Vicente Luque: The Welterweight Game of Patience
By James Lee
Usually, nine wins from ten UFC fights would guarantee a title shot. Especially when all the wins have been finishes.
But the welterweight division is different. That kind of record doesn’t even put you amongst the top contenders. As Vicente Luque has found out.
The Brazilian is set to fight again tonight, in the co main event of the UFC’s debut in Uruguay.
Although his opponent Mike Perry has a big name, a win in the fight won’t signify a jump in the rankings and will be yet another number on his record with little indication that a big step up is next.
In any other division, apart from lightweight possibly, he would have likely already been given a title shot. The sheer amount of top quality fighters at 170 lbs means a quick push up the division is rare. An accumulation of a crazy winning streak is necessary before being given a chance at the division’s best.
As England’s Leon Edwards found out, even eight consecutive UFC wins hasn’t yet been enough to secure him his shot at gold. It took him seven consecutive wins before he was given a top ten ranked opponent.
It has been suggested that Edwards’ lack of finishes has caused his slow rise. However, even finishes in the welterweight division doesn’t guarantee quick success. Elizeu Zaleski dos Santos and Luque himself are testament to that. Capoeira has won seven in a row, with two out of four finishes being stunning knockouts and still he hasn’t been given his deserved big opportunity per se.
The problem is the top ten are all on the fringe of a title shot and they all lay claim to a title shot in their own way, especially considering many have beaten each other.
Many in the top ten are unwilling to give the chance to somebody unranked and why should they be. They are deserving of their spot but are less willing than other divisions.
For example, it took Francis N’Gannou six consecutive wins before his shot at the title and Marlon Moraes just four.
The huge influx of talent makes it hard for the cycle to ever change. There are multiple fighters who are on the fringe of making the rankings, but must feel miles away. Fighters like Geoff Neal, EClaudio Silva, Alexey Kunchenko, Gunnar Nelson and Alex Oliveira are all viable fighters outside of the UFC rankings but still don’t have a number against their names.
The rankings also don’t include Kevin Lee and Michael Chiesa, who were ranked lightweights and have moved up to the division, wanting their chance to break in as well.
Even those at the top currently had a slow run. Kamaru Usman was forced to win fourteen in a row with nine of them coming in the UFC before he successfully claimed the title. His rival and likely next opponent Colby Covington has similarly had to draw up a long winning streak despite his antics outside-the-cage.
Ultimately, the 170 lbs division has the most quality than any in the whole of the sport. The amount of talent comes as a huge positive for the fans, but a negative for those who are trying to climb the division from scratch.
So all Luque can do is keep winning. If he keeps doing that, he will eventually be rewarded with his deserved step-up. Until then, he and the other fringe welterweight’s will have to wait for their big opportunity to come.