Matchmaking the top-10 UFC lightweights

Conor-McGregor-Khabib-Nurmagomedov

Arguably the best division in the UFC is the lightweight division. The current champion, Khabib Nurmagomedov is undefeated, and there are a bevy of contenders who deserve a shot at his belt.

As well, the division is also seeing new blood jump into the rankings with the likes of Gregor Gillespie, Alexander Hernandez, and Dan Hooker among rising contenders.

Ultimately, it is a hard division to matchmake because there is a case for three or four fighters to get the next title shot. Given that reality, we decided to matchmake the top-10 lightweights in the UFC.

Here’s how we hope to see the UFC book the top end of the division.

Khabib Nurmagomedov vs #1 ranked Tony Ferguson

This seems like the most likely scenario for Khabib Nurmagomedov’s next title defense. Ferguson is a former interim champion and is the clear cut number one contender. All Ferguson has done is win, and after four failed attempts to book Nurmagomedov vs Ferguson, the fifth time has to be the charm.

#2 ranked Conor McGregor vs #9 ranked Donald Cerrone

For a long period of time, no one knew if Conor McGregor would ever return to the Octagon. Well, at UFC 229 he did just that but lost by submission to Nurmagomedov. He must now return to the contendership race if he hopes to fight for the title again.

Following a win over Alex Hernandez, Donald Cerrone called out McGregor, and McGregor seemed to be down. The fight just makes too much sense to not happen.

#3 ranked Dustin Poirier vs #4 ranked Al Iaquinta

There is no doubt Dustin Poirier deserves a title shot, however, that honor will first be going to Ferguson. Instead of sitting on the sidelines, Poirier can fight fourth-ranked Al Iaquinta. The winner could get the next title shot depending on the outcome of Cerrone-McGregor.

#5 ranked Kevin Lee vs #11 Gregor Gillespie

After suffering a loss to Iaquinta, Kevin Lee needs to get back into the win column. With most of the top lightweights already matched up, Lee will have to look further down the rankings to fight number 11 Gregor Gillespie. This fight would prove which fighter is the better grappler.

Whoever comes out on top could then be one or two fights away from a title shot. It also gives Gillespie a chance to show just how good he is against top-10 competition.

#6 ranked Edson Barboza vs #7 ranked Justin Gaethje

This fight is already set for the upcoming UFC Philadelphia card and should be a good one. Both fighters have entertaining styles and a knack for finishes. The winner could very well put themselves into the top-five in the rankings and be one or two fights from a title shot if everything falls into place.

#10 ranked James Vick vs Paul Felder

Like Barboza vs Gaethje, this fight is already booked. At UFC on ESPN 1 in Phoenix, James Vick will look to rebound from his loss to Gaethje when he takes on Paul Felder. Felder, on the other hand, is returning back to lightweight and with a win can get a number beside his name once again.

*Note, #8 ranked Anthony Pettis is not listed due to the fact his next fight is at welterweight against Stephen Thompson.

Which matchups do you agree or disagree with? Who do you want to see lightweight stars like Khabib Nurmagomedov, Conor McGregor and Tony Ferguson fight next? Let us know in the comment section, PENN Nation.

This article first appeared on BJPENN.COM on 1/28/2019.