Booking the UFC lightweight division after UFC 268

After UFC 267 and UFC 268 took place in consecutive weeks, the lightweight division has moved significantly forward in terms of the title picture.

After such a long period of domination by Khabib Nurmagomedov at the top of the mountain, it took a while for Dana White and the UFC to move on from him and help the division forward.

But with the title fight at UFC 262 which saw Charles Oliveira crowned champion, we finally got movement. Now, the UFC has finally stepped forward.



At UFC 267 it was Islam Makhachev who took the headlines at 155lbs. The man who is regarded as the heir to Khabib’s throne by the man himself took on Dan Hooker in a fight that many expected to be the toughest of his career.

Instead, Makhachev walked through the New Zealand native with an immediate takedown and then a nasty kimura lock to earn a first-round submission win.

It means a nine-fight win streak and a move up to fourth in the UFC rankings, with many believing he is now the obvious next contender for the title against the winner of UFC 269’s main event between the champion Oliveira and Dustin Poirier.

One person who didn’t believe that however was the man who is currently ranked at number two – Justin Gaethje.

Gaethje took on Michael Chandler at UFC 268 on Saturday night and in the undoubted fight of the year (and my personal favourite fight ever) went to war, with the belief that a win earned him another shot at the belt.

In a stunning back and forth bout where both men were hurt several times, ‘The Highlight’ came out victorious via a unanimous judge’s decision – his first since time going the distance since 2014.

But those results and performances have given the UFC a headache-and-a-half going forward. How does the UFC book the division now for 2022? We’ve had a go at doing it ourselves.


Winner of Oliveira/Poirier vs Islam Makhachev

This shouldn’t be controversial at all, but Makhachev absolutely deserves the next title shot.

A nine-fight win streak, beating excellent guys along the way and now starting to add finishes to his resumé too. He has the skillset to really cause a problem for either guy and both would be fresh match ups. Not to mention that he’s never had a title shot before.

Loser of Oliveira/Poirier vs Justin Gaethje

It may seem harsh to give Gaethje someone coming off a loss, but it makes sense. Gaethje’s last fight before the Chandler war was a title shot in which he was largely dominated, so to go straight back in for the belt after just one fight seems unfair when Makhachev exists.

Just like Robert Whittaker up a few divisions, Gaethje should beat the top guys and earn the spot back. A win over either Oliveira or Poirier after their title fight would mean he has no equal in terms of deserving a title shot.

Beneil Dariush vs Michael Chandler

Beneil Dariush reacts after defeating Tony Ferguson in their lightweight bout during the UFC 262 event at Toyota Center on May 15, 2021 in Houston,...

The forgotten man in the top five is Dariush, but he has a huge claim to being close to the title too. Currently on a seven-fight win streak after dominating Tony Ferguson at UFC 262, Dariush took some time away for his family with his wife pregnant.

But come 2022 he is likely to be ready to trade leather again, and who better than the former Bellator champ? Dariush only has the one marquee win, so may need to be built up a little more for a title shot and a win over Chandler would absolutely do that.

For Chandler, it’s a chance to put this most recent defeat behind him but also a reward for such a good performance despite the result. His stocks will have only risen with that fight, so there’s no harm in this match-up.

Conor McGregor vs Rafael Dos Anjos

Rafael dos Anjos of Brazil and Conor McGregor of Ireland face off during the UFC 197 on-sale press conference event inside MGM Grand Hotel & Casino...

You can’t talk about lightweight without mentioning Conor McGregor but after back-to-back losses to Poirier at UFC 257 and UFC 264, the UFC should have him fighting someone slightly lower down in the rankings.

Dos Anjos is desperate for another run at the title at 155lbs, but his first reign with the belt put him on a collision course with the Notorious one, until a broken foot ultimately led to the now legendary McGregor-Diaz feud.

There is a back-story for the company to build on, animosity to fuel McGregor, a payday for Dos Anjos and the chance to work their way up the rankings for both fighters. It just makes sense.

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