UFC: Sorting Out the Muddle in the Welterweight Division
There is one thing we know for certain about the welterweight division: Georges St-Pierre is the title holder and he doesn’t give the impression of being ready to relinquish his belt anytime soon; be it by defeat or by vacating for the middleweight division.
We also know that he is defending his belt against Nick Diaz on October 29 at UFC 137…and that he will be a huge betting favorite to retain said belt.
Beyond that, the title mix is a bit muddled.
Sometimes it is easy to keep up with who will be receiving subsequent divisional title shots and at other times not so much.
Under normal circumstances, Jon Fitch would be the front runner for a title shot. He had put together a five fight win streak since getting eviscerated by St-Pierre in a title fight at UFC 87.
But Fitch is not exactly a fan favorite, nor does he appear to be a favorite of Dana White, and when he was forced to settle on a majority draw against B.J. Penn back at UFC 127, well that was all the ammo White needed to nix any talk of a rematch against GSP.
So with Fitch in limbo, whether he wins or not, who will get the next welterweight nod presumably sometime in early 2012?
Let’s peruse the landscape shall we.
Jon Fitch, B.J. Penn and Jake Shields
Mark Kolbe/Getty Images
Remember when Rich Franklin got waxed on waxed off by Anderson Silva?
And not once but twice. He was clearly outgunned by Silva; the problem: Franklin created a logjam between Silva and other contenders who just weren’t as good as Franklin. So “Ace” removed himself from the situation and moved up in weight.
Well Fitch is like the “Rich Franklin” of the welterweight division, possibly better. As long as he remains at 170 pounds he will be that logjam. Sure the UFC can just schedule opponents around him and into a title fight, but most will always consider Fitch the unequivocal No. 2 welterweight.
Fitch recently took to twitter and revealed that he would be ready and willing to fight at UFC 138 which takes place in his back yard of San Jose on November 19. A rematch with Penn would be the obvious choice…although a scrap with Jake Shields could be enticing.
The winner of either fight would clearly be the front runner for a title shot, which would there in lie the problem for the UFC. A rematch against GSP for Fitch and Shields and a trilogy fight for BJ: are any of these scenarios something the UFC wants right now?
Nate Marquardt vs. Rick Story
Fighting this weekend, the winner will certainly be in the mix for a title shot.
Marquardt doesn’t need to do as much at 170 to get the job with his 10-4 record at middleweight while Rick Story will run his UFC record to 7-1 with a victory.
With GSP vs. Diaz not going down until late October, whoever emerges victorious this weekend will have to secure one more win to bridge the gap between now and the next welterweight title fight which likely wont go down until February of 2012 at the earliest.
Carlos Condit vs. Dong Hyun Kim
These two scrappers will face off at UFC 132 on July 2 and the winner will be in a great place in the division. A win for Condit will run his Octagon record to 4-1 with the sole loss being a very closely contested “fight of the night” split-decision loss to Martin Kampmann. As for Kim, it will run his record to 6-0 along with a “no contest” over Karo Parisyan.
Similar to the Marquardt-Story winner, the Condit-Kim winner will need another win to stay in the mix.
Diego Sanchez vs. Matt Hughes
Sanchez is expected to face Matt Hughes on September 24at UFC 135. If Diego is able to get by the hall of famer he will have strung together three wins in a row. Whoever he fought after would be a top name and give him the opportunity to inject himself into the title picture.
Other Fighters that factor in
Josh Koscheck: We haven’t heard much out of Koscheck since his bone crushing loss to GSP back at UFC 124. Assuming his eye is on the mend, he should be looking to get back into action in the next few months. He is at least 2-3 fights away from getting another title shot but he will serve as an opponent for someone in the hunt.
Anthony “Rumble” Johnson: Johnson was supposed to be taking on Nate Marqauardt but another injury has set him back. When he does return, he will be looking for a marquee fight to get him back on track.
Jake Ellenberger: Since losing a split decision to Carlos Condit in his UFC debut, Ellenberger has put together a four fight win streak and will be looking to take his game to the next level. Expect to see him back in action by years end.
Sorting out the Mess
Jon Fitch vs. Jake Shields
Having the No. 2 and No. 3 welterweights (Fitch and Shields) fight each other at UFC 138 in San Jose would be an awesome co-main event to Cain Velasquez vs. Junior dos Santos.
There are three problems with this scenario though.
1. This fight, if it happens, should without doubt be a five round fight. And if it is the co-main event on a PPV it will only be three rounds (as far as we can tell).
2. The UFC should only book this fight if they are ready to without a doubt give the winner a title shot against GSP. Jake Shields is just coming off his loss to GSP so it would be a rush, and Fitch; well it is hard to tell if they will ever give him a second title shot against St-Pierre.
3. While this fight would most likely be great from a technical stand point, it would also most likely end up looking boring to the casual fan thus creating little buzz for a title rematch for either.
Sorting out the Mess
Jon Fitch vs. B.J. Penn Rematch
There are times and an automatic rematch is a must (Machida vs. Shogun, B.J. vs. Edgar, and Edgar vs. Maynard) and then there are times it may be better to mix things up and create some fresh match ups.
This situation seems to call for a fresh matchup.
Does anyone see this fight going much differently, or more importantly, any better for B.J.? Not meant as a jab at Pen, rather what would a rematch accomplish? Either Fitch assembles a game plan that accounts for Penn trying to wrestle with him and he is more dominant in victory, or perhaps somehow Penn figures out how to avoid gassing in the third and being put on his back.
And if this fight is booked as a five-rounder, it only serves as a platform for Fitch to get his first finish since he choked out Roan Carneiro over four years ago.
Sorting out the Mess: Fresh Matchups
Let’s have Jon Fitch take on Nate Marquardt-Rick Story winner
If Fitch can take out the Marquardt-Story winner then give him the title shot for god's sake. And if either Marquardt or Story upend Fitch then they deserve their crack at it.
Let’s have B.J. Penn take on Carlos Condit-Dong Hyun Kim winner
Based on the match ups, the Marquardt-Story winner got preference over the Condit-Kim winner. If you have a problem with that, there may be cause to reverse it.
Let’s have Jake Shields take on Josh Koscheck, "Rumble" Johnson or Jake Ellenberger
They all need a fight so why not. A Koscheck-Johnson rematch might actually be intriguing while Shields can test the mettle of surging divisional prospect Jake Ellenberger.
There are alot of ways the welterweight division can sort itself out during the second half of 2011 and your guess is as good as anyone's as to how it will go down. If you dont like this scenario, what would you suggest?