UFC Welterweight Division in Shambles; Awaiting the Return of GSP
By Jaime C. Feal
With polarizing figure Nick Diaz suspended by the NSAC, and Carlos Condit the current interim champion, the UFC’s welterweight division is at a historically low point. Gone are the days where an explosive Georges St. Pierre was an up and comer, looking to dethrone legends in their prime such as BJ Penn and Matt Hughes. Instead, we now have an injured GSP who still technically holds the belt even though he hasn’t fought since April 30, 2011 – a full calendar year.
Waiting in the wings is “The Natural Born Killer” Carlos Condit, who holds the interim title after beating Nick Diaz in highly controversial fashion. In that fight, Condit was backpedaling and circling away almost the entire fight, yet won a decision. Diaz posed an interesting matchup for GSP because Diaz is better at boxing and jiu jitsu than St. Pierre. With Condit, there is not one single facet of his game that is better than GSP’s. Instead of honing his skills, Condit and his team have decided not to take another fight and wait for GSP to return from his torn ACL. The UFC, GSP, and fans alike are hoping that return is in November.
Questions then linger as to what version of GSP will enter the Octagon when he does in fact return. At the start of his career, GSP was a risk-taker, willing to stand and engage, utilizing his athleticism and dynamic striking. In recent years, especially since winning the title, he has employed a more conservative, wrestling-oriented game plan. This consists of him using his amazing takedowns, methodical top control, and solid ground and pound to grind out wins.
One has to think that coming off ACL surgery, the conservative GSP is the version fans will see, which poses even more problems for the UFC’s welterweight division. Fight fans, especially MMA fans, like to see the fighters go for the finish. GSP has all the tools to finish the fight from any position, but has failed to do so and excite the fans at times.
After GSP and Condit, the next #1 contender appears to be Johnny Hendricks, an undersized welterweight who scored a stunning 12 second flash knockout over John Fitch. It is extremely hard to fathom Hendricks posing any threat to GSP, and the remaining contenders from the welterweight division are hardly jaw-dropping: Jake Ellenberger, Martin Kampmann, Josh Koscheck, Jake Shields, and John Fitch, the latter 3 men GSP has beaten at least once.
What this means is a conservative GSP decisioning inferior competition for several years, as the welterweight division continues to get stale, until a new champion emerges out of nowhere. The UFC could fix the problem, of course, by matching up Anderson Silva with GSP in a crazy super fight that would break all kinds of records for a single pay per view. However, there is no chance of this, as the UFC has shown a tendency to protect their superstars, and gone are the days of multi division superfights.
The last true superfight in the UFC was over three years ago when GSP, the welterweight champ, took on BJ Penn, the lightweight champ, in January of 2009. Nowadays, the UFC would prefer to promote and establish divisional kingpins instead of risking their prized possessions against each other. Unfortunately this means more status quo. And fight fans clamoring for the Anderson Silva vs. Jon Jones superfight…don’t hold your breath.