Who deserves the next shot at the UFC welterweight title? Not Nick Diaz ...

Kevin Iole
Yahoo Sports
Tyron Woodley Reveals UFC 209 Title Defense
Tyron Woodley Reveals UFC 209 Title Defense

Imagine for a second that UFC president Dana White said he planned to give a title shot to a fighter who hasn't fought in more than a year, who hasn't won in two-and-a-half years, who has a below-.500 record in the UFC and who didn't win a round in his last bout.

White would be bashed, and rightly so, by the UFC's emotional fan base.

But it was exactly those who would pillory the UFC president for such an action who are backing Nick Diaz for the first shot at Johny Hendricks' welterweight title.

Diaz, you might recall, lost all five rounds and never came close to doing anything offensively when he met then-champion Georges St-Pierre for the belt at UFC 158 on March 16, 2013, in Montreal.

That was Diaz's second loss in succession, following a much closer bout with Carlos Condit 13 months earlier at UFC 143 on Feb. 4, 2012.

Diaz is one of the world's great fighters, and one of the sport's most captivating personalities. But that doesn't mean he should get a title shot any time he feels like he wants one.

The man who deserves the first crack at Hendricks is the man who has been the most outspoken about it, Tyron Woodley.

Both Woodley and Hector Lombard made significant statements during the undercard at UFC 171 on Saturday at American Airlines Center in Dallas before a U.S.-record crowd of more than 19,000.

Woodley dominated Condit and Lombard dominated Jake Shields in ways that neither man has ever been dominated before.

Woodley was beaten by Shields at UFC 161 in a terrible fight that has done a lot to hurt his chances of earning a title shot. But he knocked out Josh Koscheck in impressive fashion at UFC 167 and he dominated Condit on Saturday.

He finished Condit two minutes into the second round on Saturday after dominating the former interim UFC champion from start to finish.

Seconds into the fight, Woodley landed a withering right hand that rocked the stone-chinned Condit.

By all rights, that punch should have ended the fight.

"My first thought, when he was still standing there after I landed that, was 'What kind of man is this who can take a punch like that?' " Woodley told Yahoo Sports on Monday. "I knew the guy could take a punch, but I mean, that was crazy."

Condit showed his toughness by hanging in throughout a rough first round. But Woodley was clearly the more powerful man and the impact of that was taking its toll.

Condit suffered significant damage to his right knee when he took a thunderous kick to his left knee at 2:00 of the second. The force of the kick blew apart his right knee, though the extent of the damage is still unknown.

It could easily have been Diaz and not Woodley in there against Condit, because White offered the bout to Diaz first. But Diaz, who said he retired after the loss to St-Pierre, declined it.

He showed up at the UFC 171 weigh-in on Friday and taunted Hendricks when Hendricks initially failed to make weight.

He then appeared with UFC women's bantamweight champion Ronda Rousey at the fight, and when they were shown together on the scoreboard, Rousey told the crowd that Diaz was the best welterweight in the world.

But friendship with and endorsement from Rousey should have no bearing on the title picture.

If St-Pierre opts to come back, he deserves the next shot, whenever that is. But assuming he's out until after Hendricks' first title defense is settled, the leading candidates for that bout should be, in order, Woodley, Lombard and Robbie Lawler.

Woodley has impressive back-to-back victories, has wrestled Hendricks in college and is similar to the champion in that he has big-time punching power.

Lombard has been outstanding since dropping to welterweight from middleweight and easily took Shields apart, something that hadn't been done before.

And Lawler fought a brilliant fight against Hendricks on Saturday and many, including myself, felt he deserved to win. A rematch wouldn't be out of the question.

Woodley, though, seems like he's the perfect fit because of his recent run, his history with Hendricks and because he's seized the initiative.

"I think I separated myself a bit because I smelled blood and I went for it," Woodley said. "It's comical to me that the fans and the media are downplaying what I did. If you hit someone hard and cause damage, you deserve credit for that. I remember [current UFC lightweight champion] Anthony Pettis hit Donald Cerrone in the ribs with a good kick. [Cerrone] buckled and Anthony finished him off.

"Did anybody say to Anthony, 'Well, if you didn't kick him in his rib, he would have been able to come back and beat you?' Of course they didn't. We're trying to inflict pain and damage with these things we do as we're trying to win the fight. It's part of the fight."

As for Diaz, if he wants to fight again, White should rematch him with Lawler or pit him against Lombard, with the promise that the winner of that fight would get the next shot.

That scenario would leave Hendricks versus Woodley for the belt with Diaz facing either Lawler or Lombard for No. 1 contender's status.

It's a way to recognize Diaz's unique position in the sport, as a huge fan favorite and one of the best fighters in the world, but also has one who has sit on the sidelines and as one who hasn't won a fight since 2011.

It would also reward Woodley for stepping up and taking on the Condit challenge and doing something with the opportunity when he got it. And it would reward Lawler and Lombard for their efforts at UFC 171.

White so far hasn't chimed in on his thoughts about the next contender for the belt, but don't expect him to call Diaz's name no matter the result of any polls.

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