The current state of the lightweight division is intriguing, to say the least. We have arguably the most talented division in the UFC, as well as some of the biggest names to support it.
Obviously, we have Conor McGregor as well as Dustin Poirier in the mix, but we also have a ton of fan favorites like Tony Ferguson, Justin Gaethje, and Michael Chandler just to name a few. Let’s break down how the title picture is looking for the foreseeable future.
Gaethje just fought Chandler in a barn burner for 15 minutes at UFC 268. Dana White was the one who said this was a No. 1 contender’s match because it was the second-ranked guy going up against the fourth-ranked guy. Obviously, the No. 1 ranked guy is Poirier, he’s already fighting Charles Oliveira who is the champion.
Aside from the number one contenders bout this weekend we also had Islam Makhachev recently finish Dan Hooker. The last two people to beat Hooker both got title shots after that if that says anything about how high the UFC values Hooker. Most recently when Chandler got a finish over him in his debut, it catapulted him into a title fight.
Aside from the guys who are already booked or just recently fought, we also have Beneil Dariush who is ranked number three. He is most likely going to have to match up with Makhachev for the next number one contender’s fight, simply because he has no opponent and anyone below him is likely on a losing streak. I believe that they should ask him to be the alternate for the title fight in December at UFC 269 if he isn’t busy.
The ideal scenario is if you had Gaethje up against the winner of Poirier and Oliveira. As well as having the No.1 contender’s bout of Makhachev going up against Dariush on the same card and possibly making it a co-main event.
This is most ideal because some people believe that Makhachev has not fought the level of competition needed to secure a title shop. Some people felt the same for Dariush recently until he beat Ferguson in dominating fashion. With a co-main event spot, they will have the attention of the world on them due to the main event fight being so popular, similarly to how Chandler-Hooker was the co-main event to Poirier-McGregor.
Outside of the immediate title picture, we have stars like Ferguson and McGregor who both need a matchup. Not to mention Nate Diaz has been rumored to be fighting both of these guys in the near future. Obviously, McGregor will have to recover from his recent leg surgery and he is on track to make a full recovery and continue fighting.
Given their star power it’s unlikely that any of these guys fight on anything less than a pay-per-view. Anytime there is a big Nate fight on paper, the fans are in there to ask if this is a number one contender bout.
You have seen this most recently with Leon Edwards and before with Jorge Masvidal. I believe the quickest way for either McGregor or Ferguson to get back to the title is to fight one another and the winner then try to locate another fighter that has been on a recent skid and is up for the challenge, Chandler?
Given all the information above, we know that this SHOULD all unfold this way but we never know. If the title fight goes a weird way, then both of those fighters may be rematching. Similar to how Petr Yan and Aljamain Sterling had to run their fight back, it’s possible that something similar can happen to Poirier and Oliveira.
If this happens I think the worst end of the stick goes to Makhachev, because he’s on a huge win streak and he’s just entering his prime and feels he is ready for championship-level competition right away. This will likely move a championship bout with him back at least 4 to 6 months depending on how fast the next lightweight title defense is scheduled.
Hopefully, all things go well and we have clear and decisive winners so that we can move on from these matchups and get past these immediate rematches that have been happening lately.
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