New UFC Welterweight champion Johny Hendricks (©GettyImages)
New UFC Welterweight champion Johny Hendricks (©GettyImages).

UFC welterweight division: Who should be number one contender?

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Saturday night saw a welterweight-dominated UFC 171 card that culminated with Johny 'Bigg Rigg' Hendricks being crowned the new UFC Welterweight champion after a thrilling unanimous decision victory of 'Ruthless' Robbie Lawler in Dallas, Texas.

Hendricks, however, could barely soak in the adulation of becoming the first 170lbs champion since Georges St. Pierre vacated the championship last year, as questions were already raised as to who would be the challenger to his newly-claimed crown.

There are no lack of suitors, and in a night where the division saw a shake up in the rankings, GMS takes a look at some of the potential contenders in one of the most exciting and open divisions in the UFC. 

Tyron Woodley (13-2)

Woodley won the co-main event at the American Airlines Centre after a knee injury to number two contender Carlos Condit in the second round stopped their bout. Woodley was leading the fight after an impressive first round and the former Strikeforce welterweight contender believes he should be next in line to face the new champion. Traditionally known as an accomplished wrestler, Woodley has shown vastly improved striking skills, with big knockouts over the likes of Josh Koscheck putting him right into contention.

Hector Lombard (34-4-1 1 NC)

The former Bellator middleweight champion had mixed fortunes when he joined the UFC aiming to reach the top of the 185lbs division, but since moving down the welterweight division. Lombard has found success with a quick knockout victory of Nate Marquardt and followed this up comfortable decision victory over the seasoned Jake Shields this past weekend.

While not holding as much experience in the division as other contenders, "Lightning" Lombard can claim to hold victories over fighters that have beaten fellow contender Woodley. The Cuban looks much more comfortable in the 170lbs division and would certainly offer up a stern challenge to the new champion. 

Rory MacDonald (15-2)

Often lauded as the heir to Georges St. Pierre's crown, MacDonald suffered a setback in his quest for the title at UFC 167 when he lost for only the second time in his career to Robbie Lawler.

However, with GSP vacating the championship, it freed up MacDonald for a charge towards the gold, and the Canadian put himself back into contention with a victory of Damien Maia at UFC 170. With the support of the former champion, and a newly formed gap in the Canadian market, MacDonald could finally fulfil his promise as the next Welterweight contender. 

Nick Diaz (26-9 1 NC)

Despite declaring himself retired, and coming off a two fight losing streak that includes a loss to former champion St. Pierre, Diaz is a fighter that continues to captivates fans. This effect was compounded in Dallas on the weekend as Diaz declared he could be prepared to get back into the Octagon.

While some would argue that the former Strikeforce welterweight champion would not deserve the shot on merit, few could dispute Diaz' ability to draw a crowd, and perhaps a fight with new champion Hendricks makes the most sense for the UFC from a business standpoint.

Outside Contenders

Robbie Lawler gained many fans Saturday night with an exciting performance as he was narrowly edged out by Hendricks, but if no other contender can be found, then Lawler might make a case for another shot at the belt.

Matt Brown holds one of the highest win streaks in the division, and if he is successful in making Erick Silva his seventh straight victory in May, then he can stake a claim to be the next challenger.

Currently on a four fight win streak, Dong Hyun-Kim followed up an incredible knockout of Erick Silva in October with another highlight reel finish against John Hathaway this month, taking him into the top 10 of the division. 

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