Welterweight Players

gsp diazIn this edition, we actually are going to have a lot of important, divisional fights this upcoming weekend. Of course we all know about the top fight between GSP and Diaz. But we also two other important welterweight fight.

–When Strikeforce welterweight champion Nick Diaz defeated Paul Daley, the buzz surrounding him was incredible. People online were proclaiming it “Round of the Year” and an early candidate for “Fight of the Year.” That same month (April 2011), GSP had a disappointing and lame fight with Jake Shields in front of 55,000 fans. A “Champion vs Champion” fight was set up for UFC 137 (October 2011) between GSP and Diaz. But Diaz was denied that shot after Dana White pulled him from the contest due to missing a press conference. GSP vs Condit was signed but then GSP suffered an injury that forced him to cancel the bout. The co-feature between Diaz vs Penn was promoted to main event and we all remember Diaz pounding Penn violently en route to a unanimous decision victory. After the fight, we saw Diaz being Diaz and the UFC just couldn’t contain themselves. They “asked” (forced) Condit to step aside for GSP vs Diaz to be paired up again for UFC 143 (February 2012). Another injury forced GSP out of the fight, so we were given Diaz vs Condit for the interim welterweight title at UFC 143. Condit upset Diaz in a fight that didn’t quite live up to the guaranteed fireworks we were hoping for, but Condit got the interim title. In the days removed from the fight, UFC wanted to go ahead with Condit-Diaz II in the Summer of 2012. Then Diaz failed a drug test for marijuana, got a one year suspension and the rematch went up in smoke. GSP, after being out for at least 18 months, would go on to defeat Condit at UFC 154 (November 2012), in what was one of the more entertaining welterweight title fights in recent memory. We’re finally going to get GSP vs Diaz at UFC 158 after years of promotional barriers, missed press conferences, injuries, Condit, and marijuana getting in the way.

–UFC 158 has, what I think, are the top four welterweights in the top two fights. The co-feature is Johny Hendricks stepping up against Carlos Condit. The original fight was going to be Carlos Condit vs Rory Macdonald II. Their first fight was a barn burner from June 2010. A lot of people thought Macdonald was winning the fight (I personally thought Condit was ahead but I’m the minority) before Condit stopped him via TKO in the last seven seconds of the third frame. But Macdonald got injured so Johny Hendricks was removed from his fight with Jake Ellenberger to fight Condit instead. In a period in which Diaz secured no wins, Hendricks was able to KO Jon Fitch, decision Josh Koscheck, and KO Martin Kampmann. Before that trio of wins, he also defeated Mike Pierce, one of the most underrated welterweights around. I personally think Hendricks is the number two welterweight in the world right now, so it’s exciting to see him fight someone like Carlos Condit. While Condit’s last fight was a loss to GSP, he has wins over Ellenberger (somewhat debatable), Macdonald, Hardy, Kim, and Diaz (the only person to beat Diaz within a 5 year period).

–Jake Ellenberger was on a big hot streak at one point. He had won six fights in a row, which included knocking out Jake Shields. He then ran into Martin Kampmann’s knee on June 2012. He bounced back from that loss to beat Jay Hieron on October 2012. Nate Marquardt made his welterweight debut defeating Tyron Woodley for the vacant Strikeforce welterweight title in a great fight on July 2012. He lost that title in a one sided fight to Tarec Saffiedine on January 2013. Ellenberger and Marquardt meet at UFC 158, making it the best welterweight line-up since UFC 154 (GSP-Condit/Hendricks-Kampmann).

–For a while there, Martin Kampmann was the feel good story of the welterweight division. After losing debated decisions to Jake Shields and Diego Sanchez, Kampmann bounced back with a solid win over Rick Story. He then finished both Thiago Alves (March 2012) and Jake Ellenberger (June 2012) in back-to-back great fights. Unfortunately, he ran into Johny Hendricks (November 2012) and it was lights out for Kampmann. No new fight has been announced yet for Kampmann.

–With his move to welterweight, Demian Maia has brought new life to his MMA career. He’s now 3-0 at welterweight, with wins over Dong Hyun Kim, Rick Story, and Jon Fitch. His neck crank win over Rick Story is remembered as one of the most brutal submission victories of 2012. His win over Fitch last month was a grappling clinic and arguably the best win of his career No word on who Maia fights next.

–After his loss to Maia, Jon Fitch was cut from the UFC. Before that Maia fight, Fitch defeated Erick Silva, quite brutally I might add, in a “Fight of the Year” candidate. Yes, Johny Hendricks did KO him on December 2011 and he did have a draw with BJ Penn (although most feel Fitch won), but I still feel he was prematurely cut from the UFC. It’s a shame since he’s still a top ten welterweight in my eyes and he deserves to be in the promotion. Fitch will now compete at the World Series of Fighting and is scheduled to make his debut in June.

–Tarec Saffiedine defeated Nate Marquardt by picking him apart with his slick striking skills. Some joked that Marquardt’s leg looked so nasty (due to legkicks), that it could become an MMA meme online. With that win, he was awarded the final Strikeforce welterweight championship. Saffiedine was offered a short notice fight against Carlos Condit for this weekend, but turned it down. He’s riding a 4 fight win streak at this point.

–Rory Macdonald was supposed to fight Carlos Condit this Saturday night, but an injury forced him out of action. We last saw Macdonald dominate BJ Penn in December 2012.

–This past January, Bellator welterweight champion Ben Askren destroyed Karl Amoussou for three rounds. Askren has a reputation for being “boring”, but this was anything but boring. It was Askren’s best performance to date, and he’s set to defend his title against Andrey Koreshkov in 2013.

–Josh Koscheck hasn’t had much to be happy about lately. First he lost to Johny Hendricks on May 2012. Then his good friend Jon Fitch is cut from the UFC. Finally, last month he got KO’d by Robbie Lawler in the first round. Another loss for Koscheck could spell the end of his UFC run. For Lawler, it was a great upset and I’m looking forward to seeing Lawler matched up with a top fifteen welterweight.

–Since losing a controversial¬†decision¬†to Josh Koscheck (February 2012), Mike Pierce managed to end the year with three solid wins. No word on who he fights next.

–Ben Saunders and Douglas Lima are set to rematch against one another for a shot at Ben Askren’s Bellator title. Their first fight ended via KO, with Lima having his hand raised on November 2011.

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