What's next for welterweight division following George St. Pierre's controversial UFC 167 win over Johny Hendricks and subsequent step away?

Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sp

Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Welterweight champion Georges St. Pierre defended his title with a controversial spit decision victory over Johny Hendricks at UFC 167 on last night (Sat., Nov. 16, 2013). And after the fight he announced what appears to be at least a temporary retirement from mixed martial arts (MMA). What does this mean for UFC's welterweight division moving forward?

For years the problem with Georges St-Pierre and his dominant Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Welterweight title reign has been the predictability of it all.

Although the names of his challengers may have changed, there was always a route formula fans could rely on each time the charismatic champion stepped in the Octagon: "GSP" wins a unanimous decision thanks to a conservative five-round domination of an outmatched foe, takes a six-month vacation and comes back to do it all over again.

It was a good formula for St. Pierre and UFC. After all, each time the utterly shredded Mr. Clean-lookalike fought on pay per view (PPV), both employer and employee were guaranteed a windfall worthy of a Mega Millions lottery winner.

For many mixed martial arts (MMA) fans who had fallen off the St. Pierre hype train, the long-reigning Welterweight champion's title reign was beginning to feel a bit like Billy Murray's 1993 comedy Groundhog Day. Watching St. Pierre dominate his outmatched foes in a show of technical wizardry may have been exciting the first couple times, but for an increasingly vocal subset of fans, it was starting to get old.

Simply put, the predictability of St. Pierre's reign was beginning to make him boring.

Now, all that has changed.

After GSP's controversial victory over challenger Johny Hendricks at this Saturday's (Nov. 16, 2013) UFC 167, and the champ's apparent retirement following the match, there are nothing but questions surrounding both St. Pierre's future and that of the 170-pound division.

To begin with, what exactly did St. Pierre mean when he told UFC color commentator Joe Rogan he plans to "hang up his gloves for a little bit" because of "a bunch of stuff in [his] life?" Judging by his use of the qualifier "for a little bit" it appears St. Pierre wants to step away from the sport, while still keeping one foot in the door for a potential return (full transcription here).

If this is the case, it begs the question where this leaves UFC's Welterweight division. Does UFC wait for St. Pierre to return and defend his belt or will it strip him of the title? If this was any other GSP title defense it would just seem weird to strip him of the belt he has become symbolic of without first giving him some time to see if he changes his mind.

However, UFC 167 was anything but a normal GSP title defense. Although St. Pierre was awarded the title by split decision, many felt Hendricks was the more effective fighter and deserved to walk away with both the decision and the belt he has been chasing for years.

A rematch between St. Pierre and Hendricks would make all the sense in the world if it wasn't for GSP throwing the semi-retirement monkey wrench into the picture.

For fans who were waiting both to see St. Pierre tested and to finally watch him break from his conservative, top-control heavy game, Georges St. Pierre vs. Johny Hendricks was just what the doctor ordered.

Hendricks gave St. Pierre the stiffest test of his career, bloodying up the French-Canadian with a series of big power punches in the first two rounds and a vicious elbow later on. What's more, "Bigg Rigg" had St. Pierre rocked several times and seemed on the verge of finishing the fight more than once.

In contrast, despite getting hit with a series of "GSP" head kicks, there was never a moment where Hendricks looked to be in danger of getting finished.

As you might expect, the judges' decision didn't sit well with the former two-time NCAA Division I champion wrestler.

"Did guys see the same fight that fight I just fought?" Hendricks asked after the decision was read. "I'm pretty sure I won."

"It sucks, but I'm coming back," Hendricks continued "I'll get that belt. It's mine."

When Hendricks was asked for his take on St. Pierre's retirement, his thoughts were refreshingly blunt.

"I don't care," Hendricks said. "I want that belt. That's what I just earned, but it was taken away from me. I swear to God that won't happen again."

Unfortunately for Hendricks, he may not get a chance to put right what went wrong for him tonight by beating the current "Man" St. Pierre -- arguably for the second time, but in a way no judge could get wrong -- to become the new "man" at Welterweight.

Obviously, fighting isn't the type of job one should be forced into if his or her head isn't completely in it. If St. Pierre wants to bow out now, that's his prerogative.

However, he had better be willing to hand over the belt he has defended for so many years if he truly does want to "hang up his gloves for a little bit."

After all, there is a whole roster of active UFC welterweights out there who desperately want what he has. Some may even argue, that after the beating he laid on St. Pierre, Hendricks is now the champ in all but name.

Whatever is next for UFC's Welterweight division, one thing at least is clear: Hendricks earned the right to compete for the belt again in his next fight.

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