Contender or Pretender for the UFC's Top 10 Welterweights

Matt Juul@@MattchidaMMAContributor IIIJuly 9, 2013

Contender or Pretender for the UFC's Top 10 Welterweights

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    From Tarec Saffiedine to Carlos Condit, the UFC's stacked welterweight division is brimming with top contenders eying for a shot at champ Georges St-Pierre's belt.

    Leading the charge is current No. 1 contender Johny Hendricks, who is set to face St-Pierre later this year in Las Vegas at UFC 167.

    While the division is filled with former world title holders and rising prospects, it's highly unlikely that all of them will eventually get a crack at that coveted UFC gold.

    Here's who I think will be the contenders and the pretenders from the UFC's top 10 welterweights.

Josh Koscheck

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    Former No. 1 contender Josh Koscheck has been an elite welterweight for years, but his time among the top 10 in the division may soon be over.

    After posting up back-to-back wins over Matt Hughes and Mike Pierce following his failed title shot at UFC 124, "Kos" has dropped two straight. He may be in danger of losing his top 10 status should he fall to Demian Maia in August.

    Koscheck's most recent loss came at the hands of Robbie Lawler, who made an emphatic return to the Octagon by finishing the former NCAA Division I All-American wrestler via TKO in the first round at UFC 157.

    At 35 years of age, the sometimes controversial welterweight is now on the downside of his career. Koscheck has almost no shot at making another run at the title, especially considering that he's lost to GSP twice already. He doesn't even own a single win over any of the UFC's current top 10 welterweights.

    Contender or Pretender: Pretender

Robbie Lawler

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    Longtime MMA veteran Robbie Lawler made a triumphant return to the UFC with his first round TKO finish of Josh Koscheck this past February.

    The victory, which also marked his successful return to the welterweight division, immediately put "Ruthless" into the division's top 10, but I think it was a bit premature.

    True, his win over Koscheck was impressive, but the 35-year-old "Kos" may be a bit over the hill at this stage of the game. We can't get too excited for Lawler's prospects at 170 just yet.

    Even if he beats highly-touted prospect Siyar Bahadurzada later this month, I'd still like to see Lawler take out another top 10 guy before I'm sold on his ability to make a run at the title.

    Contender or Pretender: Pretender

Tarec Saffiedine

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    Other than Ronda Rousey and Daniel Cormier, there was no other Strikeforce import I was more excited to see join the UFC's roster than Tarec Saffiedine.

    The last Strikeforce welterweight champ flew under the radar while he was with the now defunct promotion until he jumped onto the scene by taking Nate Marquardt's belt this past January.

    What impressed me the most about Saffiedine's game was his very technical striking style highlighted by his vicious leg kicks, which he used to effectively shut down Marquardt during their bout.

    In a division filled with high-level wrestlers, the only question I have of the Belgian-born fighter is his ability to stop the takedowns.

    If he can prove that his wrestling is up to par with the rest of the welterweight's top 10, I can see Saffiedine making a serious run once he's back from his injury.

    Contender or Pretender: Contender

Martin Kampmann

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    Martin Kampmann was on a tear earlier last year until he came up against Johny Hendrick's vicious left hand.

    The Danish striker was riding an impressive three-fight win streak going into his bout with "Big Rigg" until the current top contender knocked out Kampmann with a straight left just 46 seconds into the first round at UFC 154.

    Despite the brutal setback, I still believe that the "Hitman" is still a contender in the welterweight division.

    Prior to the loss to Hendricks, Kampmann could have been riding a seven fight win streak if it wasn't for some questionable judging in his bouts with Diego Sanchez and Jake Shields.

    If Kampmann can beat Carlos Condit once again in their rematch later this year, I can totally see the "Hitman" making another run at GSP's belt.

    Contender or Pretender: Contender

Nick Diaz

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    Oh Nick Diaz.

    The Stockton bad boy has been busy following his apparent retirement from the sport, having recently hosted a successful first show for his promotion War MMA this past June.

    Despite the new gig, Diaz could very well come out of retirement (again), as UFC president Dana White recently stated that the former Strikeforce champ is currently eying a return to the Octagon.

