As much as UFC 158 was an action-packed, entertaining night of fights, things remain fairly consistent atop the most competitive division in the UFC.
Georges St-Pierre is still the welterweight champion, and Johny Hendricks remains the consensus top contender in the division. Both men earned unanimous decision wins on Saturday night in Montreal, St-Pierre besting challenger Nick Diaz 10-9 in all five rounds for his 11th straight win and 8th consecutive title defense, while Hendricks took two of three rounds from Carlos Condit on all three scorecards to earn the nod in the night’s co-main event.
Now the two are going to face off next, as UFC president Dana White confirmed in the post-fight press conference that Hendricks is now the No. 1 contender and St-Pierre didn’t say he wanted to fight someone else this time. Nothing else makes sense for St-Pierre anyway at this point, especially given that Anderson Silva is locked into a Fourth of July fight with Chris Weidman.
St-Pierre has turned aside every challenger to his title since avenging his loss to Matt Serra, while Hendricks has now bested fourth straight top 10 competitors. St-Pierre felt the bearded “Bigg Rigg” hadn’t done enough to rightfully earn a title shot before Saturday night’s event, but there is no denying he’s next in line now.
Here’s a look at what I think should be next for some of Saturday’s other main card competitors.
Nick Diaz vs. Josh Koshcheck
Once again, the defeated Diaz said he was through with mixed martial arts, sticking to the same “guys just hold me down” routine he’s used in the past as he complained about the way fights are scored and fought these days. And even though he showed up at the post-fight press conference saying he wants a rematch, clearly that’s not going to happen anytime soon.
Should he opt to return, a date with Josh Koscheck would make sense. A fight between the two was rumoured prior to Diaz being given this opportunity against St-Pierre, and it’s a quality pairing of two big-name competitors coming off disheartening losses.
It really will be a shame if Diaz does call it quits. As much as I disagree with his complaints, he’s a tremendous talent, and someone I love watching compete, and for him to call it a career at this point would be unfortunate.
Carlos Condit vs. Martin Kampmann
Coming off consecutive defeats, there is no reason to put Condit into a bout with Rory MacDonald at this point, but a rematch with Kampmann would certainly work.
The last two men to lose to Johny Hendricks faced off in Condit’s second UFC appearance with “The Natural Born Killer” winning in close split decision. Their paths haven’t crossed again since, but the timing for a rematch fits here.
There is no need to drop Condit too far down the ladder following losses to St-Pierre and Hendricks, and a fight with Kampmann achieves that. Meanwhile, the Danish welterweight gets to try to avenge a previous loss, and remain in the thick of the chase with a victory.
Jake Ellenberger vs. Tarec Saffiedine
Just as the above match-up is a pairing of the last two men to lose to Hendricks, why not line up the last two men to defeat Nate Marquardt as well?
Ellenberger impressed with his first-round knockout win on Saturday night, showing the same power that led to quick stoppage wins over Sean Pierson and Jake Shields in the past in dispatching the former Strikeforce champion. With Hendricks’ victory, he remains a couple good wins away from a title shot, and would be a solid name opposite the incoming and somewhat unknown Strikeforce title-holder.
For Saffiedine, a victory over Ellenberger would solidify him as a contender in the UFC welterweight division. As much as he looked great picking apart Marquardt in the Strikeforce finale, he needs a strong showing inside the Octagon before he’ll be considered a threat. Ellenberger is a proven commodity without throwing Saffiedine to the wolves.
Chris Camozzi vs. C.B. Dollaway
Camozzi took home a split decision win over Canadian Nick Ring on Saturday night, and has now won four consecutive contests. He’s yet to register a real breakthrough win though, and as such, moving him too far up the ladder at this point doesn’t really make sense.
Pairing him off with fellow TUF alum Dollaway feels like the right type of match-up to make next. “The Doberman” is coming off a “start quick and hold on late” win over Daniel Sarafien in January, which extended his winning streak to two. He’s a perpetual middle-of-the-pack middleweight, but halting Camozzi’s run could push him a little further into the mix.
Mike Ricci vs. Mike Wilkinson
Ricci dreamed about fighting inside the Octagon at the Bell Centre, and made that dream a reality on Saturday night, earning a unanimous decision win over fellow TUF finalist Colin Fletcher.
It was a solid all-around performance from the Tristar product, who seems to be someone the UFC would like to push going forward. That said there is no reason to rush him into the fray in the lightweight division.
Wilkinson remained undefeated with a victory over Brendan Loughnane back in December after earning a shot in the UFC as a member of the cast on “The Smashes.” He earned finishes in his first six career bouts, and showed some upside, so pairing these two 20-somethings off in the future would give us a good look at two potential prospects.
Quick hitters from the preliminary card
Patrick Cote vs. Rick Story
Both won in preliminary card action on Saturday, with Cote getting a questionable decision over Bobby Voelker, while Story smashed newcomer Quinn Mulhern. Rather than bringing them both along, stick ’em in the cage together, and see who takes the next step up the ladder.
Darren Elkins vs. Nik Lentz
You can argue with the stoppage, but you can’t argue with five consecutive wins for Elkins since dropping to featherweight. He showed improved striking on Saturday, and remains a very solid grappler. Lentz has earned a pair of quality wins since cutting down to 145 pounds, and is a suffocating grappler himself. There is no way the UFC wants two grinders working their way through the division, so don’t be surprised if these two get paired together next.
Jordan Mein vs. Dong Hyun Kim
How awesome was Mein’s debut? After surviving a tight-looking armbar attempt from Dan Miller, the Lethbridge, Alta., native dropped the veteran with a straight left, and then opened up on him to get the finish with 20 seconds remaining in the first. As much as you could bring him along slowly, why not see how good Mein really is by matching him with the surging “Stun Gun” next time out?
TJ Dillashaw vs. Takeya Mizugaki
Dillashaw earned an impressive second-round knockout win over Issei Tamura to push his winning streak to three. He’s a darkhorse prospect in the division, and in dire need of a step up in competition. Mizugaki is the kind of durable and experienced veteran he needs to beat in order to prove he belongs in the title conversation.