After what seems like an eternity (I mean, a year and a half is a long time), Georges St-Pierre will finally enter the Octagon again next month.
The division’s been tied up with GSP recovering from an ACL tear and interim champion Carlos Condit opting to wait until the Canadian is fully healthy to unify the belts. I’m sure that the rest of the ladder is ready for their fight as well. Many of 170’s best are waiting in the wings, but there are some great matchups on the horizon.
There’s also the matter of Nick Diaz and BJ Penn, who aren’t touching the ladder at the moment, but could with a win (or a match, in Diaz’s case). A few other names to watch for in the future are Mike Pierce, Mike Pyle, Seth Baczynski, Gunnar Nelson, and John Hathaway (if he starts finishing fights)
Champions: Georges St-Pierre, Carlos Condit
It’s a matchup that was supposed to go down around this time last year. Next month, we finally get to see the division’s best go at it (*fingers crossed*). While there will be questions about GSP’s health, “ring rust” could also be a factor for Condit, who hasn’t fought since defeating Nick Diaz in February.
Contenders: Johny Hendricks, Martin Kampmann
There’s no shortage of fighters on the title track, but Hendricks and Kampmann are clearly next in line. It’s only right that they are the co-main event to GSP-Condit at UFC 154. The winners of each will likely face off for the title early next year.
In The Discussion: Josh Koscheck, Jake Ellenberger, Rory MacDonald
Koscheck’s place on the ladder depends largely on the outcome of the title fight. Should GSP win, he’s off; there’s little to no chance of him getting a title shot against GSP again. But Condit holding the belt keeps the door open for him and many other fighters.
Ellenberger is coming off of a surprising knockout loss to Martin Kampmann. With a win, he would be the contender facing Johny Hendricks next month, but for now he’ll have to fight Jay Hieron as he resumes his rise to the “contender” spot.
Rory MacDonald is the closest of the three to becoming a contender, since his only loss is to the interim champion. A win against BJ Penn in December won’t have the same merit that it would have a few years ago, but it should be enough to move him up the ladder.
On The Rise: Erick Silva, Siyar Bahadurzada, John Hathaway
Erick Silva may be my favorite young fighters in the UFC today. If not for a questionable DQ against Carlo Prater, he would be in the discussion right now. I had doubts about the Brazilian fighting abroad, but that made his submission win against Charlie Brenneman look even more impressive. Next up, he has a tough fight against Jon Fitch. If he can get past the wrestler (and in Hendricks-like fashion), the rest of the UFC will take notice.
Bahadurzada has only fought once in the UFC, but his 42 second KO of Paulo Thiago impressed me enough to put him on the ladder right away.
John Hathaway has bounced back nicely from his first pro loss to Mike Pyle in 2010. He’s put together a three-fight win streak since and has plenty of UFC experience on his side (eight fights).
Mike Pierce vs. Aaron Simpson – UFC on FX 5 (October 5)
Jake Ellenberger vs. Jay Hieron – UFC on FX 5 (October 5)
Erick Silva vs. Jon Fitch – UFC 153 (October 13)
Georges St-Pierre vs. Carlos Condit – UFC 154 (November 17)
Martin Kampmann vs. Johny Hendricks – UFC 154 (November 17)
BJ Penn vs. Rory MacDonald – UFC on Fox 5 (December 8)