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State of the Welterweight Division

Vinny Craig

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The Welterweight division was completely flipped when Tyron Woodley took the title at UFC 201 with a first-round knockout of Robbie Lawler. One of the deepest divisions in the UFC keeps getting deeper with the new champion as the new look at the top brings in exciting matchups. The call-out of former title challenger Nick Diaz during the post-fight interview by Woodley shows the fans, and the UFC brass, where his mind is as a champion. Many guys could earn their way to a title shot in the next couple of months, all with eyes on that coveted gold strap.

The Champion –Tyron Woodley

 

Many wrote Tyron Woodley off against Robbie Lawler. It was seen as a setup bout for bigger fights against other guys. The 18 month wait he took to cash in on being promised the title shot worked in his favor after he beat Lawler by first-round knockout to capture the belt. He took the opportunity with all eyes on him to call out Nick Diaz for a fight at UFC 202. While that timetable was not going to be met, a fight with Diaz and Woodley would do big numbers. Many others have ‘deserved’ the shot more, but many thought the same when Woodley got his title shot.

 

Next-In-Line

Stephen Thompson

While many can claim to have earned their title shot, no one can take that claim away from “Wonderboy”.  Seven straight wins and two top 3 wins undoubtedly have a lot of pull for the Karate style fighter, but the big fight Woodley wants may see him wait for his shot or take another fight. If the fight with Woodley can’t come together, a fight with Lawler, Kelvin Gastelum, or Neil Magny (if he can get past Lorenz Larkin) would be the match-ups to move forward in the division.

 

The Present

Demian Maia

The one-time Middleweight title challenger has put together a nice run in the 170-pound division. Five straight wins and 8 of 10 in the Welterweight division puts Maia one or two fights away from getting a title shot in his second division. He has wins in his career over great fighters and is set for a fight with three-time title challenger Carlos Condit at UFC on Fox 21. A win over Condit, especially a finish, gives the Brazilian that one top 5 win every title challenger needs.

Carlos Condit

                                                                                 

What many believe should be the current champion after his close decision with Robbie Lawler at UFC 195 is just a contender for the time being. After flirting with retirement after 39 career fights, Condit will return as the headliner at UFC on Fox 21 against Maia. He earned his stripes in the division when he won the Interim belt against Nick Diaz at UFC 143. Despite losing the unification bout, he has stayed at the top of the division with well-timed wins to earn his title shot at UFC 195. With the fight being so close at UFC 195, a win over Maia places ‘The Natural Born Killer’ inside that bubble of immediate title contenders.

Neil Magny

The workhorse of the division happens to also be one of the best fighters. Eleven fights inside 25 months have seen Magny win 10 of those fight, each coming over bigger and bigger opponents. After seven straight wins, a loss to Maia set him back very little as he has three consecutive wins right after. His fight with Lorenz Larkin at UFC 202 is the longest time between fights for Magny since his first and second UFC fights. A win at UFC 202 isn’t the one to gain Magny a title shot but puts him closer and available for bigger opponents in the near future.

Rory MacDonald

Despite losses to Lawler and Thompson in his last two, MacDonald is still among the top tier at 170. At just 27 years old, MacDonald has a lot of fight time left to regain his form. While not currently under contract, one of the best fighters in the Welterweight division has spent the majority of his professional career with the UFC. If he chooses to return to the UFC, fights with anyone inside the top 10 is a step in the right direction to get back on track for a title run.

 

The Future

Kelvin Gastelum

The Ultimate Fighter Season 17 winner is a real threat as long as he can comfortably make 170 pounds. After five straight wins, he lost a fight to champion Tyron Woodley after missing weight badly at UFC 183. He is 2-2 in his last four but looked fantastic in his last two fights against Neil Magny (decision loss) and former champion Johny Hendricks (decision win). At just 24 years old, Gastelum has a lot of room, and time, for improvement. Big fights await the young star and a title shot could be right around the corner with multiple big wins.

 

Gunnar Nelson

 

The other Irishman goes about his business much different from his teammate Conor McGregor. The seasoned grappler already has six UFC at 28 years old, including submission wins over Brandon Thatch and Albert Tumenov. With his striking prowess (Brown belt in Karate) and grappling mastery, it won’t be long before ‘Gunni’ is a top Welterweight. Fights against fellow top 15 fighters will keep Nelson in the hunt for the title he wants so badly.

