Without a champion, UFC 171 looks to showcase the UFC welterweight division with a stacked fight card featuring many of the promotions top 170 pound fighters.
When the long time champion Georges St. Pierre relinquished the belt and stepped away from the sport months ago, the decision left a void in the welterweight division. The UFC acted quickly though and that void is set to be filled in the UFC 171 main event when Johny Hendricks and Robbie Lawler clash for the vacant welterweight title.
Hendricks is coming off a close (controversial) decision loss to GSP prior to the champs departure. The hard-hitting wrestler can erase that loss with a win at UFC 171 but has to get by another hard-hitting striker in Lawler. No matter who wins Dana white will be placing the welterweight belt on someone other than GSP for the first time since 2007(*).
The UFC 171 main event though is just the finale of the welterweight showcase as the fight card has four other bouts within the division.
On the night’s preliminary card are two bouts of these welterweight bouts. First up will see two up and comers fight on FOX Sports 2 in Alex Garcia vs. Sean Spencer. Both fighters are coming off wins inside the Octagon and will look to make a name for themselves at the expensive of the other. Closing in the UFC 171 preliminary card will be Ultimate fighter winner Kelvin Gastelum taking a major step up in competition, facing the veteran UFC welterweight Rick Story. Gastelum will the cinderella story of TUF 17 but looked very impressive his last time out against Brian Melancon. Story will be making his 15th trip to the Octagon and after a strong start to his UFC career has settled into a gatekeeper role within the division. For Gastelum to begin his ascent up the ladder he’ll need to get past a tough and season opponent.
The third welterweight bout on the UFC 171 fight card is a bout between two former champions (outside of the UFC). Former Strikeforce champion Jake Shields and the former Bellator champion Hector Lombard have been waging a mini war of words leading up to their bout as each look to position themselves near the top of the division. Lombard is not a fan of the style Shields typically employs but will need to figure out a way to counter that style to win.
The fourth welterweight bout of the night will serve not only as the night’s co-main event but will also determine the number one contender for the newly crowned champion. Former UFC interim champion Carlos Condit faces Tyron Woodley in a bout that could steal the show, not to mention the fight of the night bonus. Condit is considered by many to be the second best welterweight in the world and can solidify that with a win at UFC 171. Woodley though is a tough matchup for Condit with his speed, power and wrestling. A win by Woodley would be the biggest of his career and makes a strong case for him as the next in line.
UFC 171 is a showcase for the welterweights, now is time for them to show us what they’ve got and light up the American Airlines Center in Dallas, Texas.
(*) That doesn’t include Carlos Condit winning the interim title in 2012.