In the wake of an event that saw two important matchups take place in the Lightweight division, what better time than now to matchmake the best of the best in the UFC’s marquee division?
At UFC 274 Charles Oliveira defeated Justin Gaethje by first round submission, however due to a weight miss of just 0.5 lbs the day before, Oliveira was stripped of the title upon the start of the match making Gaethje the only athlete eligible to win the title. Ultimately, it didn’t matter as Oliveira secured his spot in the next vacant title fight as he finished Justin Gaethje with a 1st round submission. Joining Oliveira in the Lightweight win column was Michael Chandler who disposed of Tony Ferguson with one of the most vicious knockouts in the history of the promotion. With only exciting potential bouts on the horizon let’s play matchmaker for the UFC lightweights.
These are 5 possible fights in the Lightweight division.
Charles Oliveira continues to make his case for the top of the pound-for-pound ladder with his recent string of victories. He’s now won 11 in a row, 10 of which came by way of stoppage, and there doesn’t necessarily appear to be a true number one contender to join the former champion in the next title bout as of right now. However, if Charles wants to remain active and have the best opponent standing across from him when the first round starts, then Islam Makhachev is the most deserving candidate. Islam holds an impressive ten-fight winning streak of his own and has finished his last four opponents. Although Makhachev has not faced the level of competition in recent memory that ‘Do Bronx’ has faced, he is clearly a promising talent that could reign over this division for some time if he got a hold of the title. Makhachev and Oliveira would be an amazing matchup for fans of grappling and should be the two athletes facing off for the vacant title hopefully later this year.
Michael Chandler has quickly become one of the most beloved fighters in the UFC. The combination of his obscenely entertaining fighting style mixed with his knack for cutting promos has allowed Chandler to make a splash in his short four-fight UFC career. Coming off two straight losses, he needed an emphatic victory to reassert himself in the lightweight title picture, and he did just that when he knocked Tony Ferguson out cold at UFC 274 with a picture perfect front kick. Dustin Poirier on the other hand has not fought since his title loss to Oliveira in December of 2021. Poirier has recently expressed his interest in putting on high-profile fights with the other big names at 155 and 170 and boy would a fight with Chandler check that box. To put it simply, Poirier and Chandler both appear to be allergic to boring fights, and a matchup between the two sluggers would make for some amazing theatre. A win for either man could also lead to another shot at the undisputed title, making the stakes just another part of why this fight would be a gift to MMA fans.
Unfortunately for Beneil Dariush, his opportunity to earn the next title shot was lost when he suffered a broken leg just over one week before a number one contender fight with Islam Makhachev. Dariush definitely still deserves the opportunity to fight one of the best in the division having won seven in a row with four wins coming by finish. He’s shown elite grappling skill and improved striking throughout the win streak, and a clash with a former NCAA Division-I National Champion wrestler like Gregor Gillespie would be an awesome matchup in every area of the game. Though he has only competed once since his stunning knockout loss to Kevin Lee at Madison Square Garden in 2019, Gillespie got back in the win column with a stoppage victory over Diego Ferreira in a bout that won fight of the night honours last May. He has a 7-1 record in the UFC with six of those wins being finishes and given his age of 35 years old, he may not have that much time left to make his push towards the title. Both men are more than ready for a step up in competition and like a Poirier and Chandler matchup, the stakes would make an already exciting matchup all the better.
Despite the loss to Oliveira this weekend, Justin Gaethje is still one of the most exciting, if not the most exciting, fighter on the UFC roster and boy would a matchup with either Rafael be great. With RDA and Fiziev scheduled to face off July 9, it would provide ample time for Gaethje to recover and prepare for a fight with the winner. If Dos Anjos gets through Fiziev then a matchup with Gaethje only adds to the legendary resume of RDA while also holding a lot of weight within the divisional hierarchy. Along with how good he’s looked in his last two contests, Dos Anjos definitely has the skill set to possibly take advantage of Justin’s deficiencies. But like every opponent of Gaethje, he will have to walk through a firestorm to do it. The fight would also provide a highly ranked and well respected opponent for Gaethje to potentially return to winning ways against.
Alternatively, if Rafael Fiziev gets past RDA then a fight against Gaethje would be must-see TV. Fiziev’s Muay Thai and striking acumen is more than enough to counter Justin’s power and lack of concern for self-preservation, which could make for a striking war. After seeing how Fiziev finished Brad Riddell, MMA fans would be in for a treat if he met Gaethje in the Octagon. Either way, it’s hard to find a fight involving Gaethje that wouldn’t be awesome and both RDA and Fiziev are fresh opponents for Justin who are wanting to return to, and enter, the illustrious lightweight top 5.
To say Tony Ferguson has hit a rough patch is an understatement, as the former Interim Lightweight Champion has now lost four straight fights. Given his age and amount of damage taken, Ferguson should welcome a significant step down in competition after fighting the very best for the last half a decade. When the updated lightweight rankings are released in the coming days he will most likely be looking at a 10-15 ranking, putting him in a position for more closely contested matches given the trajectory of his career. That’s where Bobby Green comes into play. Green has seen success in his recent bouts, picking up two straight wins before losing to Makhachev his last time out after taking the fight on just 10 days notice. Green deserves a high-profile matchup and Ferguson provides exactly that as one of the biggest fan favourites in the sport. As well, Green isn’t known for his one punch knockout power and will in all likelihood keep the fight standing, something that could help Ferguson get back in the winner’s circle. Both fighters are known for their exciting styles and performances so this would be the perfect scenario for each to put on a show for the adoring fans.
Lightweight is such an exciting division filled with big names, immense talents, and a mix of former champions and championship hopefuls. Matchmaking a group like that is never easy, but regardless of the direction the UFC chooses to go, the fans are the ones really winning as they are lucky enough to get to witness these incredible athletes compete against one another.