UFC Lightweight
Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC

UFC Lightweight Division Breakdown: Who Are The Real Contenders?

The UFC lightweight division is one of the most exciting in the sport right now. But who should you expect to be fighting for the title in the future?

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Champion: Charles Oliveira

Obviously, this dude is legit. He is a submission expert who just knocked out Michael Chandler to win his first belt in the UFC. His mix of stand-up striking and ground game make him easily the hardest lightweight to beat in the division. He can knock you out if you want to keep the fight on the feet. If you want to take the fight to the ground, he will just submit you however he wants.  

#1 Lightweight Contender: Dustin Poirier

Does not get much more real than Dustin Poirier. He has been on a tear in recent years, with his only loss coming at the hands of Khabib Nurmagamedov. He has beaten the likes of Justin Gaethje, Conor McGregor, Max Holloway, Eddie Alvarez, and many more. A lot of people overlook this dude’s power. He has tremendous power in both hands, and has a vast arsenal of strikes that he can use to put his opponent out. He fights Conor McGregor for a third time in July, which will no doubt be a title eliminator.

#2 Lightweight Contender: Justin Gaethje

Justin Gaethje absolutely has what it takes to be champion. What I cannot understand is why this dude has not fought since October. After he lost to Khabib Nurmagamedov he seemingly fell off the map. Why is he not in a title fight? He is the most recent interim champion and absolutely deserves another title shot. He has crazy good standup. He has 19 wins by knockout and is extremely accurate, landing 59% of his significant strikes. I expect that Gaethje will fight the loser of McGregor vs Poirier in a title eliminator.

#3 Lightweight Contender: Beneil Dariush

I have already talked about why this man is so good, so I will not go too much into it. That being said, Dariush is on a fast track to get a title shot within 12 months. After his decimation of Tony Ferguson at UFC 262, I would expect his next fight to be against a top 3 contender in the division.

#4 Lightweight Contender: Michael Chandler

Even though he lost at UFC 262, Chandler is still one of the best lightweights in the world. Chandler has an extensive arsenal of weapons inside the octagon, especially in his striking. He applies so much pressure to his opponents, smothering a lot of them with punches. To go along with his striking, he has really good wrestling too. Once he gets his opponent down, he has enough of a submission game to be a threat. UFC 262 will not be the last time you see Michael Chandler fighting for a title.

#5 Lightweight Contender: Conor McGregor

I really do not know if McGregor is still a legit contender or not. You will be hard pressed to find a bigger Conor McGregor fan than myself, but I do not know if he can win another belt. He has all the tools, everyone knows this, but his last fight with Poirier was not a good showing. I think much of that was probably ring rust from the layoff after the Cowboy fight, but still. If Conor McGregor can beat Poirier this summer, then you better believe he will fight Oliveira for a belt before 2022. I hope for the sport’s sake he can win another belt because he is maybe the most entertaining fighter to ever live.

Who Else Should You Watch?

There are really only two other UFC lightweight fighters outside the top 5 who I think you should keep an eye on. Dan Hooker and Islam Makhachev. Not saying they are going to fight for a title this year or even next year, but they are rising stars in the division.

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