Rising to the Occasion in Vegas

ufc-fn82The effects of the dominant champion era in the UFC are still being felt in a big way but nowhere more than in the welterweight division.

It was a division with one of the most dominant champions to ever step into the octagon in Georges St. Pierre.

He was one of the two biggest stars of the UFC and one of the greatest fighters to ever step into the octagon.

What came with that was a run where he only lost two fights, despite some controversial wins, in his entire career and went on to be a dominant fighter at the top.

As great as he was the ramifications of those dominant champions were felt in the rest of the division where the list of contenders became almost non-existent.

There were always younger fighters coming up and every now and then they made enough of an impact to earn a shot.

The problem was that those were few and far between as the rest of the fighters in the division had already fought and lost to the champion.

It created a tough situation for the UFC to create good fights that could challenge the champion and create at least a little bit of excitement in the division.

St. Pierre had essentially cleared out the division and left every other fighter to work out who could get the next loss in a championship fight.

Then St. Pierre left and the division was thrown into the situation it is currently trying to figure out and will continue to try to figure out.

Nobody could beat St. Pierre but without St. Pierre at the top which one of the former title losers deserved to be at the top of the division.

They couldn’t beat the former champion but the question became more about their performances in those title losses.

With so many that had come and gone it was up to the fighters in the division to sort themselves out and figure out where they belong.

That hasn’t really happened yet as no real order has really emerged since St. Pierre’s semi-retirement.

Rory MacDonald, Johny Hendricks, Tyron Woodley, and Robbie Lawler were all sitting near the top when St. Pierre fought his last fight and all are still there.

With Hendricks taking the vacant title against Lawler only to lose the belt to Lawler in the rematch and Lawler defending his belt twice so far there seems to be nobody new coming into the picture.

It has been a division with little movement and without any great prospects that seem like they can make a run at the title.

At UFC Fight Night 82 one young fighter was trying to fill that role as Stephen Thompson was looking to take advantage of the spotlight to show that he could be the future of the division.

In his way was the man waiting for the trilogy fight in Hendricks who hoped to take the win and a title shot against a young promising fighter.mma-sidebar.fw

It was an important fight for both fighters but then it became that much bigger when the card went from pay-per-view to free after the heavyweight title main event was cancelled.

All of a sudden Hendricks and Thompson were sitting in the main event role with a bigger spotlight to show what they had.

For the hard hitting Hendricks it was a chance to prove that he deserved a third fight against Lawler after fighting with one loss and one win for the title already.

Thompson was there to prove that his awkward karate style was enough to throw off one of the best in the division.

Pulling off the upset would be a chance for Thompson to become the first new prospect to enter the conversation of being the best in the division.

From the start of the fight it was clear that he was ready to do exactly that as he quickly took control of the fight.

Before the fight Thompson said that Hendricks had never seen a fighter like him before and he was right.

It wasn’t necessarily that he was so much better than anyone but that literally he brings such a unique style that can only be compared to Lyoto Machida, the only other karate fighter in the promotion.

He came in with that sideways karate stance and began firing kicks from awkward angles and when Hendricks came in Thompson fired off great counters.

Hendricks couldn’t walk him down and get into a brawl leaving Thompson to pick him apart.

Eventually the shots began taking their toll and Hendricks was going backwards until Thompson finished the job and earned the knockout win.

The loss is not going to get Hendricks that trilogy fight he has been waiting for against Lawler but if he can get back to winning he might get there eventually.

Thompson likely won’t get the immediate title shot but another top fight is in the future which will likely be the contender fight he has been waiting for after six straight wins.

The welterweight division is figuring things out and although it has taken a while for it to happen, longer than other divisions, the prospects are beginning to rise.

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