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[Opinion] Playing Matchmaker: the state of the welterweight title picture

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In Saturday night’s main event, Stephen Thompson not only picked up the most impressive win of his career with another stunning KO, but also placed himself firmly in the sights of Robbie Lawler as a real threat to his welterweight title reign. However, Thompson is not the only viable challenger who is banging on Dana White’s door looking for a title fight and with welterweight being such a deep division, Joe Silva has a tall order in front of him to separate the wheat from the chaff in the 170lb division.

Possibly leading the pack is Stephen Thompson coming hot off a first round knockout over former welterweight champion Johny Hendricks. Thompson owns a 7-1 record in the UFC and is currently on a six fight win streak with some of the best knockouts in the division, including two head kick KO’s. It’s safe to say Wonderboy’s fights speak for themselves and he would definitely make for an exciting fight with any guy in the division, especially someone who will most likely stand and bang with him like the current champion Robbie Lawler would.

Although his record is impressive, it’s also one of the reasons why it’s hard to give him the next shot at the champion. Thompson only has one win over a current top ten welterweight and, despite all of his other wins being impressive, he hasn’t been fighting guys of the same calibre as other men on this list.

Stephen Thompson is without a doubt one of the most exciting guys in the division, but I would like to see his mettle tested against more top ten guys, especially some from this list to see him truly earn his title shot. It’s not a case of if Thompson is ready for the world champ, but rather there are some guys who have earned the shot more than he has.

One challenger who not only has the UFC experience both in terms of years served in the company, but also in title fights is Demian Maia. The 38-year-old, nine-year UFC veteran has already tasted a title shot against Anderson SIlva at middleweight, but since his move to 170lbs in 2012, he has shown that welterweight is truly the best bracket for him.

Having amassed a 7-2 record since moving down, with his only losses coming by decision to top ranked Rory MacDonald and a razor close split decision to Jake Shields, Maia is still standing out as a real threat despite his age. The brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt is riding a four fight win streak and holds three victories over current top 15 ranked fighters.

However, despite his many accomplishments inside the octagon, Maia’s style has caught him some flack, being criticized for being dull in some contests. This, added to his inconsistency in some of his fights and not holding as big of a win streak as some men on this list means it’s hard to make the claim that he should be next in line. Maia had an extremely impressive win last year snapping Neil Magny’s seven fight win streak with a second round submission, but that one impressive finish doesn’t warrant a title shot in the minds of many fighters and fans alike. Maia probably will need a few more good wins against top five fighters under his belt before he gets his second UFC title fight, but keep an eye on the Brazilian as he has the power to strangle any man at 170lbs on any given night.

If Jon Jones is the leader of the ‘new breed of MMA’ then our next challenger Rory MacDonald is certainly his right hand man. Holding a 9-3 record in the UFC over 6 years with the company and fighting for the welterweight title last year all at the ripe old age of 26, MacDonald has the potential to be one of the greatest talents we have ever seen in MMA and the scary thing is his star just keeps rising.

Rory may be coming off a failed title shot attempt, being stopped by the current champ Robbie Lawler in a fight of the year candidate, but that doesn’t mean the young Canadian is done in the division yet. Since debuting in the UFC in 2010, Rory has been considered by many to be the future of the UFC possessing a near perfect skill set with no obvious weaknesses, being able to submit opponents with his BJJ blackbelt (like vs. Mike Guymon), knock them out with one punch (like vs. Tarec Saffiedine), or dominate them to a decision (vs. BJ Penn). MacDonald is a threat to anyone in any area of the game.

Despite all this praise, Rory has a history of falling when it comes to the biggest fights in his career, suffering his first pro loss to Carlos Condit in a fight he was winning before getting finished with only seven seconds left in the fight, or losing twice to the current kingpin Lawler halting his chance at a title both times. It is this last fact that will probably keep Rory away from another title shot for the foreseeable future, as he is 0-2 against Robbie Lawler and is coming off a match in which he was stopped by the champion. No matter how good your resume is, that’s going to be a hard hurdle for Joe Silva to overcome when setting up the next number one contender.

