With the year half over and the next UFC card still a few weeks away, now is the perfect time to take a look at what is going on in the five different divisions.
This article will attempt to give a good impression of how the divisional title pictures look, and how different fighters factor into the equation.
The Champ : Much like the middleweight division, the welterweight division has been ruled by one man for quite some time.
Even before St. Pierre first became champion, he was already considered the rightful heir to the throne, and the future of MMA.
Guys like Sean Sherk and Frank Trigg were considered elite fighters at the time St. Pierre fought them, and he pretty much went through them like a buzz saw.
Now that we've had a few years to see how things have played out, St. Pierre's loss to Matt Serra still stands as the greatest upset in MMA history. Fabricio Werdum's win over Fedor Emelianenko may end up having greater consequences on the sport, but looking back on St. Pierre's career, it's still hard to imagine how a fighter who is now seen as nearly unbeatable in his weight class once lost to a blown up lightweight in Matt Serra.
With the way St. Pierre dominated three pound-for-pound quality guys in BJ Penn, Jon Fitch, and Thiago Alves, it's easy to think he's become invincible, though history would say otherwise.
The Top Three Contenders: Much like in the heavyweight and light heavyweight divisions, a very select group has separated itself from the rest of the pack. Jon Fitch, Thiago Alves, and Josh Koscheck have shown themselves to be way ahead of the rest of the pack.
The No. 1 Contender: Opinions on Josh Koscheck's chances of defeating St. Pierre are pretty much divided into two camps.
On the one hand, some feel that Koscheck's mix of wrestling and heavy looping punches is the perfect combination to defeat St. Pierre. Unlike almost anybody else in the division, Koscheck can probably force St. Pierre to stand and strike with him for much of the fight (at least if he works on this wrestling this time out), where he'll have a chance of landing one of those fastball punches he throws.
Koscheck also could potentially put St. Pierre on his back, where he'll likely be most uncomfortable.
On the other hand, other people will tell you that St. Pierre is simply better than Koscheck at every facet of MMA, and that while Koscheck could perhaps land something, chances are that St. Pierre dominates him from bell to bell.
Whatever your opinion of his chances against St. Pierre, Koscheck has earned his title shot by being a perennial top five welterweight, and having never had that title shot thus far. Aside from his upset loss to Paulo Thiago, Koscheck has a sparkling resume over the past few years with losses coming only to St. Pierre and Alves.
The Perennial Second Bananas: The resumes of Jon Fitch and Thiago Alves are staggeringly good.
The way these two have been making mulch out of one of the deepest divisions in MMA shows how good they are, and yet neither might ever be champion as long as St. Pierre is around.
While Thiago Alves has been sidelined by injuries and medical issues, Jon Fitch has probably stacked up enough wins that would have earned anybody else a title shot. Unfortunately (or fortunately) for Fitch, the common perception is that while Fitch is unarguably a top three welterweight, he just doesn't have the tools to unseat the champ.
With crushing power in his fists and legs and takedown defense capable of thwarting an NCAA wrestling champion, Alves looked like a guy who could take out St. Pierre.
During his training camp for the St. Pierre fight, Alves brought in a host of elite wrestlers, and none of them could take him down.
St. Pierre did.
Fitch and Alves are scheduled to clash next month in a highly anticipated rematch. Even if the winner does not receive a second title shot, he should be regarded as the second best welterweight in the world.
The Next Level Of Contender: No offence to the rest of the division, but they just don't have the resumes of the Fitches and Alveses of the division. But because the UFC needs new challengers, any top 10 guy who goes on a win streak could earn himself a shot at the belt.
The list of such contenders includes Martin Kampmann, Carlos Condit, Paulo Thiago, Dan Hardy, Mike Swick, John Hathaway, Anthony Johnson, Ben Saunders, Mike Pierce, and Ricardo Almeida.
Paulo Thiago looked to be only a fight or two away from a title shot before he was completely shut down by Martin Kampmann. Now, it looks as if Kampmann, Condit, Hathaway, and Almeida are the closest, if any of them can put on a good streak.
The "Intersting Fight" Fighters: Matt Hughes, Matt Serra, and Chris Lytle aren't going to be fighting for a UFC title.
That said, they're going to be featured in interesting matches that will appeal to old-school fans.
The Threats From The Great Beyond: Jake Shields and Nick Diaz have been touted as two possible threats to UFC gold. Of those two, Shields is obviously far closer to possibly signing with the UFC, but if he signs, the anti-UFC fans will then simply point toward Nick Diaz as the greatest threat to St. Pierre.
Jake Shields: It's hard to argue with Shields' placement on pound-for-pound lists considering his resume that includes wins over Yushin Okami, Carlos Condit, Nick Thompson, Jason Miller, Robbie Lawler, and most recently, Dan Henderson.
Still, I'm not alone in my opinion that St. Pierre is stylistic poison for Shields, who would be the perfect opponent for St. Pierre if the UFC wants to showcase the champ's striking against an opponent who represents zero threats on the feet.
When Shields comes to the UFC, it'll be interesting to see how he stacks up with the rest of the guys in the division and if he'll be able to add himself into the elite group with Alves, Fitch, and Koscheck.
Nick Diaz: Diaz is one of Strikeforce's most treasured commodities, so it's unlikely that he'll be going anywhere unless something really bad happens to Strikeforce...again.
But even though we probably won't ever see it, I'm totally convinced that Nick Diaz presents little threat to St. Pierre.
On the feet, Diaz has the better boxing perhaps, but St. Pierre is still a threat with kicks, especially leg kicks, and since Diaz isn't likely going to KO St. Pierre with a single punch, St. Pierre can always just take Diaz down if he gets into trouble. Diaz has historically struggled with wrestlers.
On the ground, Diaz can threaten with submissions, but they're unlikely to work against a guy who completely neutralized BJ Penn's guard, and generally looks unstoppable from top position.
Moreover, St. Pierre has cut through tougher skin than Diaz's before, so if things wind up on the ground, a stoppage due to cuts seems a likely possibility.
I'm simply interested in seeing how Diaz would fare against the UFC's current top 10.
There is a reason why Strikeforce won't sign Jay Hieron to fight Diaz. Hieron might win.