Earlier this week Tristen Critchfield dove into the numbers from UFC 158. Here Brian Knapp looks ahead to what should come next.
St. Pierre struck for nine takedowns and bottled up Diaz with his stifling top game, as he captured a one-sided unanimous decision and retained his Ultimate Fighting Championship welterweight crown in the UFC 158 “St. Pierre vs. Diaz” main event on Saturday at the Bell Centre in Montreal.
All three judges levied 50-45 rulings against Diaz. With his 18th UFC win, St. Pierre pulled into a tie with hall of famer Matt Hughes for first on the all-time list. He has won his last 11 bouts, eight of them by decision.
St. Pierre put Diaz on his back in all five rounds and neutralized the Cesar Gracie protégé’s bottom game with punches, elbows and suffocating control. According to FightMetric figures, the 31-year-old champion also outperformed Diaz while upright, as he out-landed the challenger 81-56 in total standing strikes and 73-41 in significant standing strikes. The defeat left Diaz openly contemplating retirement and without a clear direction forward.
The same cannot be said for St. Pierre. Despite his extended reign of dominance — he has held the welterweight title since April 19, 2008 — the popular French-Canadian is not without viable suitors.Johny Hendricks delivered the most significant win of his career with a unanimous verdict over former World Extreme Cagefighting champion Carlos Condit in the co-headliner, cementing his place as the No. 1 contender at 170 pounds.
A four-time All-American and two-time national wrestling champion at Oklahoma State University, Hendricks has compiled a stellar 10-1 record since joining the UFC in 2009. The 29-year-old Team Takedown representative has won six consecutive bouts, three of them by knockout, often pairing his world-class wrestling chops with a destructive left hand.
In the wake of UFC 158, here are seven other matchups that ought to be made:
Carlos Condit vs. Martin Kampmann: Condit lost virtually no ground in losing a decision to Hendricks and remains a factor at the upper reaches of the welterweight division. Kampmann has not fought since UFC 154 in November, when he lasted just 46 seconds against Hendricks. The versatile 30-year-old Dane knows Condit well; he welcomed the “Natural Born Killer” to the Octagon in 2009, eking out a split decision at UFC Fight Night 18.
Jake Ellenberger vs. Robbie Lawler: Ellenberger was spectacular in wiping out former Strikeforce champion Nate Marquardt with a two-punch combination and follow-up ground strikes. The 27-year-old Nebraskan has won 12 of his past 14 fights, seven of them by knockout. Few men in the welterweight division carry heavier hands than “The Juggernaut,” though Lawler may be one of them. He returned to the Octagon at UFC 157 in February, dispatching perennial contender Josh Koscheck in the first round.
Nick Diaz vs. Nate Marquardt: Diaz may indeed follow through on his threat to retire. Should he have a change of heart, the Stockton, Calif., native will have plenty of options open to him at 170 pounds and beyond. In Marquardt, he would likely find an adversary willing to engage him on the feet — a recipe that often brings out the best in Diaz.
Chris Camozzi vs. Tom Watson: Spawned by Season 11 of “The Ultimate Fighter,” Camozzi has quietly rattled off four straight wins inside the middleweight division. He overcame Nick Ring’s death-by-a-thousand-cuts game plan in his latest outing, securing a split decision with a strong finish. Watson is 12-2 in his last 14 appearances and handed Stanislav Nedkov his first professional defeat at UFC on Fuel TV 7 in February, dispatching the Bulgarian with a knee to the body and follow-up punches.
Mike Ricci vs. Ross Pearson–Ryan Couture winner: Some have compared Ricci to Tristar Gym stablemate Rory MacDonald, though he has yet to match that hype with actual performance in the cage. The 26-year-old rebounded from his loss to Colton Smith at “The Ultimate Fighter 16” Finale in December, posting his first UFC win with a unanimous decision over Colin Fletcher. Pearson and Couture will open fire on one another at UFC on Fuel TV 9 on April 6 in Sweden.
Darren Elkins vs. Rani Yahya: With an assist from referee Yves Lavigne, Elkins brought down Shooto veteran Antonio Carvalho with punches 3:06 into the first round. The Duneland Vale Tudo export has emerged as a dark horse contender at 145 pounds, pounding out five wins in a row since his August 2010 submission loss to Charles Oliveira. One of the world’s premier submission grapplers, Yahya spoiled former Sengoku champion Mizuto Hirota’s promotional debut at UFC on Fuel TV 8 on March 2.
Jordan Mein vs. Rick Story: Former International Fight League champion Dan Miller had never been finished — until he ran into Mein in Montreal. The 23-year-old Canadian survived an early armbar attempt and stopped Miller with a brutal volley of first-round punches. Though he has posted nine wins in his last 10 fights, Mein has struggled against wrestlers and will need to improve against them if he wants to fulfill his considerable potential at 170 pounds. Story, who brutalized King of the Cage champion Quinn Mulhern en route to a technical knockout of his own, would serve as a worthwhile test.
This article originally appeared at Sherdog.
ABOUT BRIAN KNAPP
An award-winning writer and editor based near Atlanta, Brian Knapp has spent the last 15 years as a journalist and now serves as features editor for Sherdog.com. Prior to his move to the MMA world, Brian worked as sports editor and managing editor of The Covington News, a tri-weekly newspaper in Covington, Ga. His work has appeared on ESPN.com, FoxSports.com, TheFightNetwork.com, CagePotato.com, Covers.com and in Real Fighter, ChopTalk, Ultimate MMA and Sports Spectrum magazines.
Photo: AP/The Canadian Press, Ryan Remiorz