With UFC welterweight champion Tyron Woodley sidelined with an injury, the division has been somewhat quiet as of late. Despite pundits criticizing the champ’s recent performances, the division’s top contenders are about to separate themselves from one another, leaving ‘The Chosen One’ no choice, but to defend his title vs. a myriad of worthy candidates.
At the top of this list could be Rafael Dos Anjos, who I believe is one win away from standing opposite Woodley in the octagon. RDA has one more obstacle to overcome, and it’s a big one. On December 16th, he will square off against Robbie Lawler at Bell MTS Place in Winnipeg. A win over the former champ, and according to UFC President Dana White, the former lightweight kingpin will get his chance to add a second divisional title to his resume.
In looking at some of the rest of the potential contenders in the division, we have a handful of names that could get their shot in 2018.
This Saturday night, Demian Maia, whose last bout was vs. Woodley, will be looking to stop the rise of one of the division’s top prospects Colby Covington. The American is on the precipice of making some serious noise in the division, and Maia will have his hands full silencing the dangerous fighter. A definitive win for Covington, and he will officially put himself in the conversation of “one win away” from a title shot.
Then there’s, Stephen ‘Wonderboy’ Thompson, who has his work cut out for him.
His next opponent will likely have a much smoother road to a title shot. Thompson has already had two chances while Jorge Masvidal has not had one. Next weekend, at UFC 217, the two will tangle in NYC, with Thompson looking to stall Jorge’s ascension, while the latter will look to leapfrog Stephen in the title mix.
Of course, there’s Darren Till, who is coming off a stunning upset of Donald ‘Cowboy’ Cerrone this past Saturday, with many people officially taking the Brit seriously now. His headline making feud with Mike Perry has the MMA bubble about to burst. It’s not a stretch to say that the vast majority of fans are clamouring to see these two tangle.
Unfortunately, their wishes won’t come true anytime soon. ‘Platinum Perry’ has already signed on to take on Santiago Ponzinibbio on the aforementioned December 16th show in Winnipeg. And although not dominating the headlines, Santiago can steal some serious thunder by pulling off a victory over Perry, inevitably throwing his own name into the hat of would be title contenders.
Of course, there’s the impending return of former interim champion Carlos Condit.
His name alone carries ‘title mix’ implications but first, ‘The Natural Born Killer’ must get past Neil Magny at UFC 219, scheduled for December 30th, at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas.
On the outside looking in, and more the ready to crash the welterweight contenders party is Kamaru Usman.
‘The Nigerian Nightmare’ has declared himself ‘a problem’ for everyone in the weight class. His claims that none of the top contenders want to fight him is an argument that seems to hold water. While obviously debatable, he called out Dos Anjos and Magny, neither of which accepted his challenge. But one man outside of the Top 10 did: Emil Meek. The two are now scheduled to meet at UFC 219.
The UFC’s welterweight class will go from figurative silence, to putting itself atop the minds of all MMA fans. It started last weekend with Darren Till, and over the next two and half months, they will get to see some excellent matchups, all leading up to a potential showdown with Tyron Woodley in 2018.