After all the histrionics following UFC 167 on Nov. 16 -- Georges St-Pierre's controversial split-decision victory over Johny Hendricks; St-Pierre's vague post-fight announcement that he is stepping away from fighting for awhile; Dana White's meltdown at the post-fight press conference; and conjecture about GSP's personal issues -- there remains the status of the welterweight division in and of itself.
Most pressing, of course, is St-Pierre's future. The longtime UFC welterweight champion has absorbed nearly as many strikes in his past three fights than he has since becoming champion. He's logged more time in the Octagon than anyone in UFC history. And while White is bent on making a Hendricks rematch as soon as possible, few are going to begrudge GSP if he decides to walk away after a magnificent career.
Until that gets settled, there's the rest of the divisional picture. Hendricks' next move needs to be for a title of some sort. Whether it's a rematch with St-Pierre, or an interim title fight/vacancy should St-Pierre either retire or take a prolonged sabbatical, there's no way Hendricks should compete for anything other than a championship next time he's in the Octagon after a fight like Saturday night's bout.
In UFC 167's aftermath, St-Pierre finished first with 59 points, getting five firsts and one second. Hendricks finished second with 55, taking one first and five seconds.
As the person on the panel who voted Hendricks first, allow me to address my choice: Quite simply, I've watched the wrong fighter get the nod in title fights once too often over the past couple years. Frankie Edgar got jobbed against Ben Henderson at UFC 150. Gilbert Melendez should have gotten the decision against Henderson in April. I had Michael Chandler winning his fight with Eddie Alvarez. And now Hendricks was on the wrong end of a decision he should have gotten.
The only absolute travesty among them was the Edgar fight. The rest were all close. But we're too quick in MMA to accept bad results in close fights and move on. I'm not doing that anymore. GSP is the greatest welterweight off all-time, but Hendricks was better Saturday night, and I'm not going to rank St-Pierre over him just because two judges disagreed with the rest of the world. Nothing's ever going to change if we just keep blindly following a bad system.
Underneath Hendricks, the biggest piece of the puzzle will be solved on Dec. 14, when Carlos Condit and Matt Brown square off at UFC on FOX 9. This is Brown's chance to prove he belongs with the division's big boys, as he takes a six-fight win streak into this match with the fighter who is a unanimous No. 3.
Meanwhile, "Ruthless" Robbie Lawler moves up five spots in the poll, after knocking Rory MacDonald from his perch at UFC 167. Lawler, who is 3-0 in 2013, checks in at No. 4, one spot ahead of MacDonald.
As for the second half of the top 10, Jake Shields takes the No. 6 spot after taking a split decision over Demian Maia on Oct. 9. Maia, losing for the first time at welterweight, dropped all the way to nine from five. Jake Ellenberger (No. 7), Martin Kampmann (No. 8) and Brown (No. 10) round out the list.
(Scoring: Fighters are given 10 points for a first-place vote, nine points for a second, etc., down to one point for 10th place. The results are then tallied up and presented here. Official SB Nation rankings policy: Fighters under commission suspension are ineligible to be ranked during the duration of their suspension or if they have licensing issues. As of this writing, this does not affect any welterweights of note).
1. Georges St-Pierre (25-2, 59 points): St-Pierre is the greatest welterweight of all-time. But time isn't on his side, and with three fights to judge since his return, he never appeared to regain his full explosion after his knee surgery.
2. Johny Hendricks (15-2, 55 points): A scoring system in which St-Pierre ekes out rounds three and five, and Hendricks dominates rounds two and four, but both count the same on the scoreboard, is a system that needs to be changed. Now.
3. Carlos Condit (29-7, 48 points): If GSP doesn't come back anytime soon, would anyone really complain about getting a Hendricks-Condit rematch?
4. Robbie Lawler (22-9, 1 NC, 41 points): To think, this time last year Lawler was coming off a loss to Lorenz Larkin, his third loss in four fights. Lawler's move to the American Top Team has made all the difference.
5. Rory MacDonald (15-2, 41 points): Back to the drawing board for MacDonald. Standing in the center and jabbing will work against an undersized B.J. Penn and a frozen Jake Ellenberger, but Rory doesn't appear to have an answer for fighters who actually hit back.
6. Jake Shields (29-6-1, 1 NC, 25 points): Say what you will about his style, but the victory over Maia was Shields' third straight at 170 pounds.
7. Jake Ellenberger (29-7, 20 points): Will look to shake off his stinker against MacDonald when he meets Tarec Saffiedine on Jan. 4.
8. Martin Kampmann (20-7 15 points): Still nothing on Kampmann's agenda after back-to-back finish losses at the hands of Hendricks and Condit.
9. Demian Maia (18-5, 13 points): A big drop in the standings, considering it was a split decision loss after tearing through the competition at 170. No word yet on his next fight.
10. Matt Brown (18-11, 12 points): A victory over Condit would silence Brown's doubters once and for all.