Wednesday Matchmaking: The Lightweight Division

The Lightweight division is stuck in a log jam since the retirement of Khabib Nurmagomedov. Outside of Dustin Poirier, there isn’t a clear-cut contender for the vacant lightweight strap. Additionally, Nurmagomedov hasn’t officially vacated the belt yet. This leaves the entire division in limbo without a clear solution. The UFC has their work cut out for them on how to solve the dilemma. We have broken down some potential matchups the UFC should target to clear up the top of the division.

#1 Dustin Poirier vs #3 Charles Oliveira

Dustin Poirier is coming off the greatest win in his career with a second-round knockout over former Featherweight and Lightweight Champion Conor McGregor. In the bout, ‘The Diamond’ showed supreme confidence against a man who had previously beat him in 2014. Dustin went work with the calf kicks which ultimately manipulated McGregor’s movement. This led to Poirier throwing a flurry of shots with McGregor’s back against the cage. During the flurry, McGregor was caught by a beautifully timed right hand by Poirier. It ultimately ended the contest and handed Poirier the victory. With that phenomenal performance, Dustin without a doubt cemented himself as the best at 155lbs excluding the now-retired Khabib Nurmagomedov.

Charles Oliveira is currently riding a nine-fight win streak. The last time we saw Oliveira in the cage he also had his career best win against Tony Ferguson. In the fight, he dominated his opponent for 3 rounds to secure a 30-26 unanimous decision win at UFC 256. Oliveira was the better fighter in every discipline as he out struck Ferguson on the feet and out grappled him on the mat. While on the mat, Oliveira attempted multiple submissions, one of which included nearly breaking Ferguson’s arm at the end of the first round with a nasty armbar. Both of these lightweights have proven to the world that they are the best 155lbs has to offer.

Pinning the #1 ranked Lightweight Dustin Poirier against the #3 ranked Lightweight in Charles Oliveira is the fight to make. The fight should be for the vacant UFC lightweight championship if Nurmagomedov is well and truly done with the sport. 

#2 Justin Gaethje vs #4 Michael Chandler

Michael Chandler burst into the UFC lightweight rankings with a huge knockout win over Dan Hooker in the first round at UFC 257. As soon as the fight began, Chandler put the pressure on Hooker stalking him around the octagon and eventually backing him up against the cage. Once Chandler was within distance, he landed a huge left hand that dropped Hooker. He proceeded to end the bout with some nasty ground and pound.

Justin Gaethje hasn’t stepped inside the octagon since last October when he suffered a loss to Khabib Nurmagomedov for the Lightweight Title. Prior to that, he had a career best performance against Tony Ferguson in which he captured the Interim Title. Gaejthe dominated Ferguson on the feet for the entire bout. He eventually overwhelmed Ferguson with volume which led Herb Dean to end the contest.

A win for either gentleman would likely earn them a shot at the coveted 155lb strap. Both men have trained together, but have not ruled out the prospect of fighting one another. Both men have fan-friendly styles which would surely make for a compelling showcase.

#5 Tony Ferguson vs #6 Conor McGregor

Conor McGregor returned to the octagon after more than a year when he fought Dustin Poirier in a highly anticipated rematch at UFC 257. In the first round, McGregor came out looking to box, however Poirier got an early takedown. McGregor managed to get back up on his feet with his back against the cage and both men landed some shoulder strikes in the clinch. The Irishman managed to land the final blow of the clinch which was an elbow separating both men. Throughout the rest of the first round, the two landed some heavy punches. Toward the end of the first, Poirier began utilizing heavy leg kicks. Ultimately, this turned out to be pivotal. In the second round, it was evident that the calf kicks landed in the previous round had an effect on McGregor’s movement. Poirier threw a final calf kick which caused McGregor to turn from the aggressor to the defender. The barrage that followed overwhelmed McGregor which resulted in a victory for Poirier.

Since the fight, McGregor stated inactivity was a major contributor to the loss and has expressed interest in a trilogy bout with Dustin. Although that fight makes sense from a business standpoint for the UFC to make next, the fight to get McGregor back and active is none other than Tony Ferguson. Ferguson, currently riding a two-fight losing streak is still one of the biggest names in the division. Prior to suffering his first defeat in seven years to Justin Gaethje, he was on an incredible 12 fight win streak in one of the most stacked divisions in the UFC.

The two men also have history as they were both managed by Audie Attar and Paradigm Sports. Both fighters have thrown subtle digs at one another multiple times on social media. A win for either man immediately puts them straight back in title contention. 

Blaine Moran

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