Dana White proclaims Robbie Lawler as the frontrunner for the next welterweight title shot

Esther Lin, MMA Fighting

Robbie Lawler's dominant performance, complete with a ref stoppage finish in the third round over Jake Ellenberger at UFC 173, has made him the frontrunner for the next welterweight title match.

While not outright declaring him the next top contender, UFC President Dana White endorsed Lawler (23-10, 1 no contest) on more than one occasion in talking to press after the fight.

"How could you deny him the fight," said White. "The fight with Hendricks was awesome. With his performance before the Hendricks fight, no doubt he's the No. 1 guy (contender) in the world."

Lawler lost a straight 48-47 decision to Hendricks in their March 15 fight in Dallas to fill the welterweight title vacancy left when champion George St-Pierre took a leave from the sport.

In most people's eyes, the first fight between the two, among the best fights so far this year,  was even going into the final round.

Hendricks suffered a torn biceps prior to the fight, and had surgery afterwards, and is targeting somewhere between September and November for a return.

"I did a good job, I got a stoppage and I put everyone on notice, and I know I'm in the conversation," said Lawler.

White did indicate that he would likely wait until the Tyron Woodley vs. Rory MacDonald fight takes place, on June 14 in Vancouver, B.C., before outright announcing anything.

But he also gave the indication that both Woodley and MacDonald would have the pressure on them.

Woodley (13-2) is coming off stoppage wins over Josh Koscheck and Carlos Condit. MacDonald (16-2) has won six of seven, but his most recent loss was to Lawler.

White did praise Woodley, noting he has been aggressively finishing his fights of late, and compared his recent performances with those of Lawler. Woodley has past history with Hendricks, as Hendricks beat him for the Big-12 collegiate wrestling championship nine years ago, and has been wanting a shot at him since both became top MMA stars.

But it was clear that it will take nothing less than a spectacular win by Woodley for him to get the next shot.

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