Welterweight is one of the few divisions where every US promoter has a champion, testament to the depth of the weight calss and how full the UFC’s division already is. “US promoter” is used because One Championship in Asia does not have one now that Ben Askren has retired. Even English promotion CWFC and Russia’s M-1 Global have welterweight champions waiting to get into the UFC.
As further proof of how packed this division already is only two fights at DWTNCS Season 1 were held at welterweight and neither winner won a UFC contract. Kyle Stewart is the one to watch as his record now stands at 9-0 with a win in LFA over Ty Freeman prior to DWTNCS. Sidney Outlaw defeated Michael Cora on week 2 and on week 3 Kyle Steward defeated Jason Jackson. 9-3 Outlaw has experience in Bellator, WSOF, and Ring of Combat while his four-fight win streak goes back a year-and-a-half, his win over Cora being his most recent. Michael Cora went on to lose to Rico Farrington in Titan FC, TUF vet Jackson was coming off a win over Dhiego Lima that won Jackson the Titan FC title he still holds.
Welterweight was one of Bellator’s most active divisions with 17 fights on the main cards of the 26 “numbered” shows for 2017 if one counts the four catchweight fights that were intended to be at this weight class. Of course the big news in the division for Bellator was with UFC vet Rory MacDonald making his UFC debut by defeating fellow UFC vet Paul Daley to earn a shot at current champion Douglas Lima. Daley himself fought three times for Bellator last year with the other two bouts being wins over Brennan Ward and UFC vet Lorenz Larkin. This division also shows Bellator’s emphasis on building stars over champions as evidenced by their sole pay-per-view for the year featuring Neiman Gracie in the co-main event while Lima defended the belt against Larkin to open the PPV card. Lima is actually on his second run as champion and holds a record of 30-6, 11-2 in Bellator. Gracie is 7-0, 5-0 in Bellator but with opponents like 16-15 Rudy Bears and 15-8 Zak Bucia. Gracie fought twice for Bellator in 2017, Lima only once.
Bellator are still growing the welterweights they have had prior to Scott Coker’s takeover. David Rickels fought twice on main cards in 2017 with wins over Aaron Derrow and Adam Piccolotti bringing his record to 19-4. Fernando Gonzalez defeated Brandon Girtz and Ward in 2017 and is scheduled to fight Larkin in January. Former champion Andrey Koreshkov had a bout against Gonzalez fall through but earned a win over Chidi Njokuani last year that improved his record to 20-2. Njokuani was previously considered a standout but after missing weight for three fights in a row he moved up to middleweight.
2017 seemed as the year started it would be Dererick Krantz’ year in Legacy FA. Krantz won the vacant LFC title in 2015 then lost it later that year to Alex Morono who moved on to the UFC just one month later. Krantz won his next three fights including winning the inaugural LFA title in May of 2017 which improved his record to 20-9 and made it seem inevitable he would be called up. Unfortunately for Krantz in his first title defense he lost a split decision to James Nakashima who came from the RFA side of the LFA merger. Nakashima’s win of the title kept his record perfect at 8-0, the downside being he has never finished a fight, all eight have ended in the hands of the judges.
In 30 shows in 2017 LFA held 35 welterweight fights on the main cards with the only repetitive competitors being Krantz, Nakashima, Jason Langellier, Chauncey Foxworth, and Curtis Millender. Significant wins were also notched by Ben Neumann, Ciro Rodrigues, Nick Barnes, and Dakota Cochrane. 13-3 Millender had a lousy 2015 going 1-3 with two losses in Bellator but he has since picked up five wins in a row and is confirmed to face Barnes in January. Of all of these the most active in 2017 was Dakota Cochrane. Cochrane started out in a slump in 2017 with losses in Victory FC and LFA then turned around his record in the second half of the year rattling off wins in Victory, LFA, and most recently local promotion DCS which elevated his record to 31-12, 4-2 for last year alone.
Yuri Villefort had a terrible UFC run of 0-2 back in 2013 but is on the scouting list due to his five-fight win streak, four of which came in Victory FC webcast at UFC Fight Pass. In 2017 Villefort captured the welterweight title with a unanimous decision over Kassius Kayne then defended it against Victor Moreno leaving his record 11-5. CWFC which is also webcast at UFC Fight Pass technically still has Karl Amoussou as champion. Amoussou 24-8-2 Amoussou since leaving Bellator picked up seven wins in a row including a TKO of Matt Inman to claim the CWFC title but in his first title defense lost by unanimous decision to Dominique Steele, the problem being since Steele missed weight Amoussou retained the title. UFC Fight Pass’ Titan FC has Jason Jackson as champion, a title he took from Dhiego Lima in December 2012.
Champions and standouts
- Bellator: Douglas Lima
- CES MMA: Chris Curtis
- CFFC: Sean Brady
- CWFC: Karl Amoussou
- LFA: James Nakashima
- M-1 Global: Alexey Kuchenko
- One FC: vacant
- PFL: Jon Fitch
- ROC: Julian Lane
- TFC: Jason Jackson
- VFC: Yuri Villefort
- Other standouts: Rico Farrington, Andrey Koreshkov, Derrick Krantz, Ben Neumann, Ciro Rodrigues, Nick Barnes, Curtis Millender, Dakota Cochrane, Jason Langellier, Chauncey Foxworth