While many have been claiming that Georges St-Pierre has cleaned out the UFC's welterweight division, there is still a surprising list of credible challengers to his title. First, however, GSP must take care of former Strikeforce welterweight champion Nick Diaz.
Diaz presents a good deal of problems for the current champ. He has great boxing, great jiu-jitsu, a good chin and has never had stamina issues. Assuming, however, that St-Pierre gets past him, who is potentially next in line?
The next big welterweight matchup takes place September 17 at UFC Fight Night: Shields vs. Ellenberger as Jake Shields is coming off his first loss in 15 fights in failing to dethrone GSP. Jake Ellenberger meanwhile, has won eight of his last nine; his only loss coming via split decision to Carlos Condit.
While a win for Shields most likely wouldn't put him in line for an immediate title shot, a victory for Ellenberger—particularly by stoppage—would do a lot to put him in line for the winner of GSP vs. Nick Diaz.
Following that fight, at UFC 135: Jones vs. Rampage on September 24, Diego Sanchez is set to take on Matt Hughes. A win for Hughes isn't going to give him a fourth fight with St-Pierre—especially after his knockout loss to B.J. Penn—but a convincing win for Sanchez could put him "in the mix."
On October 1, the UFC will return to Versus for UFC Live: Cruz vs. Johnson. Outside the championship matchup between Dominick Cruz and Demetrious Johnson, that card will feature a bout between Charlie Brenneman and Anthony Johnson.
Despite a TKO loss to Johny Hendricks at UFC 117, Brenneman has rebounded with two wins—his last an impressive upset victory versus Rick Story.
Meanwhile, following a long lay-off after his loss to Josh Koscheck, Johnson returned with a decision win over Dan Hardy.
Neither of them are going to be challenging for the title with a win, but they're both still impressive guys to watch for, as they have the wrestling credentials to hang with GSP.
Finally, at UFC 137: St-Pierre vs. Diaz on October 29, B.J. Penn will be taking on Carlos Condit. Penn, despite a 1-2-1 record in his last four fights, is still one of the top fighters in the division, which he proved by his knockout of Matt Hughes and draw with Jon Fitch.
Carlos Condit, however, has been tearing up the division, winning 12 of his last 13. Perhaps most importantly, he's only won once by decision, and the UFC loves exciting finishers.
A win for Condit all but ensures a title shot. However, for Penn, it may be difficult for the UFC to sell a third fight with GSP after already losing the first two.
While it may appear that St-Pierre has cleaned out the division, Carlos Condit and Jake Ellenberger are making their way to the top of the welterweight ladder, while Anthony Johnson, Charlie Brenneman, Diego Sanchez and B.J. Penn may not be far behind. Be on the lookout for Jon Fitch, Martin Kampmann, Rory MacDonald and Brian Ebersole as well.
As much as a tempting thought the super-fight with Anderson Silva is, Georges St-Pierre has plenty of unfinished business at 170.
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