UFC 242 has officially concluded. Khabib Nurmagomedov retained his belt against Dustin Poirier in a dominant performance. Also, Paul Felder controversially exacted his revenge on Edson Barboza. Let’s talk about what might be next for the main and co-main event fighters who competed on this card.
Match-ups To Make After UFC 242
Khabib Nurmagomedov vs Tony Ferguson – It’s Time
Khabib Nurmagomedov just improved to 28-0 in his professional mixed martial arts career. He’s also riding a 12-fight winning streak in the UFC. Very rarely does a UFC fighter make it 12 wins in a row. It’s almost unheard of. But Nurmagomedov has done just that. And he’s not the only one. Tony Ferguson is also riding a 12-fight winning streak.
There’s arguably never been a more clear-cut lightweight number one contender than Tony Ferguson. He’s the only man who can match the dominance of Nurmagomedov. Starting in 2015, the UFC has booked Nurmagomedov/Ferguson four different times. Each combatant has pulled out twice, citing various health problems. If both men didn’t continue to win, this fight might go down as a cursed matchup that just wasn’t meant to be. But nobody has been able to beat either man. They are both hovering at the top, unrivaled by anyone else, other than each other. I don’t even want to consider a plan b. Khabib Nurmagomedov vs Tony Ferguson is the lightweight title fight that must happen next.
Dustin Poirier Rebound Against Donald Cerrone
Despite coming up short against Khabib Nurmagomedov at UFC 242, Dustin Poirier is still undoubtedly a top-five UFC lightweight. I’m of the opinion that fighters coming off a title loss deserve a tune-up fight. However, in the case of Poirier, there didn’t appear to be any significant damage absorbed in his failed title bid. With that in mind, I would recommend a fight between Poirier and Donald ‘Cowboy’ Cerrone. This would be a fresh matchup for both fighters. It would also be an opportunity for each of them to move closer to a title fight. Cerrone is currently scheduled to face Justin Gaethje on September 14th—exactly one week after Poirier’s fight against Nurmagomedov. Should Cerrone get past Gaethje, the timing for him and Poirier to face-off would be impeccable.
Paul Felder Calls For Top Five UFC Lightweights
After avenging his first professional loss at UFC 242 Paul Felder was visibly emotional. Speaking with Jon Anik, Felder called for a top-five opponent. Rather than picking a name from that list, let’s explore the possibility of each of these match-ups.
The current top five UFC lightweights are as follows: Dustin Poirier, Tony Ferguson, Conor McGregor, Donald Cerrone, and Justin Gaethje. Felder is friends with Cerrone and unlikely to ever fight him in the cage. If Gaethje defeats Cerrone, it’s possible that Felder squares off with him.
Felder also mentioned Conor McGregor by name in his post-fight interview. It would be interesting to see ‘The Irish Dragon’ booked against the undeniable face of Irish MMA. But getting a fight against McGregor is much easier said than done.
Tony Ferguson is also an option. But a title fight against Nurmagomedov would need to fall through for this to happen. Dustin Poirier is a more likely candidate. Both men just competed on the same card. So the timing could work out well. Fighting Poirier would be a massive opportunity for Felder. It would also be a good stylistic bout for Poirier to get back on his feet. Paul Felder just might get his wish to face a top-five opponent.
Relegate Barboza’s Opponents to Bottom Five of Top 15
Despite losing four of his last five fights, Edson Barboza remains one of the most dangerous fighters in the UFC lightweight division. In fact, many would argue that he should have had his hand raised in his rematch against Paul Felder at UFC 242. Be that as it may, the fight was close, and Felder was declared the victor. So what’s next for Barboza? He’s ranked number seven in the world—a ranking that will surely drop after his defeat to the number-10-ranked Felder. Barboza may be due for a tune-up fight.
Out of the current top 15 fighters at lightweight, Barboza hasn’t fought, Dustin Poirier, Conor McGregor, Al Iaquinta, Gregor Gillespie, Charles Oliveira, Alexander Hernandez, and Islam Makhachev. It may be worthwhile to face an opponent outside of the top 10 next. Charles Oliveira is currently ranked at number 12 in the world. Alexander Hernandez is ranked number 13. Both one of these men would make for great opponents at this stage of Barboza’s career.