UFC Lightweight Division

What Happens Next In The UFC Lightweight Division?

UFC 257 has left many of us wondering what’s next in the UFC‘s lightweight division; what’s next for the division as a whole, what the next match ups could be, and what’s next for the lightweight title picture.

As we all know by now, Khabib Nurmagomedov retired after defeating Justin Gaethje at UFC 254, vacating his UFC lightweight championship in the process. UFC President Dana White wanted to give Nurmagomedov some time to rethink his decision, and met up with him leading up to UFC 257.

The pound-for-pound king decided he’s going to stay retired however, leaving the UFC lightweight championship up for grabs. After all, he did defeat three lightweight champions during his reign.

Conor McGregor never lost his belt in a fight, he was stripped of it for boxing Floyd Mayweather Jr. Dustin Poirier and Justin Gaethje won interim titles during his reign, and he absolutely handled, and finished both of them.

Many believed that McGregor vs. Poirier II should have been for the vacant strap considering Nurmagomedov doesn’t intend on coming back, but the UFC decided not to, in hopes that the Russian superstar would see something that compelled him to return for one more.

Now that these last two fights, Dan Hooker versus Michael Chandler and Dustin Poirier versus Conor McGregor, have happened, we don’t have any lightweight contention match ups signed.

Of course, as we know, we had a few very shocking outcomes at UFC 257, particularly the co-main and main events.

Former multiple-time Bellator lightweight champion Michael Chandler ran right through Dan Hooker, securing the TKO victory at 2:30 of round one, and Dustin Poirier avenged his defeat to Conor McGregor via TKO at 2:32 of round two.

Some were picking Chandler to win, but most felt Hooker was too dangerous for him, and furthermore too durable. Almost everyone expected McGregor to win his rematch as well, but he didn’t, as he fell to 1-1 in his series with Poirier.

Now that we have a brand new elite face added to the UFC’s 155 lb division, who’s now ranked at No. 4 after perhaps the most impressive UFC debut in the sports history, and now that McGregor has a second trilogy to complete, it’ll be interesting to see what the UFC decides to do with the division.

We’ve got to assume Dan Hooker won’t be competing again any time soon, as he took his gloves off inside the octagon after his fight. That generally means the fighter is retiring.

This is most likely due to the fact that he was a part of two brutal wars last year, he’d just been finished in the first round, and he won’t be able to see his family for a considerable amount of time following this defeat, due to Covid-19 protocols.

As previously mentioned, there aren’t any contendership bouts booked at the moment. Actually, the only man in the entire top ten that has a fight signed is No. 10 ranked Carlos Diego Ferreira, who will be facing No. 13 ranked Beneil Dariush at UFC Vegas 18.

This fight will be a rematch, giving Ferreira a chance to avenge his first ever defeat, which just so happened one month after McGregor knocked Poirier out at UFC 178 in 2014.

Aside from those two, just one more ranked lightweight has a fight booked, No. 14 ranked Islam Makhachev, who will be facing Drew Dober at UFC 259.

This isn’t the best match up the UFC could give Makhachev, they should be giving him higher ranked opponents in order to propel himself forward in the division, but this will be a telling fight.

Makhachev has one defeat, where he was KO’d early in round one by Adriano Martins back in 2015. Dober is an amateur Muay Thai champion, and he has some of the most dangerous one-punch power in the division.

The UFC wants to make sure Makhachev can get over the hurdle of a dangerous knockout artist, which is a good idea for his development. As far as the top contenders though, what happens next for them?

Well, Dana White stated at the UFC 257 post-fight press conference that he’d like for Poirier and Chandler to face one another for the vacant UFC lightweight championship, but Poirier was having none of it.

Poirier doesn’t want to give someone who’s brand new to the promotion the shine, considering he himself has been in the UFC since early 2011. Not to mention, Chandler was the backup at UFC 254, the night Poirier was supposed to fight Tony Ferguson.

That didn’t sit too well with Poirier, or Ferguson for that matter.

Chandler however seems to be happy facing anyone that’s in the top five, so that’s a good thing. There are a couple things the UFC could do, should Poirier actually refuse a fight with Chandler.

The UFC could put Poirier up against No. 3 ranked Charles Oliveira for the vacant strap. Oliveira has won his last eight-straight bouts with seven finishes.

