UFC on Fuel: Moving A Division Forward

The UFC’s Welterweight Division is a mess.

Lets start a few months back. Nick Diaz was scheduled to fight Georges St. Pierre for the 170lb title at UFC 137, but he lost his opportunity by failing to attend two pre-fight press conferences. Carlos Condit took his place, and Diaz faced BJ Penn instead. But when St. Pierre was injured, the championship fight was postponed to a later date.

Diaz battered Penn at UFC 137, and after calling out the injured GSP in his post-fight interview, he, not Condit, was awarded a title shot at UFC 143. Meanwhile, Condit took a fight against Josh Koscheck on the same card. The injury bug hit St. Pierre yet again, so the UFC put Diaz and Condit together in an interim championship fight, with the winner facing St. Pierre upon his return.

Condit and Diaz went all five rounds at UFC 143, and Condit was awarded a narrow decision victory. There were immediately talks of an rematch, but when Diaz tested positive for marijuana in his post-fight drug screen, the rematch was off. It wasn’t surprising news; after all, Nick Diaz once argued his fight career was getting in the way of his marijuana use. Maybe hazy is a better word than messy.

Amidst all the turbulence at 170lbs, there is one constant: St. Pierre’s return date. His ACL isn’t going to heal any faster, and the French-Canadian star isn’t one to rush crucial rehab. The best-case scenario is a November return, as won’t even begin hard training until July. That would leave Condit without a dance partner for nine months and both welterweight crowns undefended. “The Natural Born Killer” needs a fight.

[caption id="attachment_164" align="alignright" width="300" caption="Condit (left) and Ellenberger (right) have fought before. Photo via Sherdog.com"][/caption]

The UFC takes over FUEL TV on February 15th, with Jake Ellenberger taking on Diego Sanchez in the main event. Should Ellenberger beat Sanchez, as he is heavily favored to do, he would make the perfect opponent for Condit’s first interim title defense.

Condit and Ellenberger have met before, back in September 2009 at UFC Fight Night 19. It was a great fight. Ellenberger showed his incredible power in round one, knocking Condit flat on his face twice and nearly finishing him. Condit showed his durability and heart, though, getting up each time and edging out the last two rounds with knees in the clinch, superior jiu jitsu, and conditioning. Both men have made major improvements since then, and neither has lost.

Obviously Condit/Ellenberger II doesn’t have the name value of Condit/Diaz II, but given that Diaz is in a time out for the time being, and that Condit/Ellenberger was a much more exciting fight than Condit/Diaz, it’s easy to see how a hypothetical second meeting with “The Juggernaut” is a better matchup.

If Ellenberger beats Sanchez and Condit, that would be seven wins in a row in the UFC, making it hard to justify anyone else as a more deserving contender for GSP. And with Josh Koscheck vs. Johny Hendricks going down at UFC on FX 3 in May, the contenders seem to lining up in near chronological order. The haze from the last couple months (and maybe Nick Diaz’s room) is finally starting to dissipate; giving the welterweight class some much needed clarity.

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