Many fighters have spoken out about why the UFC should add a 165 pound division. One of the most outspoken about this division is Kevin Lee. Lee believes the division could easily be filled with many fighters from lightweight and welterweight. It’s certain that 165 would bring many talented fighters from the weights around it. That could then make for some very exciting fights in the future.
UFC 165 Pound Division Wishlist
While the division has yet to be created, support from fighters and fans alike seems to be strong and growing. With the idea looming, here is a list of some great matchups that could be seen at 165.
#1: Georges St-Pierre vs. Conor McGregor
For months fans have clamored for the “super-fight” between ‘GSP’ and McGregor. After St-Pierre’s victory over Michael Bisping at UFC 217, many figured McGregor was the best option for his next fight, outside of then interim champion Robert Whittaker. The fight would surely bring in millions of dollars and viewers, as well as being one of the biggest fights ever.
St-Pierre dominated the UFC’s welterweight division throughout his career. ‘GSP’ holds the record for most title defenses in the welterweight division at nine straight. More recently, he returned after four years away to take on Michael Bisping for the middleweight title. To the shock and amazement of many, he won, dropping and submitting Bisping in the third round. The talk of GSP-McGregor was at an all-time high.
It’s no secret that Conor McGregor has done very well in the UFC. He won the featherweight title back in 2015 when he knocked out Jose Aldo in thirteen seconds. His two fights with Nate Diaz at welterweight were some of the biggest fights in UFC history. Even then, Conor outdid himself he won the lightweight championship at UFC 205, knocking out Eddie Alvarez. He’s made himself the UFC’s biggest star far and away. He brings attention anytime he fights, speaks, or breathes. The fight with ‘GSP’ would easily sell millions on PPV. It would be the UFC’s best shot in a while to break the sales record. If the fight were to be made, many believe it should be for the inaugural 165 pound division title.
#2: Khabib Nurmagomedov vs. Tyron Woodley
Let’s all assume that Woodley can cut the extra five pounds as he’s already massive for a welterweight. If he could make the weight, a fight with Nurmagomedov would need to happen at 165. While they differ stylistically, Khabib and Woodley are easily two of the top wrestlers in the UFC. A Division 1 All-American, Woodley has some of the best wrestling defense in the sport. A world-level Sambo player, Nurmagomedov has been able to secure takedowns with ease.
Nurmagomedov is now the official UFC lightweight champion. He took on Al Iaquinta at UFC 223, an event that was full of twists and turns outside the octagon. Khabib is currently undefeated with a record of 26-0. Throughout his UFC career, he has looked unstoppable. It seems like the fight is over the moment he even gets a hand on you. Khabib has some of the effective takedowns and top control in the UFC; he has easily dominated opponents once it goes to the ground.
Woodley, on the other hand, is the UFC’s welterweight champion. He has defended the belt three times, twice against Stephen Thompson, and most recently against Demian Maia. Woodley has proved a difficult opponent in his title defenses. He was able to nullify the awkward and dangerous fighting style of “Wonderboy” Thompson. Against Maia, he stuffed close to 20 takedowns en route to a unanimous decision victory for his third title defense at UFC 214. Woodley seems like one of the rare opponents in the UFC that would have the ability to dictate the fight against Nurmagomedov.
#3: Jorge Masvidal vs. Nate Diaz
Both of these men have bounced around between lightweight and welterweight, but haven’t been able to secure titles. A fight between Diaz and Masvidal would be a surefire exciting matchup, as both guys are very skilled boxers with dangerous ground games to fall back on.
Diaz hasn’t fought since his loss to Conor McGregor all the way back at UFC 202. He’s made it clear that he doesn’t need to return, but would do so for a proper paycheck. Well, Masvidal probably wouldn’t be the one to reel him back in, but fans can hope, right? Diaz is a very experienced boxer, along with his brother, Nick. Both Diaz brothers are BJJ black belts under Cesar Gracie. He’s been very successful throughout his career but has never held a title. He’s got the tools to become a champion but has struggled with consistency. Perhaps a run at 165 could finally do the trick for Stockton’s Diaz.
Masvidal is another well-rounded fighter that has found success with his boxing skill. Like Diaz, he has never held a UFC title. It could very well be because he hasn’t found the right weight class. In his last fight against Stephen Thompson at UFC 217, he was picked apart to a unanimous decision. It seemed Masvidal struggled with the length and range of the tricky striker. If 165 is his weight class, then a fight with Diaz would be an exciting, championship level matchup.
#4: Kevin Lee vs. Donald Cerrone
Donald Cerrone is always up to fight anybody, and a fight with Kevin Lee would be fireworks. Cerrone is a fan favorite who talks the talk and walks the walk. Unfortunately, he left the lightweight division just before Lee began to really make a name for himself. Despite claiming a desire to move back, it seems clear that Cowboy cannot and should not attempt another cut to 155 pounds. It’s well documented that Lee is also someone who cuts a large amount of weight to make 155. Both guys have spoken out about a 165 pound division and would love if the UFC opened it up.
Lee is coming off a loss to Tony Ferguson back at UFC 216 in a fight for the interim lightweight championship. Before that fight, Lee had what he described as one of the worst weight cuts. He couldn’t even recall how he got through it all, and that’s the reason he has spoken out about a 165 pound class.
Cerrone last fought at UFC Fight Night 126 when he took on Yancy Medeiros, winning via first round TKO. He’s been open about a move back down to 155, but has also said that the cut is too much for him. Cowboy is on record stating he feels he is too small to be a welterweight. He walks around just north of 170 and sees 165 as a perfect fit.
This would be the perfect fight to welcome both men to the division. Both have serious skills on the feet, with ‘Cowboy’ most likely having the advantage. Both guys are also skilled on the ground with ‘The Motown Phenom’ having a slight advantage there due to his wrestling and top game. Both men bring the fight, which would make for an exciting clash.
#5: Edson Barboza vs. Stephen Thompson
Wonderboy-Barboza is just one of those ‘what if?’ fights. Both men are very talented strikers that really like to utilize their kicks. The thought of this fight came up when thinking about the two at the UFC 25th Anniversary Press Conference. Neither man’s opponent was able to make an appearance that day. Seeing them together, I realized that this fight could be one of the most technical and high-stakes striking matches ever seen in a cage.
Thompson is coming off a clear unanimous decision victory over Jorge Masvidal back at UFC 217. His striking is very good, a product of his successful career in karate and kickboxing. His unorthodox striking style makes him very unpredictable, and hard for his opponents to prepare for. He is usually a counter striker who uses a lot of flashy kicks that seem to come out of nowhere. One clean connection could end the fight in an instant.
Barboza is coming off a brutal decision loss to Khabib Nurmagomedov at UFC 219. Barboza is absurdly talented on the feet. He is best known for his spinning wheel kick KO of Terry Etim at UFC 142. More often Edson utilizes heavy leg kicks, finishing multiple opponents in this fashion. Against tougher fighters like Gilbert Melendez, Barboza continues chopping his opponent’s leg throughout the entirety of the fight. It would be interesting to how each man deals with the unique striking threats presented by this matchup. The possibility of Wonderboy-Barboza only increases the allure of a 165 pound division.
Embed from Getty Images