The UFC’s lightweight title will soon be vacant after the champion, Khabib Nurmagomedov defeated Justin Gaethje to defend his belt and then retired.
Immediately after the champion announced his retirement, many were thinking what fight the UFC will book for the vacant belt. Newly signed lightweight, Michael Chandler called for there to be a tournament, but the appears unlikely. So, here is what we think should be next for the lightweight division.
No. 2 Dustin Poirier vs. No. 4 Conor McGregor for the vacant lightweight title
Dustin Poirier and Conor McGregor have already agreed to fight one another on Jan. 23 and with the belt now vacant, it makes too much sense not to make this for the belt. Both men are deserving contenders are the only two lightweights in the top-five coming off wins. It also is a massive fight where it gives McGregor a chance to reclaim his belt and Poirier a chance to become an undisputed champ.
No. 1 Justin Gaethje vs. No. 5 Dan Hooker
Both Justin Gaethje and Dan Hooker are coming off losses but are fan-favorites and can headline any fight night card. Gaethje said he wanted to return in the next month or two following his loss to Nurmagomedov for the belt. A January date should also work for Hooker who is coming off a loss to Poirier in June. The winner could also get the winner of Poirier-McGregor depending on the outcome of the next fight.
No. 3 Tony Ferguson vs. No. 5 Michael Chandler
Tony Ferguson and Michael Chandler have been linked to fighting one another ever since the three-time Bellator champion signed to the UFC. Both Ferguson and Chandler have talked about fighting soon. So, perhaps they can be a welcomed addition to the December pay-per-view or headline a fight night event in January. Then the UFC can decide who gets the next title shot out of the winner of this fight and the winner of Gaethje-Hooker.
No. 6 Charles Oliveira vs. No. 11 Beneil Dariush
This fight was booked for earlier this month but Oliveira pulled out due to an injury. Depending on the severity of the injury, the promotion could look to rebook this scrap for some time in early 2021.
No. 7 Paul Felder vs. No. 9 Al Iaquinta
Both Felder and Iaquinta are on the sidelines waiting for the right fight. They have been rumored to be fighting one another before, so might as well make it happen in 2021.
No. 8 Diego Ferreira vs. No. 10 Kevin Lee
This is a great test for both men. Diego Ferreira has a ton of hype behind him following his win over Anthony Pettis. Kevin Lee, meanwhile, is coming off a loss to Charles Oliveira in March and is out for the next couple of months due to a knee injury. Once he is healthy, a fight against Ferreira should show to the UFC which fighter should get a top-five opponent next while the loser would likely fight someone outside the rankings.
Even though Khabib Nurmagomedov retired from the sport and is leaving the belt vacant, the lightweight division is in good hands.
How would you matchmake the lightweight division after UFC 254?