Despite being packed with a long list of top-level MMA talent, the UFC welterweight division was ruled for nearly six years by longtime champion Georges St. Pierre.
That reign came to an end after “GSP” won a highly controversial split decision over No. 1 contender Johny Hendricks at last November’s UFC 167 and promptly stated that he needed to take some time off from the sport for personal reasons. He vacated the belt and incited a media outburst over just what those issues are. It’s unknown if and when he’ll ever return to the Octagon.
But that’s a different story for a different time.
As one of the most stacked divisions in all of MMA, the UFC 170-pound arena must move on without its legendary king. Hendricks is slated to face surging knockout artist Robbie Lawler for the vacant belt in the main event of March 15’s UFC 171 from the American Airlines arena in Houston, Texas.
Also holding possible implications on the card, No. 2-ranked Carlos Condit will take on dangerous All-American wrestler Tyron Woodley. Hector Lombard and Jake Shields will also battle for a shot to becoming an instant player in a tough division.
All this makes UFC 171 absolutely pivotal for a welterweight landscape that’s still struggling to find its identity. We’ll have a new champ decided that night, and we might even know the next likely challengers, as well.
But beyond UFC 171, the welterweight division holds a multitude of hungry challengers that are clawing their ways towards a coveted title shot. Jake Ellenberger and Tarec Saffiedine will have that chance when they go to war at UFC 172 in Baltimore this April.
The UFC welterweight division is all of the sudden packed with new and exciting directions to take. Fighters who were miles away from that shot when “GSP” was entrenched as champion now see a window of opportunity opening up.
Although it was sad to lose a great champion like “GSP,” he may even return to action before the year is up. Who is your pick to end 2014 with UFC 170-pound gold wrapped around his waist?
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