GSP rules the weight class, but for how long?
The welterweight landscape could change drastically over the next two months. Georges St. Pierre and Jake Shields face off in the biggest event in UFC history at UFC 129 in April, while Jon Fitch, BJ Penn, Martin Kampmann and Chris Lytle all enter the cage at some point prior to that event.
Note: Our rankings are subjective and are weighted heavily on recent fighter performance, not the entirety of their careers.
Check out the rest of our February 2011 rankings: Heavyweight | Light Heavyweight | Middleweight
1. Georges St. Pierre
St. Pierre’s time in the welterweight division may draw to a close in April if he beats Jake Shields at UFC 129. St. Pierre’s dominance over the welterweight division – at least in recent years – cannot be overstated. If he walks through Shields like he has everyone else, sticking around for a long series of rematches makes no sense. While St. Pierre will be a very small middleweight, he may also be a very good one, and everybody in the world wants to see him face Anderson Silva in one of the defining fights of our lifetime. St. Pierre cannot look past Shields, however. If he does, he’ll find himself on the losing end of a decision.
2. Jon Fitch
Fitch faces B.J Penn next weekend to determine the new top contender for the welterweight title. Lucky for him, he may have a much better chance of winning the belt with St. Pierre possibly vacating the division. If he loses? It’ll be a long time before he sniffs a title shot again. He has to make this fight count.
3. Jake Shields
Shields is going into the St. Pierre fight as a massive underdog, which seems to be an injustice considering the kind of career Shields has had. A 15-fight win streak with victories over Dan Henderson, Yushin Okami, Robbie Lawler, Carlos Condit and Paul Daley is nothing to laugh at. He’ll present a stern challenge for St. Pierre.
4. Thiago Alves
Next up for Alves is Rick Story at UFC 130 in May. He’ll be a perennial contender at welterweight and, with the help of uber-nutritionist Mike Dolce, he’s never looked better.
5. Josh Koscheck
Koscheck is healing from the crushed orbital socket he suffered at the hands of GSP’s left hand in December. If Fitch beats Penn next week, I wouldn’t mind seeing a Koscheck/Penn pairing at some point this summer. The trash talk would be off the charts.
6. BJ Penn
Penn gets a chance to drastically improve his welterweight fortunes against Fitch. A win gives him another welterweight title shot, at least according to Dana White, so he has to make this one count.
7. Nick Diaz
It’ll be difficult for Diaz to move up the rankings with the kind of competition he’s facing in Strikeforce. But Dana White says he’s the best fighter on the planet who isn’t currently in the UFC.
8. Martin Kampmann
The Dane headlines “UFC on Versus 3” next month against Diego Sanchez, where he’ll try to rebound from a close decision loss to Shields last fall.
9. Carlos Condit
Condit was scheduled to face Chris Lytle at UFC 127, but a knee injury suffered in training forced him to pull out of the fight. Depending on how long he’s out of action, I wouldn’t mind seeing him face Lytle should Lytle beat Brian Ebersole.
10. Chris Lytle
Lytle faces Brian Ebersole instead of Condit at UFC 127, but a win is a win at this point. Lytle’s been very vocal about facing Georges St. Pierre in the future, saying that he wants to fight the best. If he keeps on winning, he might just get his chance.