    While I'd love to see the controversial welterweight make another comeback, his past record of reckless behavior, no-showing events and a disappointing showing against St-Pierre makes me believe that Diaz doesn't have it in him to make another run at the title should he return.

    That doesn't mean we can't enjoy his antics outside of the cage though!

    Contender or Pretender: Pretender

Demian Maia

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    Former middleweight top contender Demian Maia has experienced a career rejuvenation since he made the drop down to 170.

    The submission whiz has posted a perfect 3-0 record as a welterweight and seems poised to make a serious run for the title.

    Maia most recently sent longtime vet Jon Fitch packing from UFC after winning the unanimous decision during their bout at UFC 156.

    I think that the Brazilian would make for a great challenge for St-Pierre should the two ever face as GSP has never faced a BJJ artist of Maia's caliber before.

    With a showdown against Josh Koscheck set for later this summer, a win over the former top contender could put the Brazilian a win or two a way from another shot at UFC gold.

    Contender or Pretender: Contender

Jake Ellenberger

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    "The Juggernaut" made a quick rise to the top five of the division following his amazing Knockout of the Night winning performance over Nate Marquardt at UFC 158.

    Ellenberger brutally welcomed the former Strikeforce champ back to the UFC with his fists, finishing Marquardt with punches just three minutes into the first round.

    Despite the big win, I'm still not entirely sold on "The Juggernaut."

    While Ellenberger has posted a phenomenal UFC record—recording wins over Jake Shields and Diego Sanchez with his only two losses coming against Martin Kampmann and Carlos Condit—I just don't think that he can contend with the guys sitting atop the welterweight division.

    Without considering GSP, Ellenberger doesn't match up well with Hendricks and has already lost to Condit, leaving just Rory MacDonald, who he's set to face later this month.

    If "The Juggernaut" can defeat MacDonald, then I'd say that he's a legit contender for the welterweight title. However, I just don't think that will happen.

    Contender or Pretender: Pretender

Rory MacDonald

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    Rory MacDonald has been a hot prospect for a while now, and he has certainly lived up to the hype so far.

    The Tristar Gym product is currently riding an impressive four-fight win streak, most recently taking a unanimous decision over the legendary B.J. Penn this past December.

    With his well-rounded skill set and pure athleticism, MacDonald has all the right tools to make a run at the belt, should he be willing to face teammate and champ Georges St-Pierre.

    The only question I have about the young 23-year-old is this: Can he stay healthy?

    MacDonald has had to drop out of bouts three times already in his UFC career due to injury.

    As long as he stays healthy and continues to take out whoever the UFC throws at him, I see MacDonald getting a title shot sooner rather than later.

    Contender or Pretender: Contender

Carlos Condit

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    Former interim welterweight champ Carlos Condit has a killer mentality.

    With his unorthodox yet deadly striking as well as an underrated submission game, "The Natural Born Killer" has proven his ability to take out opponents over the years.

    Despite his skills, Condit has been on a skid lately with two straight losses, albeit it to current No. 1 contender Johny Hendricks and champ Georges St-Pierre.

    Condit made it a battle in both fights, though, but just didn't have the wrestling to keep up with his last two foes.

    If the Greg Jackson product can avenge his loss to Kampmann later this summer, I can totally see Condit getting back on track to another title shot. He just better make sure that he works on his takedown defense.

    Contender or Pretender: Contender

Johny Hendricks

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    Make no mistake about it, Johny Hendricks is the real deal.

    "Big Rigg" has been on an insane run since his sole loss to Rick Story in 2010.

    He has gone a perfect 6-0 since then.

    With amazing wins over Jon Fitch, Carlos Condit and Martin Kampmann under his belt, there's a reason why he's getting the next crack at GSP.

    Hendricks is the biggest threat to the champ in the division right now, as "Big Rigg's" combination of elite wrestling and just brutal KO power could be the right mix to dethrone the welterweight king.

    Win or lose though, Hendricks is still be one of the toughest guys at 170 in MMA today.

    Contender or Pretender: Contender

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