UFC 158‘s unofficial welterweight grand prix seemed destined to shake up the rankings at 170 pounds.
But the evening's results -- Georges St-Pierre's victory over Nick Diaz, Johny Hendricks' thrilling 15-minute battle against Carlos Condit and Jake Ellenberger's knockout of Nate Marquardt -- mainly served to solidify the top of the pecking order.
In our last set of rankings, GSP took all six first-place votes, Hendricks five of six second-place votes, and Condit all six thirds. The only change among the top three this time is that Hendricks swept the second-place ballots.
Neither St-Pierre nor Hendricks' sweeps should come as a surprise. But the vote on confidence in Condit serves as proof that if you take on the best, put on an exciting fight, and come up just a bit short in the end, you won't be penalized for your efforts. It's part of MMA's unique charm that "The Natural Born Killer" is more popular and respected now, after back-to-back losses, than he's been at any point in his standout career.
Aside from the top three, there was much in the way of positional shifting. Demian Maia shot all the way up from 10 to a fourth-place tie after his manhandling of Jon Fitch. He shares the spot with Jake Ellenberger, who looked lethal in his win over Marquardt. Diaz, who was ineligible last time due to his suspension, enters at No. 6. Bellator champ Ben Askren was the other fighter to debut, at No. 10, after Marquardt and Josh Kosheck dropped out of the rankings.
(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 (24-2, 60 points): No. 1 vs. No. 2 fights don't come any more clear-cut than GSP vs. Hendricks.
2. Johny Hendricks (15-1, 54 points): His knockout power, ability to close distance, and high-level wrestling present St-Pierre with the the most formidable challenge of his reign.
3. Carlos Condit (28-7, 48 points): Despite two straight losses, Condit will be in demand, as everyone beneath him knows they could make their case with a win over Condit.
4t. Demian Maia (18-4, 31 points): After nearly decapitating Rick Story and then out-Fitching Jon Fitch, Maia suddenly has that "guy no one wants to face" aura about him.
4t. Jake Ellenberger (29-6, 31 points): He's not getting St-Pierre or Hendricks next, so a fighter in the Condit/Maia/Diaz tier seems to make sense.
6. Nick Diaz (26-9, 1 NC, 30 points): Who knows what to think? Next time we hear from him. Diaz could be running a marijuana dispensary. Or challenging Cain Velasquez and Jon Jones to a 2-on-1 fight. Or in prison for tax evasion. Or all of the above.
7. Rory MacDonald (14-1, 24 points): It's getting to the point where you almost reflexively add "injury-prone" before his name. Aggravating his neck injury doesn't help matters.
8. Martin Kampmann (20-6 23 points): Still no word on his next fight, but he's earned a consequential foe, Hendricks KO or no.
9. Jon Fitch (24-5-1, 1 NC, 14 points): Gained tons of sympathy for his UFC release, but with one win in four fights and World Series of Fighting-caliber opposition, staying ranked is going to be an uphill climb.
10. Ben Askren (11-0, 7 points): A real talent, no doubt, but as Michael Bisping told him on Twitter, he's in "a league where Hector Lombard was literally unbeatable," so it's not likely he rises much higher.