The State of the UFC Lightweight Division

The state of the lightweight division seemed to be very straightforward up until Beneil Dariush had to pull out of his upcoming five-round fight night main event versus Islam Makhachev. The presumption was that the winner of Dariush-Makhachev would fight the winner of Justin Gaethje vs. Charles Oliveira in either Q3 or Q4 of 2022. But because Dariush had to bow out due to an injury, this leaves things at an influx for the lightweight division.

Makhachev will now be facing Bobby Green on February 26 and the assumption is that he will defeat Green, but what happens afterwards? Will Makhachev get a title shot regardless? Could another contender swoop in and fight for the belt? We’ve listed out three potential scenarios below:

Conor McGregor fights the winner of Gaethje vs. Oliveira in the Latter Half of 2022

People will call me crazy, but this can 100% happen. With Makhachev now fighting an unranked opponent in Green, there’s an argument to be made that he’ll likely have to fight once more before he can fight for the lightweight championship. With that said, this leaves an open lane for Conor McGregor to fight for the belt later this year. In terms of timing, it’s nearly perfect considering the winner of  Gaethje-Oliveira will likely not fight until the latter half of 2022. The UFC is also not averse to catering to McGregor and letting him skip over the rest of the division if it will make business sense for everyone involved. Plus, the current lightweight champion has already expressed that he’d let McGregor jump the line, so take that for what it’s worth. Although we don’t agree with it, do not be surprised if we see McGregor fighting for the belt in 2022.

Makhachev Fights for the Lightweight Championship, Regardless

Makhachev fighting for a UFC title seems almost inevitable at this point, as he’s essentially ploughed through most of his opponents and is in a place where a majority of his constituents are avoiding fighting him altogether. A scenario where Makhachev fights for the lightweight belt – assuming he beats Green – is entirely plausible, considering that Makhachev is currently on a nine-fight win streak. The biggest argument against Makhachev is that outside of Dan Hooker and Arman Tsarukyan, he hasn’t fought anyone who’s currently in the top 15. But even if the argument is flimsy as he’s passed every eye test and has a style of grappling that will drown nearly every lightweight in the division. The UFC skipping those formalities and giving Makhachev a title shot as soon as possible might be the most likely scenario.

Dustin Poirier Abandons his fight with Nate Diaz and gets Another Crack at the Lightweight Championship

A lot of folks expected Dustin Poirier to go into 2022 as the UFC lightweight champion, but once he came up short against Oliveira at UFC 269, he was left at a bit of a crossroads. The hype around a Poirier-Nate Diaz fight picked up a lot of steam last month but has since cooled down since then. Everyone wants to see that fight, but will it actually happen? We can’t say. With McGregor’s return looming, it wouldn’t shock me if the UFC is saving Diaz for a trilogy fight versus McGregor. If that’s true, where does that leave Poirier? If Gaethje defeats Oliveira in May, why wouldn’t the UFC want to do Gaethje vs. Poirier 2? The first fight was absolutely insane and would likely deliver again if the two were to be matched up. Again, this scenario would be in play only if Gaethje defeats Oliveira. If Oliveira retains his belt, there might not be much of an appetite of running back that rematch. This is probably the least likely scenario out of the three, but should be considered since Poirier is still the #2 ranked UFC lightweight.


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