, and right behind him was Hector Lombard in 12th. It’s amazing how fast the rankings can change after just one show.
While there are some questions surrounding the outcome of Woodley’s fight, it was the unanimous-decision win over Jake Shields that helped Lombard catapult himself into the title conversation.
MMAFighting.com’s Shaun Al-Shatti was quite impressed by Lombard’s performance:
Hector Lombard against anyone at the top of 170 right now is compelling. That was ridiculously impressive.— Shaun Al-Shatti (@shaunalshatti) March 16, 2014
Shields was the sixth-ranked contender in the division coming into Saturday’s PPV, but Lombard proved to be the superior fighter in almost every aspect of the bout. After his split-decision loss to Yushin Okami last March, Lombard has knocked out Nate Marquardt and beaten Shields.
With the status of Condit’s knee a long-term concern for UFC, Lombard has thrown his hat into the mix for a future title shot. At the very least, the veteran has earned a spot in a title eliminator.
*Stats via UFC.com.