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Islam Makhachev of Russia reacts after his submission victory against Dustin Poirier in the UFC lightweight championship fight during the UFC 302 event at Prudential Center on June 01, 2024 in Newark, New Jersey. (Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC)
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Where We Stand: Lightweight Division | June 2024

Despite Dustin Poirier's Best Efforts, Islam Makhachev Is Still The Lightweight Champion Of The World

Islam Makhachev had to dig deep for his third title defense. Three-time challenger Dustin Poirier provided Makhachev as much adversity as the champion has seen in the Octagon, but still, the 32-year-old Makhachev found a way to put a stamp on an epic championship fight. Although he expressed his dream to go after a second belt, namely the welterweight one, a familiar foe stands ready to usurp his throne. 

This is where we stand in the lightweight division.  

Champion: Islam Makhachev

Last Fight: Submission Win vs Dustin Poirier (6/1/2024)

Next fight: N/A

Islam Makhachev of Russia punches Dustin Poirier in the UFC lightweight championship fight during the UFC 302 event at Prudential Center on June 01, 2024 in Newark, New Jersey. (Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images)
Islam Makhachev of Russia punches Dustin Poirier in the UFC lightweight championship fight during the UFC 302 event at Prudential Center on June 01, 2024 in Newark, New Jersey. (Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images)

Outlook: While Makhachev has given several dominant performances against high-quality competition, his gritty effort against Poirier is as fine an effort as he has in his career. He wore the damage post-fight, but it was in those deep waters that he went into his bag of tricks to create a scramble that opened up the door for his D'Arce Choke finish. Makhachev now wants the welterweight belt whether it is Leon Edwards or Belal Muhammad, but Dana White mentioned Arman Tsarukyan as the next fight to make for Makhachev. The two fought in Tsarukyan's debut back in April 2019, which Makhachev won via unanimous decision although they were rewarded with a Fight of the Night bonus. Both men have only gotten better since then, so if that fight is next on Makhachev's docket, it's sure to be a massive one. 

1) Arman Tsarukyan      

Last Fight: Split Decision Win vs Charles Oliveira (4/13/2024)

Next fight: N/A

Arman Tsarukyan of Georgia wrestles Charles Oliveira of Brazil in a lightweight fight during the UFC 300 event at T-Mobile Arena on April 13, 2024 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC)
Arman Tsarukyan of Georgia wrestles Charles Oliveira of Brazil in a lightweight fight during the UFC 300 event at T-Mobile Arena on April 13, 2024 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC)

Outlook: Tsarukyan needed to clear one more hurdle to prove himself as an elite lightweight, and the 27-year-old did just that in edging Charles Oliveira via split decision. He faced early adversity, falling into a deep guillotine attempt, but his poise and technique shone through as he escaped and mounted his own attacks. Surviving that from “Do Bronxs” is no small feat, and he now likely has a title shot in the future. Whether that comes against Makhachev (which is a highly anticipated rematch) or against Poirier should his American Top Team teammate get it done in Newark, we shall see.

2) Charles Oliveira

Last Fight: Split Decision Loss vs Arman Tsarukyan (4/13/2024)

Next fight: N/A

Arman Tsarukyan of Georgia wrestles Charles Oliveira of Brazil in a lightweight fight during the UFC 300 event at T-Mobile Arena on April 13, 2024 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC)
Arman Tsarukyan of Georgia wrestles Charles Oliveira of Brazil in a lightweight fight during the UFC 300 event at T-Mobile Arena on April 13, 2024 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC)

Outlook: Luck is part of the fight game, and Oliveira got a taste of it for the worse at UFC 300. After an injury knocked him out of a title fight rematch with Makhachev, the Brazilian gave Tsarukyan a shot at the lightweight elite and was unable to thwart the rising Armenian. That doesn’t mean options are limited for the former lightweight champion. He already holds wins over Poirier and Justin Gaethje, so his path to the top could prove clearer than not if things shake his way. If he doesn’t opt to wait and see, though, he could fight fellow Top 5 member Mateusz Gamrot, which stylistically might play into his hands a bit given his jiu jitsu prowess.

