Sometimes, when a fighter has been as dominant as Georges St-Pierre has been over the last five years, it leads to an entire division of fighters getting overlooked due to the achievements of one champion. No matter how much talent appears in a certain weight class, the supremacy of the champion ends up hurting the entire stable of fighters, making them all look like pretend contenders as opposed to the championship-level competitors that they really are.

We’ve seen this in the past, like when Fedor Emelianenko made top fighters like Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira and Mirko “Cro Cop” Filipovic seem vastly inferior in Pride. Or, more recently, B.J. Penn’s destructive title reign in the lightweight division that made Kenny Florian and Sean Sherk look like second-rate lightweights. But, perhaps we’ve never seen a champion make a stacked division look as foolish as GSP has done over the last half decade.

Even with a new set of welterweight contenders currently blossoming before our eyes, with the likes of Johny Hendricks, Jake Ellenberger and Rory MacDonald all creeping towards title contention at 170 pounds, no one seems like a true match for St-Pierre. As a result, every fighter on the welterweight roster seems like they’re fighting for second place, and for the fighters attempting to break away from the middle of the pack, it takes just a little more to stand out than it does in other divisions.

Attempting to stand out is the challenge that awaits rising welterweights Matt Brown and Jordan Mein ahead of their main card scrap at UFC on Fox 7 this Saturday night, and if either man wants to get noticed in the shark tank of a division, they’ll need to do something impressive in earning a victory.

Brown is currently in the middle of a bit of a career resurgence, and a win in San Jose, Calif., this weekend would be a huge step forward for the “Immortal” one as he attempts to climb the welterweight ladder. After beginning his UFC career with a pedestrian 5-5 record, Brown caught fire when 2012 kicked off, notching four straight wins in less than 12 months and looking impressive in every single one of his fights. To top it off, Brown earned the most impressive win of his career in his last bout, a second-round knockout over Mike Swick, and is riding a ton of momentum into this bout with Mein.

However, Brown is going to have his hands full with the up-and-coming Mein, who at just 23 years old is finally starting to put his potential together. The Canadian prospect has worked his way towards the Octagon the hard way, competing in 30 regional fights before he made his way under the Strikeforce banner in late 2011. After a shaky start to his career, he’s found his groove over the last few years and has won nine of his last 10 bouts. Big wins over established fighters like Josh Burkman and Marius Zaromskis, plus a UFC debut win over Dan Miller, have made Mein one of the brightest young stars in the UFC’s welterweight division. A win over Brown could be enough for the UFC to consider giving “Young Gun” a bigger name in his next trip to the cage.

Finding a big-name opponent isn’t hard in the welterweight division, but earning the right to face one of them can be a bit of a challenge if you don’t catch a lucky break or two along the way. It’s even harder if you’ve had a shot and come up short.

This is the case for both Brown and Mein, who have taken on guys considered to be top-flight competition but couldn’t get the job done. As a 14-fight UFC veteran, it’s not surprising that Brown has stepped into the cage with some well-known opponents, but his success against high-caliber fighters has been shaky at best. Although his recent win over Swick did a bit to silence concerns over Brown’s ability to compete against upper-tier fighters, “The Immortal” has suffered losses to strong welterweights in Dong-Hyun Kim and the retired Chris Lytle in the past, and has dropped plenty of winnable fights over the course of his career.

Mein’s resume looks pretty much the same, with wins over decent competition and spotty losses earlier in his career. His one major step up in competition came against Tyron Woodley in Strikeforce last year, and while he did enough to earn the nod from one judge, he ended up dropping a split decision.

Both fighters desperately need an impressive win this weekend, and on top of that, both fighters need to get noticed. Brown was impressive enough in his last fight on Fox that the UFC decided to give him another one, which is a huge step in the right direction for “The Immortal.” If he can pull off a second straight win in front of millions of viewers, it’s not far-fetched to think that the UFC would throw him a borderline top-10 welterweight in his next bout.

When Matt Brown and Jordan Mein step into the cage on Saturday, the stakes are higher for both fighters than they ever have been. A big-time fight and a chance to make a move into the upper tier of one of the toughest divisions in MMA are both on the line, creating an opportunity that neither fighter can afford to miss.

Photo: Matt Brown (R) connects with a punch (Esther Lin/MMA Fighting)

About The Author

Vince Carey
Staff Writer

Vince Carey has been writing about the sport of mixed martial arts since 2010. Although he is just 21 years old, the Omaha-based writer is looking to provide readers with interesting content on all things related to MMA.