UFC 291 was headlined by two of the best Lightweight fighters as Justin Gaethje won the BMF belt and defeated Dustin Poirier in the second round with a vicious head kick knockout. Gaethje now becomes the second-ever BMF title holder alongside Jorge Masvidal, who recently vacated due to retirement. Now that everything has been settled at UFC 291, it's time to play matchmaker for the Lightweight division. Here are five fights to make next in the Lightweight division after UFC 291.
As already announced, the Lightweight championship will be on the line at UFC 294 as Islam Makhachev will defend his belt against a familiar foe in Charles Oliveira. The rematch will again occur at the Etihad Arena in Abu Dhabi. Makhachev is coming off a controversial win against Alexander Volkonvski at UFC 284 when he won via unanimous decision. Before that, Makhachev won the belt at UFC 280 when he defeated Oliveira in the second round via submission. Since then, Oliveira fought at UFC 289 and defeated Beneil Dariush in the first round via TKO. This should be another great fight between two of the best Lightweights in the world.
It's only fitting that the winner of the UFC 291 main event would get a title shot if they won. In this case, Justin Gaethje has earned that right to fight the winner of Islam Makhachev or Charles Oliveira. After a brilliant performance against Dustin Poirier, there is nothing left for Gaethje to do but fight for the title next. The head kick knockout was the perfect result he needed to catapult himself into next in line. The current BMF of the UFC should be next for the winner of Makhachev vs. Oliveira 2. That title fight for Gaethje would be projected to be sometime around early 2024 due to UFC 294 being in October of 2023.
On the flip side, Poirier mentioned that he still has a lot left in him to continue fighting. In the post-fight conference, he mentioned that he doesn't want to fight up-and-coming contenders and wants fights that intrigue him. “Before this one, when they offered me Beneil (Dariush), I was just like, ‘Ah, I’m not that excited about it,'” Poirier said. “But when this one came, it got me scared and nervous because what just happened could happen. That’s what kept me waking up in the morning to bust my ass. I knew not only the excitement of the fight, the danger of the fight – a win would get me – we’re No. 2 and No. 3. No. 1 already beat us, and he’s fighting for the title again. How much higher on the ladder could I go? A win over him would be a lock to get the title shot, I thought. We’ll see.” Since he said this, what is a better fight to keep you intrigued and motivated than a rematch with Max Holloway? Both fighters are in a position to have fun and entertaining fights. This particular one makes the most sense right now and would excite many fight fans worldwide. Make it happen (after Holloway fights Chan Sung Jung), matchmakers!
They coached the Ultimate Fighter for a reason, right? This is still the fight to make, and Chandler is chomping at the bits for this one. Rightfully so due to the electricity, the fight would produce between two fighters that love to finish fights. The only problem with making the fight is on Conor McGregor's end. He has yet to enter the USADA pool after his injury and can't compete in the UFC until he has completed six months of testing. It seems like a long shot for this fight to come to fruition, but this is still the fight to make for both men. Fight fans will continue to wait for this fight to be finalized, but it makes sense for both men to get it done.
After losing to Charles Oliveira at UFC 289, Beneil Dariush sits at an interesting spot in the Lightweight division. Dariush can push to get the Chandler fight if Chandler doesn't get McGregor since it'll be a top-five matchup. For the sake of this matchmaking session, Chandler will get that fight with McGregor, leaving Dariush without an opponent. The fight that makes the most sense for Dariush would be Arman Tsarukyan. This would be a great fight, and the winner will place them right into the title picture. Tsarukyan has won two consecutive fights and is ranked eighth in the Lightweight division. This would be a fight between No. 8 and No. 4 in the division and would be a great one to keep the division moving.