3) Justin Gaethje

Last Fight: KO Loss vs Max Holloway (4/13/2024)

Next fight: N/A

Justin Gaethje punches Max Holloway in the BMF championship fight during the UFC 300 event at T-Mobile Arena on April 13, 2024 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC)
Justin Gaethje punches Max Holloway in the BMF championship fight during the UFC 300 event at T-Mobile Arena on April 13, 2024 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC)

Outlook: “The Highlight” took a big risk in defending his BMF title against Max Holloway. He not only risked the symbolic belt, but he also put his position in the lightweight title race on the line. Gaethje very well could’ve challenged for the lightweight title in Poirier’s stead if Oliveira never had to pull out of the rematch with Makhachev. But, those things did happen, as did his fight with Holloway. Gaethje found himself on the backfoot for most of his matchup with the former featherweight champion, and with his knockout loss with a second to go, he found himself more than likely on the outside looking in at the title picture. That said, he still holds a win over Poirier in the last year, which could set up a trilogy nicely if Poirier can dethrone Makhachev. However, considering the result against Holloway, Gaethje might take some time to recover and return to a different-looking Top 5, depending on how things play out over the next 4-6 months. 

4) Dustin Poirier

Last Fight: Submission Loss vs Islam Makhachev (6/1/2024)

Next fight: N/A

Dustin Poirier battles Islam Makhachev of Russia in the UFC lightweight championship fight during the UFC 302 event at Prudential Center on June 01, 2024 in Newark, New Jersey. (Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images)
Dustin Poirier battles Islam Makhachev of Russia in the UFC lightweight championship fight during the UFC 302 event at Prudential Center on June 01, 2024 in Newark, New Jersey. (Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images)

Outlook: Dustin Poirier did all he could. He defended takedowns well, he put a pace and pressure on Makhachev and did damage when he found windows to let his hands go, but it wasn't enough in the end. Poirier knew his third chance at undisputed gold would likely be his last and had openly discussed retirement win or lose in Newark. He stood by that in his Octagon interview with Joe Rogan but didn't make any final decisions. If he does hang up the gloves, he'll certainly go into the UFC Hall of Fame in no time. If he doesn't, however, he could toy with fighting some of the up-and-comers at 155 pounds or even flirt with a welterweight bout against a marquee name. Poirier remains one of the biggest stars in the sport, so if it is still in him to fight, we will certainly tune-in with enthusiasm.

5) Mateusz Gamrot

Last Fight: Unanimous Decision Win vs Rafael dos Anjos (3/9/2024)

Next fight: N/A

Mateusz Gamrot of Poland punches Rafael Dos Anjos of Brazil in a lightweight fight during the UFC 299 event at Kaseya Center on March 09, 2024 in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC)
Mateusz Gamrot of Poland punches Rafael Dos Anjos of Brazil in a lightweight fight during the UFC 299 event at Kaseya Center on March 09, 2024 in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC)

Outlook: Gamrot looked good enough in his win against the timeless Rafael Dos Anjos. Although the aesthetics of Gamrot shooting for takedowns wasn’t the sharpest, it was the kind of gritty and high-effort performance that displayed what makes him such a difficult matchup. He will now likely get a chance at another top lightweight. Whether it’s someone in the Top 5 like Oliveira or Gaethje, or someone on the outside like Benoît Saint Denis, Gamrot is a couple big wins away from getting a shout at the title shot.

Max Holloway Knocks Out Justin Gaethje, Wins BMF Belt | UFC 300
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Max Holloway Knocks Out Justin Gaethje, Wins BMF Belt | UFC 300
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Outlook: It’s hard to begin a lightweight title picture talk without mentioning the fact that Holloway strapped himself to a rocket ship toward the start of the line with his knockout win over Gaethje. The newly minted BMF made a play at both Makhachev and featherweight champion Ilia Topuria, and the latter makes the most sense for “Blessed.” He looked much better against Gaethje than he did in his short-notice opportunity against Poirier in 2019, proving he is very much a player at 155.