Following a dominant performance against Dan (The Outlaw) Hardy in the main event of UFC 111, Georges St. Pierre's list of challengers just got smaller.
For 25 minutes, St. Pierre (20-2) took Hardy (23-7, 1 no contest) down at will en route to a unanimous decision victory. The welterweight champion came close to finishing the bout twice -- an armbar attempt in the second round and a kimura in the fourth -- but his opponent refused to tap both times. Though Hardy showed a ton of heart, he was unable to mount any real offence in the five-round affair.
Needless to say, Hardy was enrolled in GSP 101 last night -- take the opponent down and control every aspect of the fight. Though it may not have made for an exciting watch, St. Pierre looks unbeatable these days and is getting closer to cleaning out the welterweight division.
So with Hardy out of the picture, who's next for the Montreal native at welterweight?
After earning a unanimous decision win over Ben (Killa B) Saunders last night, Fitch has now won four in a row. With his only loss in 20-plus fights coming to St. Pierre at UFC 87, Fitch (22-3) has established himself as the second-best welterweight in the world.
However, Fitch has two things working against him. First, his last seven bouts have all gone to a decision. Much like St. Pierre as of late, Fitch focuses on out-grappling his opponent. Since many don't consider him exciting, UFC brass may be less likely to grant him a title shot.
Second, and perhaps more damaging, Fitch won't fight his American Kickboxing Academy training partners Josh (Kos) Koscheck and Mike (Quick) Swick. UFC president Dana White has said in the past he hates it when teammates refuse to face each other.
The issue even came to a head at the UFC 111 post-fight press conference, when Fitch lobbied for another welterweight title shot. Even with St. Pierre's endorsement, White shot down the bout for now.
"Maybe we do (Fitch) and Koscheck for the No. 1 (contender)," White said to the media, only for Fitch to jump in and immediately reject the idea.
"Well then, he doesn't want the title shot that bad," White responded.
"If that fight had to happen, it'd happen at our gym with the doors closed," Fitch said.
"That would make a lot of money," White retorted with more than a hint of sarcasm.
WINNER OF DALEY/KOSCHECK
At UFC 113 in Montreal, Koscheck (14-4) is set to meet dangerous striker Paul (Semtex) Daley. The winner could find himself at the front of the line for a shot at St. Pierre's title.
If Daley (23-8-2) wins, the UFC has a fresh challenger for the strap and can immediately begin hyping the fight.
However, if Koscheck puts Daley away, he may find himself getting snubbed for the same reasons as Fitch. However, to Koscheck's credit, he tends to be more exciting and has racked up some highlight-reel finishes in the octagon.
Though Alves is set to undergo exploratory surgery, he could be back in action as early as UFC 114 this May in Las Vegas.
Since his last bout was a unanimous decision loss to St. Pierre at UFC 100, Alves (16-6) would need to put together some wins before earning another title shot.
Plus, the fact that he's already lost to the current champion may hold him back for a while.
After dropping a unanimous decision to Fitch at UFC 100, Thiago has won his last two. He also holds a TKO victory over Koscheck and defeated Swick by submission in his last outing.
Though Thiago (13-1) could be just one or two solid wins away from deserving a match with St. Pierre, he's not necessarily a fan favourite among American audiences.
With only one fight left on his Strikeforce contract -- a middleweight title defense against Dan (Hendo) Henderson on CBS this April -- Shields could be UFC-bound sooner than we think.
Though Shields (24-4-1) has never competed in the octagon, many hardcore fans want to see him face St. Pierre and White has expressed interest in signing him. Shields has also run out of competition at welterweight, forcing him to compete in Strikeforce's 185-pound division.
Needless to say, a win over Henderson on CBS would raise his stock with the UFC.