Opinion: Curious Welterweight Divide Forming

By: Jason Probst
Jun 30, 2011
Is there a welterweight alive that can challenge Georges St. Pierre? | Photo: Dave Mandel

With Charlie Brenneman’s upset decision over Rick Story at UFC Live 4 on Sunday in Pittsburgh, the welterweight division lost a plotline and gained a new one, at least in the short term.

Story, riding a six-fight win streak, had seemingly gotten over a critical hump in outhustling Thiago Alves at UFC 130 last month and was in an interesting position. Top contender Jon Fitch stated he held no interest in fighting Story because the risk-reward wasn’t worth it, and you can figure other top welterweights probably felt the same way.

The welterweight contenders essentially fold into two groups. Group A is comprised Jake Ellenberger, Carlos Condit and now Brenneman. Group B is Jake Shields, B.J. Penn, Fitch and Josh Koscheck. All of the guys in Group A are up-and-coming rising contenders who have yet to receive a title shot or have a fight against a Top 5 guy. Group B is entirely comprised of guys who have gotten and lost one-sided titles shots and are in the curious position of being Top 5 170-pounders who wouldn’t presently be marketable opponents against champion Georges St. Pierre.

With this curious divide, it’s obvious that the UFC will need as many Group A-versus-Group B matches as possible to do two things: knock off as many Bs with As in order to create viable title challengers, or give Bs a boost by getting them a win over As to prove they have renewed their games and are justified in a shot against GSP. Group B also has numerous complications: Koscheck and Penn have lost to GSP twice, Fitch and Koscheck are teammates and Fitch fought to a draw against Penn.

This is a theory I explored in an earlier column, so I wasn’t surprised to hear Zuffa LLC has designs on an Ellenberger-Shields matchup, possibly at UFC 138 in November.

The main problem is that Group A isn’t as talented as Group B. Fitch, Penn, Koscheck and Shields are elite welters with outstanding, tough-to-beat skills. Any permutation of them against one another would likely be a close three-round bout.

I doubt any of the possible matchups would see someone in Group A as an underdog against someone in Group B. Brenneman, a wrestling-based fighter with quick takedowns and little offense standing or on the ground, also has the challenge of being more of a safety-first fighter than an aggressive wrestle-brawler, like Ellenberger, and he doesn’t possess the standing dynamism of a Condit.

Condit, meanwhile, faces a tough challenge at UFC 132 on Saturday in Las Vegas, where he will face the undefeated Dong Hyun Kim, whose style could pose serious problems for him. If Kim pulls off the win, he’ll replace Condit in Group B, and his style is probably as numbing for the viewer as anyone in the welterweight division.

It’s just food for thought, folks. What do you think?

Jason Probst can be reached at [email protected] or twitter.com/jasonprobst.

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