HeavyMMA Rankings: The Welterweight Division

Carlos Condit, left, vs. Nick Diaz (James Law/HeavyMMA)

St-Pierre, Condit top two — and awaiting title unification bout

HeavyMMA’s fighter rankings are back this week with a look at the welterweights, which has been dominated for over the last four years by UFC champion Georges St-Pierre. GSP is currently rehabbing from ACL surgery and on the shelf for much of the rest of this year. His most likely first test back will come against interim champion Carlos Condit to unify the belts.

Heavy’s panel consists of HeavyMMA editor Matt Brown, writer Duane Finley and writer/editor Matt Erickson. Each panelist compiles his rankings independently, and the votes are tabulated to reach the results listed below. Coming next week, we’ll take a look at the lightweight division.

1. Georges St-Pierre
UFC champion (22-2, 16-2 UFC)
Nine straight wins. In his last eight fights, he’s lost two rounds from two judges (the third judge in his fight with Jake Shields gave him a 50-45, numbers he’s used to hearing). He’s not going anywhere any time soon on this list because he’s in a holding pattern till he’s fully healed from ACL surgery. When he does come back, likely late this year, it will be after the longest layoff of his career – to face the man at No. 2 on this list.

2. Carlos Condit
UFC interim champion (28-5, 5-1 UFC)
Condit’s current M.O. is to wait for GSP to be ready, and then they’ll roll for the real welterweight title. For now, Condit holds the interim belt after the biggest win of his career, a unanimous decision over Nick Diaz in February.

3. Nick Diaz
(26-8, 1 NC, 6-6 UFC)
If Diaz is really retired, as he claimed he was going to be after his loss to Condit in February, then he’ll need to come off this list. But no one really thinks he is. And many believe he did enough to beat Condit – though it would have been overturned after his positive marijuana test, regardless. Just when we’ll see Diaz again is a big question. But his place near the top of this list is not.

4. Jake Ellenberger
(27-5, 6-1 UFC)
“The Juggernaut” has looked amazing during his six-fight winning streak. And his February win over Diego Sanchez, in which he was badly beaten up in the third round and had to survive, might have been good for him. Next up, he gets another Top 10 welterweight when he meets Martin Kampmann in June. If he wins that one, don’t be surprised if he sits back and waits for the GSP-Condit winner. He’ll have earned it, for sure.

5. Johny Hendricks
(12-1, 7-1 UFC)
Not that Hendricks wasn’t highly regarded before his last three fights, but with two Knockout of the Night bonuses, including a 12-second win over Jon Fitch, he’s just about the hottest thing in the division. With a fight against Josh Koscheck coming up in less than two weeks, we’re about to see just how ready he is for the top of the charts.

6. Jon Fitch
(23-4-1, 1 NC, 13-2-1 UFC)
Jon Fitch is probably glad the calendar says 2012, not 2011. It was a rough year for the AKA staple. His draw with BJ Penn in February stung a little. Then a long layoff with a bum shoulder. Then he came back for all of 12 seconds against Hendricks, who put his lights out. We’re unsure of Fitch’s timetable for a return, but you can bet he’ll be itching to get his hand raised again – even if it’s with a UFC record 10th decision victory.

7. Martin Kampmann
(19-5, 10-4 UFC)
Kampmann has won four of his last six, but it could very easily be six straight. His losses to Jake Shields and Diego Sanchez both could have gone his way. His win over Thiago Alves last March was huge – he was dominated for two rounds before pulling a big rabbit out of his hat in the last minute of the fight. A win over Ellenberger in June would be even bigger.

8. Josh Koscheck
(17-5, 15-5 UFC)
Back on the horse after his lengthy layoff following a title fight loss to GSP, Koscheck has back-to-back wins over Hall of Famer Matt Hughes and Mike Pierce – though he’s not going to argue the Pierce win was a shining moment for him. He’ll be hoping for that May 5 when he meets Hendricks. A win there could get him the Ellenberger-Kampmann winner with a shot at the title after that.

9. Rory MacDonald
(13-1, 4-1 UFC)
What a big win for MacDonald on Saturday in Atlanta. True, Che Mills wasn’t on the mainstream MMA map – but he’s the real deal. It’s just that MacDonald is more real. He fought through some early good punches from Mills and wound up dominating him. Expect him back in there pretty quickly to continue his rapid ascension up the welterweight ladder.

10. Jake Shields
(27-6-1, 2-2 UFC)
Shields stays here for now, but if he elects to move back up to middleweight like he’s said he is likely to do, a spot will open up in the Top 10. But it’s been two years since we’ve seen the dominant Jake Shields we had grown accustomed to seeing – and it coincides with his arrival in the UFC. His wins over Kampmann and Yoshihiro Akiyama both could have gone the other way. He took a couple rounds from GSP from a couple judges, which is a feat to be sure. But he was knocked out by Ellenberger last fall. It’s been a rough four fights in the UFC, that’s for sure.

On the fringe: Ben Askren, Rick Story, Diego Sanchez, Brian Ebersole, BJ Penn, Douglas Lima, Tyron Woodley, Thiago Alves, Dong Hyun Kim, Siya Bahadurzada

Make sure to check out who ruled the roost in other divisions:
HeavyMMA’s Pound-for-Pound rankings (March 26)
HeavyMMA’s Heavyweight rankings (April 2)
HeavyMMA’s Light Heavyweight rankings (April 9)
HeavyMMA’s Middleweight rankings (April 16)

And stay tuned for our every-Monday rankings in a new weight class!
HeavyMMA’s Lightweight rankings: Coming April 30
HeavyMMA’s Featherweight rankings: Coming May 7
HeavyMMA’s Bantamweight rankings: Coming May 14