 

Albert Tumenov

The Russian fighter has some of the best boxing in the division as a National Master in Boxing and Hand-to-Hand combat. Five straight wins were cut short after he was submitted by Gunnar Nelson back at UFC: Rotterdam in May. He’s another young prospect in one of the deepest divisions at just 24 years old, a lot of time to sure up the parts of his game that need work. A win in his next fight will do great things for him going forward, followed up by a ranked fight after.

 

Worth Mentioning

Nick Diaz

The former title challenger was called out by champion Tyron Woodley after his title win at UFC 201. He’s worth mentioning not just because of the call-out, but also because he brings fans in to watch events. Despite losing his last three fights, despite being caught with inflated levels of marijuana in his system, Diaz continues to be around the top of a division he has not fought in since 2013.

 

Georges St. Pierre

 

The long-time champion who never lost his belt has been hinting at a return for quite some time. The title he held for the better part of seven years is now in the hands of Tyron Woodley who says he wants the money fights. A fight with Woodley in New York City is the money fight he is looking for but is all contingent on whether GSP is ready to return to the division he dominated for years.

 

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Announcement

Felice Herrig vs. Karolina Kowalkiewicz in the works for UFC 223

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UFC 223 looks to add a variety of intriguing bouts. With Paul Felder vs. Al Iaquinta reportedly set for the unannounced UFC 223 card, the promotion looks to add a high stakes female flyweight match-up. According to MMANYTT.com, sources confirmed a bout between Felice Herrig and Karolina Kowalkiewicz, is in the works for the pay-per-view card.

 

Assuming the match-up does come to be, both women have much to gain from a victory. For Herrig, she currently sits on a four-fight win streak. A streak in which the strawweight contender defeated Kailin Curran, Alexa Grasso, Justine Kish, and Cortney Casey. The MMA veteran, Herrig, began fighting professionally in 2009. As of late, her issues with the marketing machine that is the UFC have intensified.

After demonstrating her technical prowess over Justine Kish at UFC Fight Night 122: Chiesa vs. Lee, Herrig put her emotions on display. She stated at the post-fight media scrum, “Sometimes, I feel like, I’m not young and beautiful enough for the UFC to want to promote me. And it’s sad because I’ve really worked so hard to be here and it’s hard to see these people who’ve not been through what I’ve been through. Who just got into the UFC at the right time. They’re getting all these opportunities and I see how hard I work to get here and it’s just like, it doesn’t matter. I just feel like, ‘I’m not pretty enough and I’m not getting any younger'”.

A frustrated Felice Herrig then spoke to MMAJunkie.com in December. She claimed, “Aside from (former UFC women’s strawweight champ) Joanna (Jedrzejczyk), I’m the only strawweight who’s gone on a four-fight winning streak. That’s a fact. At this point, I want to fight someone in the top 10. It doesn’t really make sense for me to keep fighting girls that are ranked below me. That’s the whole point. If I want to keep working my way up. I fight the most dangerous girls outside the top 10”. The #9 ranked women’s flyweight has a point. In her UFC career, she recorded one loss in six appearances. Yet, she has one co-main event booking, while fighters like Michelle Waterson, booked the main event in her second UFC bout. In Waterson’s third bout, she received a co-main event scheduling. Understandably, Felice Herrig is upset with her situation.

Later in her interview, Herrig brought up Kowalkiewicz as a potential next opponent. “For whatever reason, I really want to fight Karolina. I just think that would be an exciting fight… Stylistically, I really like that fight. She’s ranked above (me), and it may be a good gauge for me,” she stated. Right now, it looks like Herrig is close to getting what she wants.

Kowalkiewicz last fought in her native country of Poland on the UFC Fight Pass card, UFC Fight Night 118: Cowboy vs. Till, in October. The Polish star defeated Jody Esquibel, after losing consecutive contests to former UFC female strawweight champion, Joanna Jedrzejcyk and Claudia Gadelha, respectively.

A win for either makes a good case for the next or an eventual title challenger. Kowalkiewicz holds a victory over current division champion, Rose Namajunas. While a win for Herrig would further establish her impressive win streak and undoubtedly give her the boost in the rankings she deserves.

