Welcome to FanRag Sports’ MMA quarterly report, where we provide you with all the latest that’s taken place in a particular division in mixed martial arts.
Today we reach what was once one of the more popular divisions in the sport, but one that hasn’t yet lost its talent. The welterweight division features some of the best pound-for-pound fighters on the planet, many of whom are starving for a chance at the throne.
Greatest Rise in Stock During Quarter IV: Donald Cerrone, Tyron Woodley
Almost every division has a fighter who stood out the most in the three-month span. Donald Cerrone is that man at 170 pounds. The former UFC lightweight title contender continued his unprecedented rise up the welterweight ladder with a third-round knockout of an ultra-durable Matt Brown at UFC 206 in early December. That puts Cerrone at No. 5 in the welterweight rankings, and likely just one victory away from securing a title shot at 170 pounds. It was a remarkable year for “Cowboy,” who went 4-0 with three T/KO victories and one submission stoppage.
Then there was the man atop the mountain, Tyron Woodley. The UFC welterweight champion defended his belt once in the final three-month stretch of 2016, taking on a man who many felt would bring a swift end to the champion’s reign. A better, longer striker with the sort of footwork to outmaneuver Woodley’s grappling attempts, Stephen Thompson was poised to be the next champion. Only that didn’t happen. Woodley stood his ground and, while he didn’t technically win the fight (majority draw), he retained his title and elevated his status as a man worthy of the gold.
It’s worth noting the draw didn’t have quite as uplifting an impact on Thompson, who was already regarded as one of the best in the division.
Greatest Drop in Stock During Quarter IV: Johny Hendricks
Those featured in this section are often the direct counterpart of those who were seen in the previous one. Not the case here.
Johny Hendricks was on the heels of a 2-4 record since losing the title when he signed on to fight Neil Magny at UFC 207. He also struggled to make weight for the latest time in his professional career. Still ranked within the top 10 of the UFC, “Bigg Rigg” was only a few victories away from putting himself back in the title discussion, but he desperately needed to stave off a hungry Magny before he could even begin dreaming of the gold again.
That didn’t happen.
Hendricks missed weight for the second straight fight and was largely outclassed for the second straight time as well. He couldn’t find his range and relied heavily on his wrestling, which allowed him to take the fight to the ground but never further his attack with any sort of damage. Hendricks, for the first time in quite a long time, now finds himself on the outside looking in of the UFC’s top 10 welterweights.
Biggest Question Heading into Quarter I 2017: When are we getting a rematch between Woodley and Thompson?
It’s not necessarily a revelation, especially not in this day and age: Fights that end in a draw often, and should, result in an immediate rematch. For as much as we were hoping to receive some clarity from a championship matchup between Woodley and Thompson at UFC 205, we didn’t get any. The two fought to a majority draw in a decision that sat pretty well with those who tuned in. Woodley had moments that we expected, securing the takedown and landing massive strikes before nearly finding the finish. Thompson also shined; he distanced himself from the champion to stifle him for good portions of the fight.
That said, there’s nothing in either man’s contract that states these two have to face off again. There’s also been talk between Michael Bisping and Woodley of a potential super-fight at 180 pounds — though that’s only reached a verbal agreement thus far; nothing else. Lest we forget about Demian Maia and Donald Cerrone (if he wins his next fight), who could be waiting in the wings if nothing takes place.