Despite his hardships, Rory is still one of the very best in the division and is improving with every fight. So, although we probably won’t see ‘MacDonald vs. Lawler 3’ anytime soon, I strongly believe Rory will be in a UFC title fight again in the coming years.

Tyron Woodley may be the best physical specimen in the division and he sure knows how to use his gifts to make it all the way to the number three ranked welterweight in the world. Woodley is a phenomenal wrestler with a lighting quick right hand that can put any 170 pounder to sleep instantly, just ask Josh Koscheck, Dong Hyun Kim or Jay Hieron.

Tyron is 5-2 in the octagon and currently riding a two fight win streak. Despite those not being as impressive numbers as other guys on this list, Tyron has fought some of the best in the division from Carlos Condit, Rory MacDonald and Kelvin Gastelum. However, one thing that has plagued Tyron throughout his seven fight UFC career is inconsistency. Woodley has a habit at crumbling in the bigger fights of his career most notably his loss to Rory MacDonald where he was completely shut down and outclassed in a dull 3 round decision where he barely threw a punch.

It is performances like this that put a bad taste in fans and matchmakers mouths alike and could be a huge reason why Woodley hasn’t received his title shot yet. On the flip side, Woodley is one of the most promising prospects in the division, showing clear improvements in his game and an insatiable appetite to compete and win, even going as far as making weight for his fight against Johny Hendricks despite Hendricks having already pulled of the contest out earlier in the day.

I don’t think Woodley will, or should, get the next title shot based on his record in the cage, but his personality shows me that he is a man who, with one or two more wins over top guys will be 100% ready for a crack at the belt in late 2016 or 2017 and when that time comes, I will find it hard to bet against a man like Tyron Woodley.

Last but no means least on our list is Carlos Condit. Having fought in the WEC and UFC since 2007 and won world titles in both organizations, Condit is surely one of the best welterweight competitors to ever grace the cage. Condit has fought a who’s who of 170lb fighters including Georges St Pierre, Tyron Woodley, Rory MacDonald and Johny Hendricks to name a few and he also won the interim UFC welterweight title against Nick Diaz when he himself looked unstoppable.

It is safe to say Condit’s resume is up there with the best in the world, but the one major downfall for him is he challenged Robbie Lawler for the world title just last month in a close split decision loss. Despite this, the UFC has not been shy in rewarding immediate rematches in the past, but those are normally reserved for long time champions who have lost their title, not the challengers. Although he lost against Lawler, many fans and media members believe Condit won the fight, giving Condit a very good claim for a rematch with the current champion.

However, having a devastating knee injury and a subsequent year-long lay off in 2014 means that Condit hasn’t had a win over a current top ten fighter since 2011 and he has also contemplated retirement after losing to Lawler, claiming the knee injury as a major factor. These two facts won’t fill the UFC brass with much confidence to re-book Condit vs. Lawler for the second time, but I believe, like many, that Condit can beat any welterweight on any given night.

You can make the claim for any man on this list to be the next top contender and few could argue against you, but I feel the resume, style and talent of Carlos Condit means he could be the man to dethrone the streaking champion Robbie Lawler and should be given the next shot to do so and even if he doesn’t succeed, if their rematch is anything like the first fight it will be money well spent for Dana White and the fans alike.

 

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Interviews

Exclusive: Derek Brunson: “Anderson was definitely a little lubed up”

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Derek Brunson fought Anderson Silva back in February of this year, at UFC 208. Brunson would go on to lose the fight by controversial unanimous decision. However, the controversies didn’t stop at the questionable decision, Brunson also claims Silva was greasing during the fight. The Wilmington, North Carolina native, posted about it on Twitter a few days ago:

Speaking with MMA Latest, Brunson explained why he believes Silva was greasing during the fight. “Anderson was definitely a little lubed up. Every time I grabbed him he was just slipping out of everything, and his takedown defense was really good that night. I was definitely curious to know why he was very slippery, which I definitely think he had some kind of substance on his body. He knows I’m a wrestler obviously, he’s an old, savvy veteran, so he was definitely trying to play all the rules and be very strategic, and make it harder for a wrestler to grab him.”

