Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Champion vs. Champion, who is the best? Part IV

As we move into part four of my side by side comparison of champions in the three major mixed martial arts organizations here in the U.S., certain things are clear cut, while others are a bit confusing. One thing that is for sure is that there is no lack of talent here at welterweight (170 lbs.); as a matter of fact, there is an abundance of talent. The question is how much of it actually deserves consideration in this series?

That is because two of the organizations, the UFC and Bellator, have current champions, but the UFC also has an interim champion. Also, Strikeforce either has or had a welterweight champion, I'm not even sure at the moment and I'm not sure Strikeforce knows for sure either. There is one thing that everyone does know though and that is who the overall number one champion is in this weight class; it's the fight for number two that causes the debate.

Here's my ranking of the current champions as I see them, which should spark even more debate:

1.) UFC - Georges St. Pierre (22-2, 8 KO's 5 subs)

On this choice there is no debate; GSP or 'Rush', as he is both known by, is arguably the number one pound for pound fighter in the world. The argument on this issue is whether or not that top spot belongs to him or Anderson Silva. Regardless of whom it is that type of rarefied air easily puts him on the top spot on this list of champions in this division.

Yet as great as St. Pierre (pictured above) is and has been, he has not fought in almost a year; since his five round lackluster decision over Jake Shields last April 30, due to injury. So, the longer you are out of action there is always the small question of how viable can you be considered amongst other active fighters. The question was such that the UFC felt it was important to have an interim champion, thus the reason Carlos Condit currently holds that title.

Nonetheless, it is a small question at best and at his best, GSP stands out above the rest. Condit should provide a formidable challenge when the two finally engage, quite possibly later this year, but unless St. Pierre exhibits some form of ring rust, I anticipate he continuing to solidify his standing as the best of the best in the 170 lbs. division.

2.) Bellator - Ben Askren (10-0, 1 KO 3 subs)

Here's where things start to get sketchy and people will start to scream I'm insane. However, before anyone starts to say I don't know what I'm talking about, here me out. While I feel Askren is a talented fighter, I hardly feel he is the second best champion here; yet, he is the only other one besides St. Pierre who is a definitive champion and for that he deserves the number two nod here. I cannot justify placing an interim champ or one who's status is unknown ahead of him.

Besides, while he's only been fighting MMA professionally for three years, you can't deny what this former Olympian and national wrestling champion has accomplished thus far. Out of his 10 fights, seven have been in Bellator and while he's hardly the most fun to watch, (six of those seven Bellator wins have come via decision), his game is what I call the Tim Hardaway jump shot of MMA; it's ugly, but it's deadly. His style is "funky," which he's been aptly nicknamed, and he's used it to garner the number two spot here, albeit by default.

3.) Strikeforce - Nick Diaz (26-8, 13 KO's 8 subs)

Should Nick Diaz even be on this list? I'm not sure since he claims to be retiring from the sport following his disputed decision loss to Condit two months ago for the interim UFC strap. However, I, like many, believe that statement was made out of anger at the moment and while he's made no indication that he's ready to fight, he hasn't made one that he isn't either. Thus, his status in limbo is why he warrants the third spot on this list.

Even though he lost to Condit, it still is argued amongst hardcore fans that he remains the most formidable challenger to St. Pierre. His skill is unquestionable and his conditioning is second to none in any weight class, yet it's his attitude that makes Diaz an enigma. His inability to let you know what you can expect from him on any given night makes him a nightmare for promoters, yet he remains one of the most popular fighters in the sport among fans.

Finally, Condit's status as interim champion in the UFC forces me to acknowledge his status, as he is a titleholder, but I don't think he deserves to be ranked along with the other three fighters on this list. Although as stated above, he did defeat Nick Diaz in February of this year, regardless of how disputed it may or may not have been; personally, I believe he won. That said, in part five will look at another division to which there is no question, the middleweights.

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