Thanks to the Majority Draw between B.J. Penn and Jon Fitch at UFC 127, the UFC has to honestly deal with the state of their welterweight division. The UFC has been fortunate that Champion George St. Pierre has dominated the division for close to four years and is one of the biggest superstars in all of Mixed Martial Arts. But now that St. Pierre is looking to close out his Welterweight reign (if he beats Jake Shields in April) the UFC has the potential for chaos.
UFC President Dana White has said if St. Pierre wins in April that he would move up to Middleweight and have a "Super fight" type matchup with Anderson Silva. Since I do not want to discount St. Pierre's next opponent Jake Shields (who has not lost a fight since December 2004) I will not project a victory. But lets theorize the ultimate "What If" question: What if St. Pierre beats Shields, moves up to Middleweight, and vacates the Welterweight Belt? Now What?
Looking at the Welterweight division as is now there is no clear cut next in line type of contender for the belt. The Penn-Fitch matchup was suppose to lay out a clear cut next in line contender for the championship. But they fought to a draw according to the judges. Penn had two serious chances to finish the fight with a rear naked choke on Fitch and this is a technique Penn has used to finish five previous fights! The logical next step would be to have Penn and Fitch rematch to resolve the stalemate.
Even if Shields looses to St. Pierre, one can rationalize he should get another shot to fight for the belt because Shields only loss in over 5 years was to St. Pierre. Looking at who Shields has beaten in the last couple years, its a list of top level competition: Paul Daley, Robbie Lawler, Jason Miller, Dan Henderson, and a close Split Decision win over Martin Kampmann. The only other fighter in the division with such an impressive resume is Jon Fitch. The major difference is that Shields has finished two of his previous five fights while Fitch hasn't been able to finish a fight since 2007. Being a grinder does not give Fitch much leverage in the long run without a signature win over a top five talent fighter (like B.J. Penn).
So if Fitch needs to beat Penn before he gets a shot at fighting for the belt, who else is left? Well here are some names and how close (or far depending on their current streak of wins) each logically is:
Martin Kampmann: There are many people who thought Kampmann should have won that fight with Shields last year. Kampmann looked good against Shields and his only loss since moving down to Welterweight division was to Paul Daley (September 2009). Kampmann's next fight is against Diego Sanchez this week and he needs to beat Sanchez along with atleast one more top ten welterweight fighter in order to make a solid argument of him fighting for the belt.
Thiago Alves: Since November of 2005 there are only two men who have beaten Thiago Alves: George St. Pierre and Jon Fitch. Fitch has been Alves' kryptonite in the UFC and George St. Pierre finds a way to beat everyone in the UFC, so Alves' losses are nothing to be ashamed of. His next fight is in May against Rick Story. If Alves can string together about three wins in a row he should definately get another shot at the welterweight championship because he is one of the most talented Welterweights in the UFC.
Carlos Condit: Before the WEC liquidated its Welterweight Division, Carlos Condit defended the WEC Welterweight Belt three straight times and each title defense never went the distance. Condit has now won three straight fights in the UFC, including a knockout of former number one contender and Tae Kwon Do Black Belt Dan Hardy. Condit was suppose to fight Chris Lytle before he had to withdraw with a knee injury. If Condit can come back soon and get two more quality wins he should get his shot at the division title. Condit is the most underrated and overlooked fighter in the UFC Welterweight division. Before Condit was brought into the UFC he had won eight straight fights.
Josh Koscheck: Previous to being beaten by George St. Pierre's excellent jab, Koscheck had beaten three tough welterweights and he totally shut down all three of them. Koscheck also was able to stop most of St. Pierre's takedown attemps which shows how strong and technically skilled Koscheck is. He typically does not get enough credit for his excellent wrestling skills and athelticism because his "villian" reputation is what most people know him for. Koscheck will be back as soon as he recovers from the damage that St. Pierre's jab did to break his eye socket (Koscheck has also said he suffered some minor nerve damage in his face and he will not be able to run or train hard until possibly May). If Koscheck can string together another three strong wins he will be right back in title contention.
And remember, all of this analysis is conjuecture based on the "What If" of George St. Pierre beating Jake Shields in April. If Shields takes down St. Pierre then who knows what is next! St. Pierre has only lost twice in his entire MMA career and he avenged both of those losses so it is not far fetched to think a loss to Shields would drive him to come back and beat Shields to get the title back. For now, we can only wait and see what will happen April 30, 2011.