After the welterweight-heavy UFC 171 card last weekend, the 170lb division has been left in a bit of a ruckus. The champion, Johny Hendricks, won a narrow decision which left the challenger, Robbie Lawler, disappointed. I think it’s fairly clear that Lawler will not be given an immediate rematch despite a few fans campaigning for one. With that said, the next welterweight title challenger is a giant mystery, so let’s look at what we have.
Honestly, it was no surprise that the UFC broadcast had an edited campaign for Rory MacDonald ready to go at the conclusion of the 5-round title fight between Hendricks and Lawler. Joe Rogan went as far as to say he personally believes MacDonald to be the one most deserving of the next title shot, even though MacDonald has only gained himself one victory since he was defeated by Robbie Lawler. In MacDonald’s win, which was over Demian Maia, Rory was forced to come back from a horrible first round. Luckily, MacDonald went on to put on an impressive display of striking skills against Maia that Joe Rogan and the rest of UFC would label as “his most impressive victory to date.”
I would hardly call MacDonald’s victory over Maia his “most impressive”, but it was a solid victory. Let’s not forget that Maia, although he has a thick resume, hasn’t really established himself as a top 5 fighter in the welterweight division; especially not after losing to Jake Shields. Ultimately, I’d say MacDonald needs at least one, if not two, more impressive win(s) left before he should be primed for a title shot.
After a display of sheer power and explosiveness, Tyron Woodley shock-and-awed his opponent, Carlos Condit, to his breaking point – literally. While Woodley’s win is quick to be discredited due to it ending via knee injury, one must not forget how impressive Tyron looked in the first round. No one has been able to out-strike Condit the way Woodley did with his big right hands, and even though Condit’s chin remained solid, they were definitely some of the hardest shots he has had to take in a long time. Woodley makes a strong case for the next title shot, but his disappointing performance against Jake Shields still looms in the corner. Unless the UFC heavily markets Woodley as someone who has “came into his own” within the last year, I don’t see how Woodley’s two-fight win streak credits him a title shot. If anything, Woodley should face MacDonald for a legitimate number-one contender spot.
While the last two rounds of Lombard’s 3-round decision win over Jake Shields left much to be desired, the first 5-minutes was pure violence. Lombard’s first-round attack is as explosive and ferocious as anybody’s in the game, and I don’t see how a fight between Lombard and Hendricks could be anything but explosive. In my opinion, this is the stylistic match-up that proves to be the most interesting: it’s knock-out power vs. knock-out power, and judo vs. wrestling. This fight has the makings to be one kick ass welterweight title fight, but is this fight the smart one to make?
Lombard is only on a two-fight win streak, just like Woodley, so I do not believe it would be fair to give Lombard the title shot over Woodley. The only problem is, Lombard’s win over Shields is easily the biggest victory possible in the 170lb weight-class, other than Johny Hendricks of course. Shields has recent victories over Maia and Woodley, and has past victories over Condit and Lawler. If there was one guy to beat that should prime you for a title shot, it’s Jake Shields, and Hector did that. Not only did Lombard beat Jake, but he completely rag-dolled him and made Jake Shields look bad. If the UFC and UFC fans weren’t so indifferent towards Hector Lombard, I think this is the guy to put in there with Hendricks as Lombard’s two-fight win streak trumps Woodley’s in terms of quality of opponent.
Dong Hyun Kim
Now I get to some of the dark horses of the division. Kim, while he has had a bad reputation for being a boring fighter, has completely stepped up his MMA game and is quickly becoming one of the most exciting fighters in the 170 lb division. Not only did he take out two highly prospected up-and-comers in Siyar Bahadurzada and Erick Silva, but his last win over John Hathaway proves that Kim is really starting to put it all together. I’ll be honest, Kim is not worthy of a title shot for his next bout, but his next fight should definitely lead him to one.
Lastly, I get to Nick Diaz. There is no doubt in my mind that Dana White and the match-makers at the UFC are highly considering putting Diaz in there against Hendricks for Johny’s first title defense, but it just does NOT make any sense. Diaz has lost two fights in a row, and putting him in there in another title fight will completely devalue what it means to “earn” a title shot. To avoid becoming anything similar to Strikeforce, the UFC can’t possibly give a guy who is coming off losses a title shot. They did it the first time when GSP vs. Diaz was set up for the title, and it drew in sales, but if it happens again, it will really make the UFC look bad. There are plenty of other contenders out there that Diaz could fight in the UFC if he wants back in the cage; if not, then I say let Diaz stay retired.