He picked up the first and second knockout victories of his UFC career in back-to-back fights, nearly finished 39-1 professional kickboxing champion David Teymur with strikes, and nearly submitted longtime top five contender and Eddie Bravo BJJ black belt Tony Ferguson.

If that first round didn’t come to an end right when it did, Oliveira would be on an eight-fight finish streak as well. The leaps and bounds this kid has made in his game is just remarkable, and there’s no one competing at lightweight, aside from maybe Poirier, that deserves a title shot as much as he does.

This would leave No. 2 ranked Justin Gaethje to face Chandler, which would be a truly epic battle. We’d have the six-time WSOF lightweight champion facing the six-time Bellator lightweight champion. Does this fight not sell itself?

If that’s not what happens, Poirier could rematch Gaethje for the vacant title, considering they’re the last two interim champions at 155 lbs. Not to mention, their first fight was insane. The grit and determination Poirier had in that fight to not get finished, not to mention finish Gaethje himself, it was truly astonishing.

Gaethje landed 50 leg kicks on Poirier in that fight. The first time he dropped Poirier with a leg kick was just 90 seconds into round one, and Poirier mustered up the power to finish Gaethje 33 seconds into round four.

That would leave Chandler to face Oliveira. While that’s a great fight, and would certainly be a title eliminator, Oliveira deserves to fight for the belt next. He shouldn’t have to do anything else to get that shot.

The last man to defeat Ferguson before Oliveira, Gaethje, fought for the belt right after. Oliveira defeated Ferguson just as dominantly as Gaethje did. Pretty much all of us know, these are the four lightweights that will be in the title picture to say the least.

Outside of the title picture, we still have some pretty great fights to make. Now that McGregor lost, especially in the manner that he lost, a fight with Ferguson makes more sense now than ever. Ferguson’s legendary 12-fight win streak was of course halted by Gaethje, and then Oliveira.

Considering how brutal of a defeat McGregor was just handed, this fight makes all the sense in the world. The UFC could also put McGregor versus Nate Diaz III together, as Dana White just recently stated they’re in talks with Diaz for a lightweight return.

If that doesn’t happen, who wouldn’t want to see Diaz versus Ferguson? That can’t happen though, because if it does, McGregor would be left without a fight, right? Wrong.

Does anyone remember why those Diaz fights happened in the first place? Because McGregor was coming up to 155 lbs to challenge for the lightweight belt after taking the featherweight belt from Jose Aldo.

The man he was going to challenge for his second title against was then lightweight king Rafael dos Anjos. Of course, dos Anjos withdrew from the bout with a broken foot, and the UFC put McGregor versus Diaz together at 170 lbs on 11 days notice.

Dos Anjos is back at 155 lbs, he just returned in November and picked up a dominant victory over No. 9 ranked Paul Felder, moving himself up to No. 7. We could finally get to see this fight we should’ve saw back in 2016, and it’s still a very exciting fight to make.

McGregor also said prior to UFC 257 that he’d love this bout after facing Poirier, so now that he faced Poirier again, could this one be next for him? There are so many great fights to make at 155 lbs right now, it’s so exciting to see.

For the best lightweight in the world, and perhaps the best mixed martial artist ever Khabib Nurmagomedov to leave the sport, and we still have all these names at 155 lbs, it’s remarkable. This division is so stacked, and that won’t change any time soon.

No matter which way the UFC decides to slice the lightweight division up, anyone in the top eight-to-ten matched up with one another is a great fight.

There are so many big names in this division. Four of them are in the UFC’s top 15 pound-for-pound list if that says anything. Not to mention, there used to be five lightweights on that list until Ferguson lost to Oliveira.

Who do you want to see fighting for the UFC lightweight championship next?

author avatar
Brady Ordway
I became a fan of combat sports when I was 12 years old. I was scrolling through the channels and landed upon Versus, where WEC was televised. Urijah Faber fought Jens Pulver for the second time that night. That's the first fight I ever saw, and I was immediately hooked. So eventually, I began covering the sport in the fourth quarter of 2018, and have since started writing about animals as well. If you'd like to see those pieces, be sure to check out learnaboutnature.com!