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Bellator

Douglas Lima found out about change to co-main event at Bellator 192 from the internet

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Bellator 192 fight card has gone through a shake-up over the past week. Bellator president Scott Coker revealed last week that the scheduled welterweight title fight between Rory MacDonald and champion Douglas Lima will now be serving as the co-main event and the heavyweight matchup between Chael Sonnen and Rampage Jackson would instead take top billing. At the time no explanation was made for the change. Monday Douglas Lima was a guest on The MMA Hour with Ariel Helwani to discuss this change.

“I was little bummed, but it is what it is, it’s business you know. I was pretty excited you know? Being the main event, having Rampage fight as the co-main event, I was happy there. Then I was bummed out that they changed it back to the co-main event. It’s not going to change a thing for me, I’m just focusing on the fight.”

Lima has been notoriously looked over in the eyes of fight fans. A longtime member of Bellator and a two-time champion has not gotten the notice he deserves and hopes to get.

“I found out through the internet, nobody tells me anything, I didn’t know. the same thing happened in New York, I thought my fight would be before the two main events there, but it ended up being the first fight of the night on Pay-Per-View. Hopefully, it doesn’t take anything away from the fight, you know spotlight and stuff.”

Lima is looking to make all the naysayers take notice at Bellator 192 that takes place at The Forum in Inglewood, Califonia on January 20th.

“This is the fight I’ve been waiting for for a long time. To get my name out there, to get people to know who I am. I’ve been delivering a lot of good fights, fights fans like to watch but no attention yet. I’m hoping though that after a win over Rory this week it will really put my name out there and show all these welterweights out there that I am for real.”

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Fight Announcements

Al Iaquinta vs. Paul Felder rescheduled for UFC 223 in April

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MMA fans around the world wept in deep sorrow when Al Iaquinta withdrew from a bout scheduled for UFC 218 against Paul Felder. Weep no more, for Paul Felder faces Al Iaquinta at UFC 223. Rumblings behind the match-up, first reported by FloCombat.com, came Sunday night before MMAFighting.com confirmed the bout scheduled for unannounced pay-per-view card, later in the evening.

 

The original bout fell through due to a severe knee injury to Iaquinta. He spoke to BJ Penn Radio about the injury nearly a week before the December 2nd, PPV event in Detriot. The Long Island real estate agent claimed, “I tore my PCL and my MCL maybe three or four months ago… for me to really put in a full training camp and do what I need to do, I would’ve had to just focus on fighting and physical therapy… it was the kind of thing where all roads led to me not kind of taking a risk and fighting on December 2nd”.

Iaquinta went on to say, “I kind of accepted the fight, but I never signed a bout agreement… I was kind of told I had to give them an answer pretty quick. It was a fight I thought I really wanted. I thought it was a good stylistic match-up for me, so I accepted the fight, and then thinking about it over the course of a day, we realized it probably wasn’t a smart decision for my health, for everything”.

An outspoken lightweight, he is not the first of his kind. Al Iaquinta is no stranger to idly waiting on the sideline for the UFC to make a move. Contract disputes and other bad strokes of luck left the Serra-Longo with three octagon appearances since 2015. The feud between Iaquinta and the promotion comes as a surprise when looking at the credentials of the aforementioned fighter. With an octagon record of 8-2, he earned notoriety as one of the best lightweights in the world. During his time in the UFC, he defeated Kevin Lee, Ross Pearson, Joe Lauzon, Jorge Masvidal, and most recently Diego Sanchez.

His opponent, “The Irish Dragon”, Paul Felder, holds an impressive UFC record of his own. At 7-3, Felder defeated tough competition as well. His record notes wins over Daron Cruickshank, Jason Saggo, Stevie Ray, and Charles Oliveira. Even more impressive than his record, his knockout ratio. At this stage of his career, Felder knockouts 55% of his opponents (10 knockouts in 18 career pro bouts).

Like his opponent Iaquinta, Paul Felder has a separate career outside of fighting. As many should notice, Felder found a role as a color commentator with the promotion he fights for. Following the footsteps in a long line of fighters before him, Felder announced multiple events alongside another new addition to the UFC broadcast team, Brendan Fitzgerald.

PPV card, UFC 223 and its location are not official yet. Despite a lack of an announcement, the event takes place in Brooklyn, New York at the Barclays Centre, according to multiple reports. Currently, the card features no official bouts. Reports state Felice Herrig vs. Karolina Kowalkiewicz (per Jim Edwards), and Evan Dunham vs. Mairbek Taisumov (per Farah Hannoun) are both in the works for UFC 223.

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