(Esther Lin/MMA Fighting)Trials, Tribulations, and Trilogies: Making Sense Of The UFC Welterweight Division Jay Anderson January 10, 2015 Spotlight Have you heard the news? A big welterweight title fight has been planned for 2015; a clash between champion and challenger, two fighters at the top of their game. Now stop me if you’ve heard this one before — the fighters involved are Robbie Lawler and Johnny Hendricks. Yes, the same two men who have been the only two men to fight for the belt in the past year. And this time around, with Hendricks coming off a loss to Lawler in his first title defence, the now-former champion isn’t even being asked to take a fight in between. It’s an immediate rematch, and when it happens it will be the third title fight between the two in (depending on the actual date it goes down) somewhere around sixteen months. It is, according to UFC President Dana White, a fight that “makes sense.” The only question is, for whom? Fans aren’t exactly clamouring to see a third bout between the two so soon, and it has shades of the Dos Santos vs. Velasquez trilogy, which also felt rushed, and resulted in a third fight that played out nearly identical to the second. However, with the UFC welterweight division in turmoil, the company no doubt felt that this was the fight to make. We knew the welterweights would be going through some trials and tribulations following George St. Pierre walking away from the sport as a reigning champion, we just didn’t know how much. To be fair to the UFC, from where they sit, this is a bout that makes sense. There’s no question about that. Put a “III” on an event poster to be hung up at local watering holes everywhere, and casual fans will take notice. Trilogies come with relevance already implied. It’s the third fight, so it must be one that will make history, right? The obvious problem is that it’s too soon. The obvious answer would have been to give Rory MacDonald the shot. And that probably would have happened, had Hendricks won his title defence. However, above and beyond the fact that MacDonald is a tough fighter to market to fans, the fact is that he lost to Lawler in a split decision towards the end of 2013. From the UFC’s perspective, it’s a been there, done that type of fight, whereas Hendricks vs. Lawler is the rubber match in a trilogy. Cue the sound bytes and promos talking about how it will be “one for the ages.” It’s not that Lawler vs. Hendricks is a bad fight, either. Too soon, yes. Bad fight, no. Repetitive? Certainly. Fans want fresh blood, fresh challengers, until a trilogy develops naturally. The situation is a by-product of the state of the welterweight division however: GSP cleaned it out, and the division is now a hodge-podge of guys he beat (Hendricks, Carlos Condit, Nick Diaz if he drops down after the Silva fight), guys who weren’t quite at the level to get a shot against him yet (Matt Brown, Tyron Woodley), and guys who have dropped down in weight (Hector Lombard, Demian Maia). The UFC has been pushing Kelvin Gastelum pretty hard, but he’s not ready for a shot just yet (should he get past Tyron Woodley in their upcoming bout, then maybe we can re-evaluate things); Condit and Brown are coming off losses and dealing with injuries, and Rory MacDonald just seems to be the odd man out despite his three-fight win streak. Beyond that, Hector Lombard sits looking in from the outside at sixth. The division will sort it self out in the meantime, and as much as the rubber match between Lawler and Hendricks is premature, it will buy the division some time to clean up this mess — and get itself back on course.