Once touted as the worst division within the organization, the welterweight landscape has changed drastically. Today, the welterweight division is stacked with talent and personalities that easily make it the most exciting within the UFC. Below we will break down some of the contenders, gatekeepers and fighters to keep an eye on along with a few surprises.
Tyron Woodley is currently the king of the division and he’s defended his belt twice since a controversial majority draw. He has faced a lot of criticism for lackluster performances of late but his opponents’ fighting styles should be considered when looking at those fights. People are quick to forget how he disposed of former champ Robbie Lawler via a devastating KO at UFC 201.Tyron recently said he was offered a fight with Nate Diaz and accepted but said Nate did not want to take the fight. Tyron was quoted telling Nate “Don’t be scared homie” a popular phrase used by the Diaz brothers.
Stephen “Wonderboy” Thompson is coming off a recent victory over Jorge Masvidal at UFC 217. In a fight that was very tactical, Wonderboy easily out pointed his opponent with his Karate style using his lengthy reach and a barrage of kicks to keep Masvidal at bay and never able to get his offense going. Wonderboy has fought the current champ twice recently, his first meeting being a draw that plenty of people thought he won. However, both fights were not entertaining and that hurt his chances of facing the Champ for a third time.
Robbie Lawler is booked to fight Rafael dos Anjos in December at a UFC Fight Night. Robbie is coming off a close decision victory to Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone after losing his belt to Tyron Woodley by KO.
Rafael dos Anjos has won two consecutive fights since moving up from the lightweight division. Either of these fighters can easily earn a title shot with an impressive victory. It is believed that the winner of this fight is next to get a title shot although with the UFC you can never be sure.
Colby Covington is currently riding a five-fight winning streak and he embraced the role of playing the heel after nearly causing a riot in Sao Paulo, Brazil after his dominating victory over Demian Maia. In true WWE fashion, Colby referred to San Paulo as a dump and instead of letting up after his win, he took to the mic and called the Brazilian fans filthy animals and had to be rushed out of the stadium under the cover of multiple security guards while being pelted with flying projectiles. He has been pushing for a title shot, actively attacking the champ while claiming to have already broken him in a previous sparring session. With their past history, it seems Coby would be a great candidate for the champ to fight next.
Demian Maia is coming off two consecutive losses. While considered one of the last true specialists to still be successful at the highest level of MMA, it looks as if the Brazilian black belt is at the end of his career. While always dangerous, he is not the most exciting fighter to watch and his skills tend to nullify his opponent’s offense.
Jorge “Gamebred” Masvidal is also coming off back-to-back losses. He seems to be streaky, putting together a couple of impressive wins, then having close decision losses. He’s a very tough fighter for anyone and is always just a couple of impressive victories away from being considered for a title shot.
Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone has lost three straight fights and looks to have fallen out of title contention. A fan favorite for fighting anyone anytime seems to be alright with the role of being the welterweight’s true gatekeeper. His exciting style and skill set always poses problems for any game opponent.
Gunnar Nelson is another fighter that was very close to becoming a contender for the title. With only three losses, one to Demian Maia and his last being to Santiago Ponzinibbio, which after the fight it was noted that an unintentional eye poke hampered his vision and led to him being stopped via TKO. One must take that into consideration and not discredit his abilities within the octagon.
Carlos Condit is set to return after an extend layoff from action. Once considered one of the top contenders of the weight class, he will have to wait and see how he looks against Neil Magny after being away.
Darren Till is being pushed as the next big star to come out of the UK. Till is coming off a dominant KO/TKO over Donald Cerrone. He holds a record of 16-0-1 with his only blemish being a majority draw against Nicolas Dalby that was awarded fight of the night. It was rumored that he was going to be matched up with Stephen Thompson but that has yet to be confirmed.
Santiago Ponzinibbio, the Argentinian burst on the scene with a TKO win over Gunnar Nelson. Holding a record of 25-3 with 14 wins coming via KO/TKO, he is set to face outspoken and very colorful knockout artist Mike “Platinum” Perry in a bout that is sure to have plenty of fireworks for the fans.
Kamaru Usman, at 11-1 is one of the most underrated and most avoided fighters on the roster. A former NCAA National Champion and TUF 21 winner, he is on a 5-fight winning streak since winning the show. He is set to face off with another rising star in Emil Meek at UFC 219.
Georges St. Pierre returned to MMA and became only the fourth UFC fighter two win the title in two different weight classes. GSP claimed the middleweight title with an impressive submission victory over Michael Bisping. While stating that he is contractually obligated to defend his title against Interim champ Robert Whittaker, GSP along with several people from his camp have publicly stated that he struggled to keep on the weight and that he was extremely ill during his training camp, hinting at a return to the welterweight division.
Kelvin Gastelum is due to face Michael Bisping at UFC Fight Night Shanghai this Saturday, November 25 in a middleweight bout. Kelvin is a true welterweight and he missed weight several times, forcing him to move up in weight but he has expressed interest in coming back down. He holds several impressive wins over some of the top contenders of both divisions, including a split decision loss to the current champ. Intertops will have latest odds for UFC Fight Night Shanghai, so make sure to research them before wagering on the fight.
Nate Diaz is rumored to be back in training camp preparing for a fight. Tyron Woodley said he was offered the fight recently but Nate’s coach Richard Perez said the UFC did not want to pay him the money he was asking for. While we are not sure if he will be back at lightweight or welterweight, one thing that is apparent is that he is waiting on the third fight with Conor McGregor, with each holding a win over the other.