The UFC welterweight division could be the strongest division in 2014, an unofficial honor previously held by the lightweight division. The fact that there is currently a vacant title up for grabs helps the situation. No. 1 contenders Johny Hendricks (ranked no. 1 by the UFC) and Robbie Lawler (ranked no. 3 by the UFC) will lock horns on March 15 to decide the new king of the welterweight division.
There are a handful of guys who could compete for the title in the months after the champ is crowned. The exit of Georges St. Pierre has surprising helped the division and opened the door for current and future contenders. There are several new contenders who could compete for the title no matter who walks away on March 15 as champion.
Carlos Condit and Rory MacDonald, two individual who have lost to either Hendricks or Lawler, will still be in the hunt for a title shot. Condit and MacDonald lost their respective fights in close fashion, even though Condit lost by unanimous decision as opposed to a split decision like MacDonald.
Matt Brown, who was supposed to fight Condit before an injury scrapped the bout, is still in the title picture. Considering he is on a six-fight win streak, he should be granted a title-eliminator sooner rather than later once he is healthy.
There are also fighters like Jake Ellenberger, Demian Maia and a resurgent Jake Shields who could eventually find their way into the title picture. The door isn’t closed on anybody, and all the aforementioned fighters have the potential and talent to thrive in 2014.
Then there are fighters on the rise in the division. Dong-Hyun Kim hasn’t been mentioned often (if at all) as a future title hopeful, but he is riding a three-fight win streak over decent competition (albeit not top competition). He will be fighting John Hathaway on March 1.
Tyron Woodley will get a chance to strut his stuff when he goes up against no. 2 ranked Condit at UFC 171. Woodley is a talented prospect that will get a chance to increase his stock in bunches with a victory over Condit. A win by knockout could skyrocket him right to the top. With the UFC top-15 rankings stuffed with potential, the welterweight division has a bright future in 2014.