The welterweight division was shaken up recently when former champion and welterweight GOAT Georges St-Pierre abdicated the UFC’s most treasured belt to take an indefinite leave of absence. Well known as one of the deepest divisions in MMA, welterweight now has a whole host of contenders chomping at the bit for a shot at the top. Here’s my take on the division.
10. Matt “The Immortal” Brown
The number ten spot was closely contested between Brown and Tarec Saffiedine. Though both men are more than deserving of top ten status at this point in there careers, Brown takes the spot on my list due to strength of schedule. I don’t like to claim that UFC fighters are automatically better than ones fighting in other organizations, but Stephen Thompson, Jordan Mein, Mike Swick, and Mike Pyle are better wins than Scott Smith, Tyler Stinson, Roger Bowling, Nate Marquardt, and Lim Hyun Gyu. Marquardt was Saffiedine’s most impressive recent name, and Marquardt didn’t do the Belgian’s record any retroactive favors by getting starched in his last two bouts. The Immortal will probably be on the shelf for a little while, but his four knockout streak is impressive enough to keep him in the bottom of the top ten.
9. Martin “The Hitman” Kampman
Kampmann is fresh off two disappointing losses by KO, but those came at the hands of the two best active welterweights in the division. A recent win would do a lot to improve his image, but losses to Johny Hendricks and Carlos Condit aren’t nearly damaging enough to erase the memory of the incredible comeback wins Kampmann scored over two other top welterweights in Jake Ellenberger and Thiago Alves.
8. Ben “Funky” Askren
Askren doesn’t have the same proven names to his record as the rest of the fighters on this list, but he doesn’t deserve to be unranked simply because the UFC doesn’t want him. The man is, quite simply, one of the best wrestling talents we’ve ever seen in MMA, and a slowly but steadily developing submission game doesn’t hurt his stock any. Despite lacking wins over any current UFC fighters, Askren has collected an impressive collection of ears: Nick Thompson (solid, despite a recent losing streak), Jay Hieron, Douglas Lima, Karl Amoussou, and Andrey Koreshkov are all dangerous opponents that had no answer for the Murder Blanket’s stifling game. Here’s hoping he doesn’t waste away in One FC and gets picked up by the UFC soon.
7. Jake “The Juggernaut” Ellenberger
Ellenberger had a frustratingly tough night against Rory MacDonald in his last outing, and a loss to Martin Kampmann just a year and a half ago, but he outranks Kampmann for the moment because of his more recent success, as well as the fact that, unlike the Dane, none of his recent wins were unexpected come-from-behind victories, but rather dominant performances, including a vicious knockout of Nate Marquardt. It was troubling to see Ellenberger so easily shut down by the jab of Rory MacDonald, but with the right opponent (or the right adjustments) we’ll see Ellenberger knocking out more top welterweights in style before long.
6. Rory “Ares” MacDonald
Long touted as one of the most promising welterweights in the division, MacDonald just hasn’t beaten enough top welterweights to make a convincing member of the divisional top ten. That said, a dominant win against BJ Penn and an effortless, if artless, victory over Jake Ellenberger are more than enough to cement his place in the middle of the top ten. A recent set back against Robbie Lawler might be just what MacDonald needed to turn away from his stall-boxing ways and return to the aggressive, submission-wrestler style he employed so effectively in the past.
5. “Ruthless” Robbie Lawler
Seriously, who saw this coming? Robbie Lawler, who had his pro debut nearly 13 years ago, and recently went 3-5 as a middleweight in Strikeforce, is now a top 5 welterweight in the UFC. Some questioned his knockout win over Josh Koscheck in his return to the Octagon. His subsequent knockout of Bobby Voelker was impressive, but hardly unexpected. But those in addition to Lawler’s recent thrashing of Rory MacDonald (which should not have been a split decision) have cemented him as a force to be reckoned with at 170.
4. Demian Maia
I really like Maia as a fighter. His penchant for out-grappling grinders really won me over after he made the wise decision to move to welterweight. Granted, he didn’t look so great against Jake Shields in his last fight, but Shields has an unrivaled ability to make his opponents look like hot garbage while simultaneously failing to impress in his own right, so I can’t hold that against him.
3. Jake Shields
I won’t lie: I am not a fan of Jake Shields, and it pains me to rank him this highly. In fact, I considered ranking him below Maia just because his performance in that fight was so unimpressive, but I decided to agree with the judges’ decision, and that means that he can only be situated above the Brazilian. Shields actually did show some impressive wrestling in that fight, though his slick reversals and passes were lost in the morass of boredom that made up the majority of the bout. I can’t help but respect Shields, however, for his dogged determination. Even with some of the most awkward striking in the UFC, he won a competitive fight with one of the best BJJ black belts to ever transition to MMA, and he deserves this spot on the list.
2. “The Natural Born Killer” Carlos Condit
Who doesn’t love Carlos Condit. Despite two losses in his last three, the NBK is easily the second best active welterweight in the world right now. His last loss was a close one to current title challenger and consensus number one Johny Hendricks, and most, myself included, feel that Condit would have won that fight were it not a mere three-rounder. Before that Condit suffered a decision defeat at the hands of GSP, giving the long-time champion more trouble in the process than anyone I’ve ever seen–until Hendricks, that is. Condit should be knocking at the door for another title shot with another win or two, and I don’t think anybody would say he doesn’t deserve it.
1. Johny “Bigg Rigg” Hendricks
Hendricks is unquestionably the top active welterweight in the world right now. Though he didn’t beat GSP in my personal estimation (nor on the scorecards of two of the judges that night), he gave the former champion more trouble than I thought possible, hurting him badly on one occasion and outwrestling him throughout the fight. Several of Johny’s wins leading up to that fight were less than impressive, but he has always been game, and the new tools he showed against St-Pierre give me the impression that he is likely to go on another undefeated streak very soon.