Dom-EH-Nance: Canada’s success at 170-pounds in the UFC

April 8, 2013


Dom-EH-Nance: Canada’s success at 170-pounds in the UFC

John Bodlrick – The UFC has around 75 welterweights on its roster, give or take a few depending on where the next event is. Out of those 75, eight are from our great country. It seems odd to see that almost 11 per cent of fighters in the division are in fact Canadian. This number is much higher than other divisions such as Bantamweight (5 per cent) or Middleweight (4 per cent, if we count Francis Carmont).

Granted, some of the fighters, such as Patrick Cote have moved down in weight, and, to be fair, welterweight is one of the biggest divisions, but why is it that most Canadian fighters fight at 170? It seems like the division has become a hotbed for talent.  It makes sense, as the past, present and future of the welterweight division has always seen its share of top canucks.

The first real taste of the UFC for Canadians came all the way back at UFC 3 when unknown Niagara Fall native Harold Howard shocked the world. OK, that might be exaggerating.  Howard entered the tournament with no previous fights and won his first round matchup rather quickly. Next up for Howard was the man himself, Royce Gracie. On any other night, this fight would be rather easy to predict, but not tonight.

Gracie was exhausted from his first round match-up (with Kimo Leopold) and simply threw in the towel, giving Howard the victory. It doesn’t list the win on their official records, but Howard was the first man to get past Gracie in UFC competition. Howard would go on to lose in the finals, but the seeds of Canadian MMA were planted.

Now, Howard was a heavyweight, which doesn’t really lend itself to the idea that Canadians dominate at welterweight, but it wasn’t too long before someone stepped up.

That someone was The Ronin. Carlos Newton was born in Anguilla (an island in the Caribbean) but moved to Canada at a young age and is considered an adopted Canadian. He fought his first bout, a no holds barred brawl, in Montreal. With a distinct style, Newton won fans and the UFC came calling. Newton entered UFC 17’s middleweight (under 199 pound) tournament. Newton won his first fight, but lost in the finals to a young upstart named Dan Henderson.

After that Newton fought in Japan for a bit, but again the UFC came calling. This time it was a title fight. Newton would face off with Welterweight Champion Pat Miletch, who had defended the title successfully four times, one against Canadian John Alessio.

On May 4 2001, Newton submitted Miletich with a bulldog choke (basically a headlock) to win the title and bring gold to Canada. Newton’s reign was short lived, as he failed to defend the title, but the groundwork had been planted for fellow canucks who wanted a shot at the gold.

Newton’s last UFC fight was at UFC 46 in January of 2004. On that same card, another promising Canadian welterweight made his debut. With a 5-0 record Montreal’s George St-Pierre stepped into the octagon and defeated Karo Parysian that night. It would his first UFC win in a career that no one could have expected.

After one more fight (a TKO of Jay Hieron) St-Pierre was given a title shot against the man who had originally beaten Newton for the title, Matt Hughes. After beating Newton for the title, Hughes went on to defend it five times before dropping the belt to BJ Penn. After the title was vacated, a fight between GSP and Hughes was made to determine the new champion. Hughes beat St-Pierre that night, but could keep him down for long.

GSP finally won the title from Hughes at UFC 65, returning the belt to Canada. Its stay would be short lived; however, as St- Pierre lost in his first defense to Matt Serra in what very well may be the biggest upset in UFC history. All was not lost, as GSP would defeat Serra after two more wins and recapture the title that he still holds to this very day.

While it appears GSP has a hold on the title, he can’t keep it forever. While St-Pierre is only 31 years, h just come off an ACL injury and with rumors running rampant, we will have to get used to the idea that one day Georges St-Pierre, the most popular Canadian fighter in MMA and perhaps the best welterweight champion, will retire. Everyone has to call it quits sometime. When the day finally comes, and GSP rides off into the sunset, don’t panic. The future of Canadians in the welterweight division is already here, and the future looks bright.

Two fighters stand out as the next big thing.

Rory MacDonald is a training partner of St-Pierre at the Tristar gym in Montreal. The 23 year-old British Columbia native has already had his share of fights as he’s 14-1 (5-1 in the UFC). MacDonald made his debut at 21, defeating Mike Guymon via armbar. Next, he was matched up with the dangerous Carlos Condit in a fight no one gave him a chance of winning. MacDonald more than held his own, as most had him winning the fight up until the stoppage, which came with seven seconds left in the fight.

Not many people go the distance with Condit (six to be exact). No one has done it at such a young age. MacDonald showed some incredible skills in the fight and while he didn’t win, people took notice. Ever since, MacDonald has been constantly improving and currently, he’s a bonafide beast. Nobody can hang with MacDonald. Since the Condit fight, Rory Mac has wins over Nate Diaz, Che Mills, Mike Pyle and BJ Penn. His stock is at an all time high, as he is currently the number three ranked welterweight in the UFC.

While it’s too early to tell, all signs point to championship potential. MacDonald may be waiting for St-Pierre to call it quits before beginning his own divisional dominance. While MacDonald has always had a massive amount of hype behind him, a new emerging star in the division recently threw his name into the hat, as Jordan Mein could very well continue the trend.

Mein is the same age as MacDonald, although a little more seasoned. Mein has had a total of 35 pro fights in his career and has compiled a record of 27-8. That’s an astounding number of fights for someone so young. What’s even more amazing is that Mein has only been (T) KO’ed once in that span, meaning the physical impact of those fights is hopefully far less. He’s 4-1 under the ZUFFA banner and recently came off a finish of Dan Miller at UFC 158, becoming the first person to do so.  The future is bright for Mein, although it wasn’t always.

Mei n started off his career in 2006, at the age of 16. His first pro fight was in Lethbridge, Alberta against (if you’ve been paying attention) someone we’re all very familiar with, Rory MacDonald. Mein lost that night and for the next few years, was very up and down. At one point, he was 4-4. Competing against local Canadian competition (including Mike Ricci) pushed his record to 14-6, and then something changed.  Since then he has gone 13-2 with his only losses coming to Strikeforce veterans Jason High and Tyron Woodley.

Mein has a unique combination of striking and ground work that makes him dangerous. He throws standing elbows like no other and is pretty good from both the top and bottom. Mein should continue to grow and round into a top welterweight, which may not be too far away.

We’ve seen the past. We’re living in the present. We got a glimpse of the future. It looks like Canada’s welterweights are in a good position to keep the championship tradition alive, so we have one last thing left to do; Sit back and watch.



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