One of the most stacked weights in MMA is the UFC welterweight division. Although this should guarantee some of the best fights possible, getting these world-class fighters to actually face each other is proving to be difficult. The champion Kamaru Usman captured the belt in March, dominating former champion Tyron Woodley. A dominant force in his career, Usman is very much ‘the hunted’ at 170. ESPN‘s Ariel Helwani reported on Saturday that things go so bad attempting to book the champion, Kamaru Usman in a fight that the UFC debated stripping him of his title. With a number of possible opponents for Usman’s belt, we take a look at some of the match-ups that could come to fruition and one huge fight that is already booked.
UFC Welterweight Contenders
Former UFC interim welterweight champion Colby Covington undeniably deserves a shot at the undisputed belt. Covington is an impressive 10-1 in his UFC career and has beaten some of the best names in the division. He dominated former champion Robbie Lawler 50-44, 50-45 and 50-45 in his most recent outing. In this bout, Covington landed 10 takedowns and 201 total strikes according to the UFC. With output like this, Covington brings a pace that few can match.
Prior to his bout with Lawler, Covington defeated former lightweight champion Rafael dos Anjos to capture the interim belt, again in dominant fashion. He also defeated former two-time title challenger Demian Maia in a previous bout.
Time for a shot?
It’s undeniable that Covington deserves a title shot. He’s riding a seven-fight win streak and at one time held the interim belt. It was heavily discussed that Usman and Covington would face off for the belt at Madison Square Garden, November 2nd at UFC 244. Reports this week, however, state that the bout could be in jeopardy and that the UFC may be looking to drop the fight altogether.
Far from a fan favourite, Covington is the clear and obvious #1 contender for the belt. Like him or not, a fight between Covington and Usman is likely to generate numbers. These two men do not like each other and one thing we know for sure is that ‘bad blood’ sells. On top of this, we know that Covington was previously in line for a title shot against then-champion, Tyron Woodley. Covington couldn’t make the fight with Woodley and instead, Darren Till got the shot.
To keep some legitimacy in the welterweight division, the logical thing to do would be to book Usman and Covington for the undisputed belt. Whether this will happen however is another problem, but only time will tell.
Arguably the hottest fighter on the entire roster at the moment, Jorge Masvidal has also put his name in the welterweight title picture. With two statement wins this calendar year, Masvidal has shot himself to stardom. Masvidal defeated Darren Till in the main event in London, knocking him out and shocking many in the arena. Following this, Masvidal’s beef with Ben Askren and Leon Edwards came to light. Askren was at the event and was the obvious next match-up for the winner of London’s main event. Edwards threw his name into the mix however with an impressive win in London. The chance was there for a fight between Edwards and Masvidal due to a backstage altercation between the two men following the event.
Despite an argument that Masvidal and Edwards should face each other, Askren got the fight with ‘Gamebread’. The fight was booked for UFC 239 and the fight will go down in history. Masvidal knocked out Askren (handing him his first loss) in just five seconds with a flying knee. This shot Masvidal even further into the title picture and despite being called out by Nate Diaz, a fight between Masvidal and Usman was briefly discussed for UFC 244. The two have gone back and forth on Twitter but it looks as though the fight isn’t going to happen.
UFC BMF Title booked
With the welterweight belt looking to be off the table for Masvidal, he decided it best to call out Diaz for MSG, following Diaz’s call out at UFC 241. This is the fight that will the headline UFC 244. It’s the fight the fans want to see and is a fight that makes a lot of sense. With two of the biggest names in the sport at the moment and with the promotions premier event in New York, this is likely to generate huge numbers.
It isn’t a hidden fact that the UFC prefers not to headline PPV’s without title fights. Could this be the perfect time for the 165-pound division to be introduced? Masvidal vs Diaz for the inaugural 165lbs belt would be huge for the promotion. It’s unlikely this will come to light, but it would be a missed opportunity if Masvidal vs Diaz is passed on.
The UFC broadcast of UFC 242 cut a well-executed promo for the bout between Diaz and Masvidal, which can be watched here.
Other UFC Welterweights
Criminally under-appreciated, Britain’s Leon Edwards has been making waves at 170lbs. Currently undefeated in his last eight fights, including two main events, Edwards is very much in the title picture at welterweight. Most recently in action against Dos Anjos in July, Edwards is one of the most avoided men at 170lbs and it’s arguable because the risk is high and the reward is low. He isn’t the biggest name in the division but is certainly one of the most dangerous. It’s unlikely that Edwards will receive a title shot without another win or two, despite how much he may deserve it.
Let’s not forget about former champion Tyron Woodley in the title picture. Despite being dominated by Usman in their title fight, Woodley was one of the most successful 170lbs champions in history. Undefeated in five title fights before running into Usman, Woodley could still be a top contender in the division. With unprecedented power at welterweight, it only takes one shot for Woodley to put opponents to sleep.
Match-ups at 170lbs
- Kamaru Usman vs Colby Covington (Undisputed welterweight championship bout)
- Jorge Masvidal vs Nate Diaz (Booked for UFC 244)
- Leon Edwards vs Tyron Woodley
Embed from Getty Images