There is little doubt UFC 158 will go down as one of the most important events in UFC welterweight history.
While the main event between champion Georges St-Pierre and rival Nick Diaz has understandably stolen the pre-event show, there are two other bouts on Saturday's card featuring top-10 welterweight talent.
Johny Hendricks, widely regarded as the most deserving title challenger in the division, could finally earn a title shot with a win in the co-main event against former top contender Carlos Condit. Also, Jake Ellenberger and Nate Marquardt will attempt to enter the 170-pound title picture in an evenly matched bout between very well-rounded competitors.
All three of the welterweight fights on the UFC 158 main card could greatly impact the 170-pound rankings come Monday. Let's take a look at how each bout would result in a changed landscape, no matter the result.
The stakes are obviously high any time a UFC belt is up for grabs, but there is an extra sense of importance when a long-reigning champion like St-Pierre is putting his legacy at risk.
St-Pierre will clearly go down as one of the best fighters to ever enter the Octagon, but he asked for this fight with Diaz and would sorely regret a loss to point where it could lead him into retirement. On the other hand, the UFC would likely benefit monetarily from an immediate rematch in that scenario, which could force Hendricks to wait even longer for his chance to claim the belt.
A more frequently predicted scenario includes St-Pierre beating Diaz with wrestling.
While that wouldn't alter the title picture at 170 pounds, it would probably cause Diaz to become frustrated with MMA and potentially lead him into the boxing ring, an avenue he has considered several times in the past.
Johny Hendricks vs. Carlos Condit
It's never safe to assume in MMA, but the odds point to Hendricks defeating Condit and becoming the top contender to St-Pierre's welterweight strap.
While that scenario wouldn't impact the rankings greatly, it would leave Condit it a tough spot. Behind two fighters whom he'd potentially lose to in the rankings, "The Natural Born Killer" would have to at least consider a move to a new division.
On the other hand, an impressive win over Hendricks would suddenly make Condit a serious contender again. A rematch with St-Pierre wouldn't be so far-fetched and may not even require another victory.
Meanwhile, Hendricks would be left in a similar position as Ellenberger's current standing.
An elite welterweight without an elite winning streak, Hendricks would need to go back to the drawing board and work his way back into title contention.
Jake Ellenberger vs. Nate Marquardt
Even though he's not long removed from a knockout loss to Martin Kampmann, Ellenberger can sneak back into the mix for a title shot should things go his way on Saturday.
Should Hendricks lose to Condit, an Ellenberger win over Marquardt could suddenly make him one of the hottest contenders in the 170-pound division.
Conversely, a loss to Marquardt would leave Ellenberger with defeats in two of his past three fights.
It would also make Marquardt an intriguing entrant in the welterweight title hunt given his history as a Strikeforce champion and former middleweight title contender.
A Marquardt win would also look good on Tarec Saffiedine, who beat Marquardt to become the final Strikeforce welterweight titleholder and is currently awaiting the right matchup for his UFC debut.
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