The UFC’s welterweight division is as exciting as it has ever been. Not since the days of Matt Hughes and Georges St.-Pierre have the 170-pounders enjoyed this kind of buzz.
It is easy to see why. Kamaru Usman remains undefeated in the UFC, and recently defeated Tyron Woodley to win the championship. Not only that, but Woodley’s close friend and wrestling coach Ben Askren finally made his UFC debut, extending his unbeaten streak at the expense of Robbie Lawler.
If the rumors are true, Woodley and Lawler may be ready to lock horns again. The last time they met, Woodley took care of business in under a minute – claiming the title and setting a record in the process. Their second meeting is said to take place on ESPN 4.
However, there was some controversy in Askren’s fight with Lawler. Lawler seemed to have things well in hand in the beginning, slamming Askren then pounding away at him on the ground. Askren would rally and lock in a bulldog choke. While Lawler’s arm appeared to go limp, there was some debate about whether he was truly out.
Referee Herb Dean chose to act on the side of caution, calling a halt to the action. While the Nevada State Athletic Commissioner didn’t see a problem with the stoppage, UFC president Dana White did. He was calling for a rematch – though Askren didn’t seem interested.
Woodley’s decision to take the fight may have saved his friend from getting stuck with it. The move allows Askren to pursue fresh matchups in the division rather than running it back with Lawler. It took long enough to get Askren to the UFC, so fans want to see him face as many top welterweights as possible rather than facing the same one over and over.
The fight also makes sense. Both Woodley and Lawler are coming off losses. Each man is eager to regain their standing in the division. For Woodley, who was soundly dominated by Usman, it gives him a chance to get a win over someone he knows he’s beaten before.
For Lawler, it gives him a shot at redemption and will answer the question as to whether Woodley has lost a step. For Askren, it means a chance to take on other top welterweights and potentially work his way to a title shot – his old pal “Marty” would probably love to get his hands on him.
Askren has already been calling out the likes of Jorge Masvidal, who is coming off a big win over Darren Till, as well as interim champ Colby Covington who will be facing Usman next. Askren is smart to get his name in the running, and now that the belt is off his friend, he has a chance to go for the gold.
Woodley may have done his friend and coach a solid by taking the Lawler fight, and everything could work out for the best in this scenario of matchmaking.