UFC 171: "Hendricks vs. Lawler" is in the books, and you could say the closest thing we had to a fictitious welterweight grand prix has taken a turn for the worse.
There's nothing to feel bad about in terms of the main event (unless you scored it differently), as Johny Hendricks ousted Robbie Lawler for the welterweight championship, winning the belt after using his wrestling in the fifth round. The headliner was an entertaining affair, full of punches in bunches for a full 25 minutes (highlights here).
Tyron Woodley finished Carlos Condit in the co-main event, yet not in the way he would have liked to.
Condit's knee buckled after "The Chosen One" threw a kick toward the opposite leg, and "The Natural Born Killer" tumbled in pain after injuring his knee courtesy of a Woodley takedown (highlights here).
Also on the card, Hector Lombard rag-dolled Jake Shields for three rounds, beating him up on the feet and taking him down at will en route to a unanimous decision victory -- in which "Lightning" looked a bit fatigued and uninspiring.
It fogs the immediate future of the welterweight division, without any real contender emerging as an immediate threat to "Bigg Rigg."
This may be the toughest "Next Matches To Make" column in quite a while, but this will certainly ignite the debates as to who deserves what at 170 pounds.
It's time to match them up, and without further ado, here we go:
Winner: Ovince St. Preux
Who He Should Fight Next: Ryan Bader
Why They Should Fight: OSP completely demolished Nikita Krylov last night, similar to the way Al Capone suffered his fate.
St. Preux is a former Strikeforce star on the rise, losing only once in four years to Gegard Mousasi, not to mention winning his three UFC fights in less than a year (including two finishes).
The jury is still out on Ryan Bader (despite a few crucial losses), who could work his way back up to the top of the light heavyweight division with 13 Octagon appearances to his name. It's a steep hill to climb, but beating someone like St. Preux would help him along the way.
If OSP can beat Bader, then it's time for a top five opponent further down the line.
Winner: Hector Lombard
Who He Should Fight Next: Rory MacDonald
Why They Should Fight: Hold your horses on both of these guys as the best viable options for Hendricks at the moment. This is what was said a few weeks ago, so let's stick to it.
MacDonald is 1-1 in his last two after losing what would be a title eliminator to Robbie Lawler, while Lombard has looked somewhat mediocre since migrating from Bellator.
Both of these fighters have been accused of playing it safe before, and if you want action or need to be convinced that each of these individuals actually belong against Hendricks, let them fight for the number one contender spot and then see who truly deserves the rub.
No need to rush "Ares" or "Lightning" into the mix, no matter what the UFC broadcast team tells you at the end of their program.
Winner: Myles Jury
Who He Should Fight Next: Winner of Jim Miller vs. Bobby Green at UFC 172
Why They Should Fight: "Fury" earned a big win over Diego Sanchez in Dallas, and there's no denying the 14-0 wunderkind is ready for the major leagues.
Since the lightweight division is a packed house with everybody occupying a room at the moment, Jury could bank on last night's win and anticipate the winner of this gritty lightweight clash featuring Jim Miller against Bobby Green.
There are plenty of match ups at 155 pounds, which could be good for Jury, although this one makes the most sense. He doesn't warrant the big dogs just yet, so let him fight another tough opponent and then we can see what he's truly made of.
Winner: Tyron Woodley
Who He Should Fight Next: Johny Hendricks
Why They Should Fight: Not because we're looking for the easy way out by killing two birds with one stone; it's because this makes the most sense right now, preserving the integrity of the sport.
On the contrary, is this even a sport anymore?
"The Chosen One" may have had luck on his side when he stopped Carlos Condit, but he was winning the fight until the injury happened. Stylistically, he's a good match up for Hendricks, since they both hit hard and have decorated wrestling backgrounds.
Woodley is relatively unknown to the mainstream, and it goes a long way in this day and age in the sport. Still, it makes the most sense for Woodley to face the newly-crowned champion since he has a win over a guy Hendricks beat at UFC 158 to earn his back-to-back title shots.
It's almost like "T-Wood" wins by process of elimination. Nonetheless, he still merits a fight against "Bigg Rigg" because he has the Condit finish on his resume, no matter how controversial it was.
As for Nick Diaz entering a title fight ... why not have the Stockton star fight Robbie Lawler in a rematch of their epic fight at UFC 47, which was 10 years ago? Now there's a story you can build on, inserting title implications where they fit best.
It's safe to say there are no shortages of possibilities.
What's your take?
For full UFC 171: "Hendricks vs. Lawler" coverage, check out our story stream here.