Brunson is set to face Lyoto Machida come October 28, when asked about whether he was worried about Machida greasing, considering Gegard Mousasi accused him of doing so in their fight, Brunson admitted he wasn’t too worried.

Well I’m not too worried, but like I said, I put it out there because I know they’re friends and I know, obviously, that’s kind of what the guys do when they know they’re fighting a wrestler. They want to lube their body up really good to make it hard to grab hold, Anderson did a great job defending my takedowns. It’s because he was all greased up so he was able to stop a lot of them. When I grab guys in the clinch, it’s very tough for them to get away and I’m pretty good with my Greco takedown. He was pretty much pulling through my clinch when I had a tight grip on him and if you have some kind of substance on your body it’s easy to pull them.”

Neither Silva nor his management have commented on the greasing allegations. Anderson Silva makes his return against Kelvin Gastelum later this year, in China. While Brunson makes his return to the Octagon on October 28th, in Brazil, where he looks to add Lyoto Machida’s name to his impressive list of victories.

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Announcement

Ovince Saint Preux Steps in to Face Corey Anderson at UFC 217

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UFC 217 just got even more interesting. Earlier this week, Patrick Cummins pulled out of his light heavyweight matchup with Corey Anderson due to a Staph infection. Corey “Overtime” Anderson was not happy with his opponents decision, even calling out his opponent on Instagram asking how Cummins could, “call it quits so far from fight night”.

The UFC left Anderson on the card, and he found an opponent through the magic of Twitter. Ovince Saint Preux tweeted out directly to Anderson stating:

It didn’t take long for Anderson to respond agreeing to the fight, tagging Mick Maynard and Dana White in his response.

Only a few short hours later, the fight announcement came from the official UFC twitter account.

 

This top 10 Light Heavyweight matchup should add to an already amazing card coming in November at Madison Square Garden. Saint Preux is coming off of back to back wins both due to the very rare von flue choke, he finds himself ranked #7th in the latest edition of the 205-pound rankings. Corey “Overtime” Anderson is 4-2 in his last 6 fights, but is coming off a brutal first round knockout loss to Jimi Manuwa in March.

With such a exciting fight added to this card, what do you see happening November 4th?  Will Corey Anderson bounce back and look to jump into the top 5 of the rankings, or will Ovince Saint Preux go for a third straight von flue choke? Let us know.

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*Watch* Bellator 185 Weigh in: Live Stream, Results

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Watch the live weigh-ins for Bellator 185 here.

Gegard Mousasi takes on Alexander Slemenko live this Friday night October 20th at the Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville CT. This is the first appearance for Mousasi in the Bellator cage as he looks to secure a title shot with a win over the very tough former Bellator champion Slemenko. Joining these men of the main card will be a pair of welterweights as Neiman Gracie from the famous Gracie BJJ family takes on Zak Bucia in the co-main event.

Full Weigh-in Results: (Updated in real time)

Main Card:

Gegard Mousasi (185) vs. Alexander Shlemenko (186)
Neiman Gracie (170.5) vs. Zak Bucia (170)
Heather Hardy (126) vs. Kristina Williams (126)
Ryan Quinn (155.5) vs. Marcus Surin (155)
Ana Julaton (125.5) vs. Lisa Blaine (122)

Preliminary Card:

Jordan Young (200) vs. Alec Hooben (194)
Costello van Steenis (185) vs. Steve Skrzat (186)
Vinicius de Jesus (170) vs. Joaquin Buckley (171)
John Beneduce (154.5) vs. Dean Hancock (155)
Timothy Wheeler (144) vs. Pete Rogers (144)
Don Shainis (150) vs. Matthew Denning (149)
Frank Sforza (149) vs. Vovka Clay (150)
Kevin Carrier (156) vs. Jose Antonio Perez (153)
John Lopez (126) vs. Billy Giovanella (125)

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