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SB Nation welterweight rankings: Rory MacDonald in line for Hendricks-Lawler winner

Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sp

Rarely is the title path as clear as the one which presently exists in the UFC's welterweight division.

Champion Johny Hendricks and Robbie Lawler are scheduled to meet on Dec. 6 in a rematch of their March bout, which Hendricks won by a whisker to claim the vacant belt.

Up next for the UFC 181 winner? Rory MacDonald. MacDonald's only loss in his past nine fights was a split decision to Lawler last November. Since then, he's looked like a man possessed in rattling off three consecutive wins.

The most recent one came last weekend, when MacDonald finished off Tarec Saffiedine in Halifax, Nova Scotia.

In the aftermath of the bout, UFC president Dana White announced MacDonald would not only get the Hendricks-Lawler winner, but would get the bout on friendly turf in Canada.

Of course, things don't always go according to plan. Remember when the UFC was using Jon Jones vs. Glover Teixeira and Alexander Gustafsson vs. Jimi Manuwa to set up a Jones-Gustafsson rematch? Anything could happen, from Hendricks-Lawler playing out in a way which demands a trilogy fight; to an injury; to what might happen if Georges St-Pierre decided to return.

But for now, Hendricks vs. Lawler with MacDonald getting the winner is the obvious path. So obvious that they're the unanimous top three in the latest SB Nation welterweight rankings, with Hendricks taking first, Lawler second, and MacDonald third. With that, we enter a period of relative calm at 170 pounds, as many of the remaining fighters are either injured (Carlos Condit, Matt Brown); have fights lined up down the road (Hector Lombard) or don't know yet who they'll face next (Tyron Woodley, Demian Maia).

(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. Also, since St-Pierre relinquished his title and walked away from the sport without any guarantee of returning, he will be regarded as a retired fighter for rankings purposes and is ineligible).

Welterweight image

1. Johny Hendricks (16-2, 60 points) Will a long layoff due to his bicep surgery affect Hendricks? That's a key question heading into the Lawler rematch.

2. Robber Lawler (24-10, 1 NC, 54 points) Since November, Lawler his gone nearly 16 full rounds against fighters who were ranked in the top 10 at the time.

3. Rory MacDonald (18-2, 48 points) Another way to look at MacDonald's progression: If not for a late lapse against Condit and had one more judge swung in his favor against Lawler, MacDonald would be undefeated.

4. Tyron Woodley (14-3, 40 points) No next bout is set for Woodley, who redeemed is UFC 174 loss to MacDonald with a knockout of Dong Hyun Kim.

5. Carlos Condit (29-8, 37 points) Little news coming out of Condit's camp as the former WEC and UFC interim champ rehabs from ACL surgery.

6. Hector Lombard (34-4-1, 1 NC, 27 points) The guy few in the division seem to want to fight will welcome Josh Burkman back to the UFC at UFC 182.

7. Matt Brown (19-12, 22 points) Ever the gamer, Brown, in the wake of his slugfest against Lawler in July, wanted a chance to fight Lombard. The problem? Brown wasn't even close to ready to return from a broken hand.

8. Ben Askren (14-0, 20 points) OneFC's welterweight champion has both a knack for words and for making his opposition look silly. A string of finishes is making his repuation as a boring fighter recede.

9. Jake Shields (29-7-1, 1 NC 13 points) These rankings were compiled during the week leading up to Shields' WSOF debut bout against Ryan Ford, which should give an indication whether the veteran should remain top-10 ranked.

10. Demian Maia (19-6, 5 points) A bad infection sidelined the soon-to-be 37-year-old Maia from an August fight. No word yet on when he'll return.

Votes for others: Tarec Saffiedine 2, Dong Hyun Kim 1.

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