With a new champion being crowned and five fights being held in the weight class, there was no doubt that last Saturday’s UFC 171 card in Dallas was going to shake up top 15 of the welterweight division. And with the release Monday of the latest edition of the official UFC Fighter Rankings, that was certainly the case. So who’s up, who’s down and who’s out? Let’s find out.
(Last week’s ranking in parentheses)
Johny Hendricks (1)
This is what Johny Hendricks wanted since the first time he put on the gloves – to be the man with the target on his back. And with his five round win over Lawler last Saturday, he got what he asked for, but it definitely wasn’t handed to him on a platter, as he and “Ruthless” took turns hitting and rocking each other for 25 minutes until a fifth round surge sealed the deal for Hendricks. It was the official crowning of a fighter many believed should have had that honor last November after his controversial fight with the man who vacated the belt, Georges St-Pierre, but better late than never, right?
1 - Robbie Lawler (3)
Rightfully moving into the number one spot is veteran favorite Robbie Lawler. He was thisclose to winning the belt last Saturday night, and his effort in defeat was rewarded by the voters in the poll. But what should be next for the Iowa product? I’m sure no one would complain about an immediate rematch with Hendricks, but I’m guessing Lawler will fight someone else before getting another crack at the belt.
2 - Rory MacDonald (4)
Also moving up after his gritty win over Demian Maia last month is Canada’s Rory MacDonald. So is he the next in line? Well, he did lose his pre-Maia bout to Lawler, so another win should be in order before the longtime heir apparent gets his crack at championship gold. My choice for a title eliminator? A rematch between MacDonald and the first man to beat him, Carlos Condit.
3 - Carlos Condit (2)
A freak knee injury ended Carlos Condit’s night against Tyron Woodley at UFC 171, an unfortunate occurrence not just for “The Natural Born Killer,” but for the fans who were looking forward to seeing if he could come back from a rough start against Woodley. Once his knee injury heals up, a rematch with MacDonald would be the perfect title elimination bout.
4 - Tyron Woodley (11)
So after eliminating the first three contenders on this list in my imaginary welterweight title pictures, we come to the number four ranked contender in Tyron Woodley. And ladies and gentlemen, we have a winner, as I believe “The Chosen One” should be the one chosen for Hendricks’ first title defense. Woodley is 3-1 with three stoppages in the UFC, with his lone loss to Jake Shields being a disputed one, and he looked the best he’s ever looked against Condit last Saturday. Add in the great style matchup between the two wrestlers turned knockout arists, and Hendricks vs. Woodley would be a can’t miss action fight. Will it happen? Time will tell.
5 - Jake Ellenberger (5)
Holding steady in the number five slot is Jake Ellenberger, winner of eight of his last 10, but a fighter coming off a loss to MacDonald last July. Returning to action next month in Baltimore, Ellenberger can make a move northward with a win over former Strikeforce champ Tarec Saffiedine at UFC 172.
6 - Hector Lombard (12)
With a 2-0 record at welterweight that includes a knockout of Nate Marquardt and last Saturday’s decision win over Jake Shields, former middleweight contender Hector Lombard has made quite an entrance into the 170-pound fray. And while those two wins haven’t put him in prime position for a title shot yet, a win over one of the folks above him on the list right now could very well do the trick.
7 - Matt Brown (8)
Matt Brown could have been talking about a possible meeting with Hendricks right now if not for the injury that took him out of a December showdown with Condit. That’s unfortunate for “The Immortal,” whose current six fight winning streak has him showing off the best form of his career. Luckily, he’s healed up, back in the gym, and preparing for a May meeting in his home state of Ohio with Erick Silva. If he moves his streak to seven that night, it would be hard to deny him a place in the title fight conversation.
8 - Demian Maia (7)
Former middleweight title challenger Demian Maia may have lost his last two fights, but after a split decision defeat to Shields and a Fight of the Night loss to MacDonald, the grappling wizard hasn’t seen his stock fall at all. But to move up the 170-pound rankings, he needs to get back in the win column in his next fight.
9 - Tarec Saffiedine (9)
It took a while for Tarec Saffiedine to make his UFC debut after Strikeforce closed its doors, but he introduced himself in style in January with a Fight of the Night win over Hyun Gyu Lim. Now hoping to keep the momentum going, Saffiedine will face the man he was supposed to face in that Singapore bout, Jake Ellenberger, in Baltimore next month.
10 - Dong Hyun Kim (10)
We’ve heard it all the time – fighters saying how they’ve changed their approach to the game and that you’ll see a “new” version of them on fight night. Then it’s the same old story. Not for Dong Hyun Kim though, as the South Korean standout has turned into a knockout machine in his last two fights, taking out Erick Silva and John Hathaway with performances that earned him a post-fight bonus in each. Whoever he takes on next, expect the entire UFC fan base to be watching.
11 - Jake Shields (6)
Jake Shields had an admittedly poor performance in losing to Lombard at UFC 171, but with an unbeaten streak of four fights heading into the bout, it’s clear that when Shields is on, he’s still a legitimate threat to anyone at 170 pounds.
12 - Mike Pyle (13)
The living embodiment of a late bloomer, 38-year-old Mike Pyle is on the best run of his career, winning five of his last six bouts, four by knockout. Fresh from a TKO of TJ Waldburger last month, Pyle wants a top ten foe next, and he should definitely be given one.
13 - Kelvin Gastelum (NR)
TUF 17 winner Kelvin Gastelum didn’t just beat Rick Story in a thrilling three rounder last Saturday, he took his opponent’s top 15 ranking as well. Gastelum showed grit in his latest win, along with the talent that got him here in the first place, establishing the reality that we’re going to be seeing KG around these parts for a while.
14 - Gunnar Nelson (NR)
Another new addition to the top 15, Gunnar Nelson put on a clinic in his first round submission of Omari Akhmedov earlier this month, keeping his unbeaten record intact as he delivered the most impressive effort of his UFC career thus far.
15 - Erick Silva (NR)
Ousting Josh Koscheck from the top 15 is Brazil’s Erick Silva. Ultra-talented but erratic in his UFC career to this point, Silva’s knockout of Takenori Sato gave him a Performance of the Night bonus and may have set him on the right track to gaining the consistency he needs to be a title threat in the coming months and years.
THE WILD CARD
Inactive since March of last year, and coming off two losses – not to mention the idea that he’s retired – Nick Diaz doesn’t have place in the top 15 here, but last weekend in Dallas, he was present, visible, and on the mind of fight fans as he attended the Hendricks-Lawler card. So when will Diaz return to active duty, and against whom? Those are the questions fans hope to get answered sooner, rather than later.
UFC 171 Shakes Up Welter Rankings
Who's up, who's down in the welterweight rankings after UFC 171...