On Saturday night in Las Vegas Matt Hughes further cemented his legacy and in the process retained his post as the top 170lbser in the division, even though there was no title on the line. But the question now is who should Hughes defend the title against next?
On Saturday night in Las Vegas Matt Hughes further cemented his legacy and in the process retained his post as the top 170lbser in the division, even though there was no title on the line. But the question now is who should Hughes defend the title against next? After the events of Saturday night there are now 3 fighters vying for the opportunity to challenge Hughes for the welterweight title; Karo Parisyan, Georges St. Pierre, and BJ Penn who is returning to the UFC.
Initially, Karo Parisyan was in line for a title shot at UFC 56 until he had to pull out of the fight due to a leg injury 3 weeks prior to the event. Now in all fairness you shouldnt lose an opportunity because of an injury, but in sports sometimes things are not always fair. For instance, in the 2001 NFL season the New England Patriots Tom Brady stepped in for injured star quarterback Drew Bledsoe, relegated Bledsoe to back up duties once he was healthy, and to the delight of New England fans Brady hasnt looked back. There is no denying Parisyan is one of the top rated fighters in the division, however theres also a possibility that he was only given a title shot because the UFC was trying to avoid setting up a fight that would have been viewed as a rematch with Matt Hughes, as such an encounter with either Georges St. Pierre or Frank Trigg would have done. I truly feel because of what transpired on Saturday, Parisyan now needs a win over another top rated fighter to get his title shot back, as his last two fights certainly pale in comparison to Georges St. Pierres last two opponents. Add to that, the only other highly regarded fighter Parisyan has beat since his loss to St. Pierre is Nick Diaz, who was recently beat by Ultimate Fighter Diego Sanchez.
BJ Penn is unofficially still the UFC welterweight champion after he beat Hughes at UFC 46, but he was stripped of the title shortly afterwards for contractual reasons. Penns situation is unique in that hes the last fighter to beat Hughes, and had he not been stripped its very possible he would still be the reigning king of the division. However, since the win over Hughes, Penn has kind of been all over the map. He moved up to 185 lbs to fight Rodrigo Gracie, and earned a unanimous decision victory in the process. He then fought 205lbser Ryoto Machida, losing a unanimous decision, and most recently he defeated Renzo Gracie by decision fighting at 185 lbs. Even though Penn was never beaten for the belt, he hasnt shown any consistency fighting at the welterweight division since May 2004. I think one win over a ranked fighter would validate Penn is back in contention and ready to challenge for Hughes crown.
Georges St. Pierre has been on a mission since he lost to Hughes at UFC 50, claiming he made a mental mistake when he fought Hughes by giving him too much respect. St. Pierre has fought 4 times in 2005 and is unbeaten with wins over, Dave Strasser, Jason Miller, Frank Trigg and Sean Sherk. St. Pierre seems to get better each time he steps into the Octagon, and the level of competition he faces also seems to improve at the same rate. Against Trigg, St. Pierre controlled the pace of the fight from the onset, passed Triggs guard with ease, thoroughly dominated the fight and made Twinkle Toes look like an amateur. Heading into his most recent fight against Sherk, many MMA observers felt this was the best Sean Sherk anyone had seen, even better then the fighter who fought Hughes for the title at UFC 42. However, St. Pierre was in brilliant form and stopped Sherk for the first time in his career, a feat not even equaled by Matt Hughes. By fighting the best and beating the best, I believe St. Pierre has more then earned his rematch with Matt Hughes, before a title fight with either Parisyan or Penn should take place.
Champion: Matt Hughes
1. Georges St. Pierre
2. BJ Penn
3. Karo Parisyan