It’s officially official, Khabib Nurmagomedov has retired from mixed martial arts. There is a new chapter set to begin in the UFC lightweight division, starting at UFC 262.
In the main event, Charles Oliveira will fight Michael Chandler for the soon-to-be vacant 155lbs title as we crown the successor to ‘The Eagle’s throne. The bout will take place in Houston, Texas in front of a capacity crowd on May 15th 2021 as the UFC looks to get back to normal following the global COVID-19 pandemic.
But it’s a fight that in reality, doesn’t make a lot of sense to be for the role of king of the lightweights.
Oliveira is currently on an eight-fight win streak in the division, with notable wins against Kevin Lee via submission and then a dominant showing against Tony Ferguson at UFC 256 back in December. That has seemingly been enough to secure him a title shot, despite Ferguson coming off a defeat in their fight and the Lee bout coming when he was unranked.
Chandler on the other hand has had just one win in the UFC, a stunning knockout over Dan Hooker in January at UFC 257 in his company debut. He jumped the queue immediately after signing from Bellator and was installed as the alternate for Nurmagomedov’s final bout against Justin Gaethje at UFC 254 before even making his debut and then finally fought against Hooker, who was also coming off a loss.
While both were impressive in their most recent fights, a single win for each over someone ranked in the top ten at the time of the win doesn’t warrant a title fight in my eyes.
Dustin Poirier and Justin Gaethje have both done more than that and while they’ve both had a title shot and lost to Khabib in the past, they’re still both ranked above the two men who will fight for the belt.
Poirier looks destined to fight against Conor McGregor at some point this summer in their trilogy bout after his knockout win over the Notorious one back in January, so that has seemingly ruled him out of the fight but the UFC have opted to rush into a title fight rather than hang back.
The title isn’t being vacated until the title fight takes place and the division is still moving forward, so what’s the rush?
Having Oliveira fight against Chandler makes sense in the title picture, but it should be a title eliminator bout. Allow Poirier to have his big money trilogy bout against McGregor and then install him as the number one contender should he win that bout and then the winner of the Oliveria vs Chandler bout can fight for the title at the end of the year should everything go well.
It would mean the legitimate number one contender in the division fighting for the title, while Oliveira or Chandler would at least have earned a title fight after beating another genuine contender.
Gaethje deserves to be in the conversation too and a fight against Rafael Dos Anjos could quite easily be in the running for a main event slot too but with the division still moving even without an active champion, the UFC have jumped the gun by throwing this title fight together.
It’s hard to make an argument that McGregor should be in the title picture but with the trilogy bout against Poirier destined to happen, a win for him in that fight means he will have beaten the number one contender and he’s the biggest draw by far so it makes business sense.
Oliveira vs Chandler in May, Poirier vs McGregor 3 in July and the winners fight each other for the title at the end of the year. It was all so simple until Dana White got his hands on it.