Last night, the UFC held its final show on FOX and had two very important lightweight fights as the main and co-main events. Both fights had major implications on the rankings and on the contendership situation. In the end, Al Iaquinta defeated Kevin Lee by unanimous decision in the main event, while in the co-main, Edson Barboza put on a dominating performance with a TKO win over Dan Hooker.
With these wins, Iaquinta will surely soar up the rankings, while Edson Barboza is likely to hover around the number five spot. The biggest question to emerge from the card is what will Kevin Lee do next. Many believe he should go up to welterweight, but he is one of many fighters clamoring for a 165-pound division.
Here are the fights we’d like to see next for the lightweight stars that topped Saturday night’s card.
Iaquinta has had a phenomenal year in 2018. In April, he fought Khabib Nurmagomedov for the belt on just a day’s notice and went the distance with the champion. Although he lost all five rounds, Iaquinta showed promise in the fight. Last night, he had a chance to move into the top-five of the rankings, and he likely did just that.
After his win, Iaquinta called for a rematch with Nurmagomedov or a fight with Conor McGregor or Tony Ferguson. However, those fights seem unlikely given the fact Nurmagomedov will probably fight Ferguson next and no one knows if McGregor will fight again. Instead, Iaquinta should fight Justin Gaethje, who called Iaquinta out after the fight. Gaethje is currently ranked sixth in the division and this one would be a fun fight for fans. As well, the winner would get that much closer to a title shot.
Entering his rematch against Iaquinta, Lee has said he is the best lightweight in the UFC and would beat Nurmagomedov. With a win over Iaquinta, he could have very well gotten the chance to prove it. Unfortunately, that is no longer an option. Lee will most likely fall out of the top five in the rankings.
What is next for him is a tough question. There is always the option to move up to welterweight as he is a massive lightweight and has a tough weight cut down to the division’s 156-pound limit. If he does stay down at lightweight, a fight against Anthony Pettis makes sense. Pettis is coming off of a loss against Ferguson at UFC 229 and is currently ranked seventh, around the same spot Lee is likely to find himself. Whoever wins the fight can start their climb up the rankings again.
Even though Barboza is in the top-five, it is hard to matchmake him given the fact he has fought and lost to most of the lightweight division’s top fighters. He has losses to Lee, Ferguson, and Nurmagomedov but does hold a win over Pettis. Ultimately, it seems unlikely Barboza will be getting a shot at someone in the top-five unless they match him up against Dustin Poirier.
The most likely fight for Barboza is the winner of Alex Hernandez and Donald Cerrone’s upcoming fight. Hernandez is a rising prospect in the lightweight division and is currently ranked 12th. He’s been tasked with welcoming the veteran Cerrone back to the lightweight division. Whoever wins the Hernandez-Cerrone would most likely crack the top-10, and would therefore be in a great position to meet Barboza later in 2019.
Hooker had the biggest fight of his life last night. He had a chance to skyrocket up the rankings and into the top-five. However, Barboza was just too much too soon for the Kiwi and he lost by knockout in the third round. Hooker was beaten up and has a bevy of injuries after the fight. Once he is able to return, a fight against Diego Ferreira would make sense. Ferreira is coming off of a win, which extended his streak to three-straight. It would be a tough fight for Hooker, but he needs to start to work his way up the rankings again.
Who do you want to see Al Iaquinta, Kevin Lee, Edson Barboza and Dan Hooker fight next?
This article first appeared on BJPENN.COM on 12/16/2018.