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Fight Coverage

Where We Stand: UFC 262 Edition

With The Lightweight Belt In Charles Oliveira's Possession, We Take A Look At The Lightweight Division

A stunning turnaround from Charles Oliveira at UFC 262 put him on the vacant lightweight throne. Now, as the new king of the division, Oliveira finds himself as the target of the talent-laden title picture at 155 pounds. With that in mind, we take a look at the lightweight division and what could be next for those at the top as they compete for a chance to take down Brazil's newest champ.

Champion: Charles Oliveira
(31-8, 9 KOs, 19 Submissions)
Last Fight: TKO Win vs Michael Chandler @ UFC 262
Next fight: N/A

Charles Oliveira of Brazil reacts after defeating Michael Chandler in their UFC lightweight championship bout at Toyota Center on May 15, 2021 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC)
Charles Oliveira of Brazil reacts after defeating Michael Chandler in their UFC lightweight championship bout at Toyota Center on May 15, 2021 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC)

Outlook: Brazil’s newest champion took the longest road to the title, which made the accomplishment all the sweeter for “Do Bronx.” Now, at the top of the vicious 155-pound division, he has the pick of the litter when it comes to title challengers. Most assume the winner of the trilogy bout between Dustin Poirier and Conor McGregor gets the next shot, but Justin Gaethje is looming as well. With Oliveira seemingly entering his fighting prime, and with three of his last five wins coming via knockout, he’ll be a well-rounded and dangerous test for anyone who challenges his throne.

1) Dustin Poirier
(27-6, 13 KOs, 7 Submissions)
Last Fight: KO Win vs Conor McGregor @ UFC 257
Next fight: vs Conor McGregor @ UFC 264

Dustin Poirier punches Conor McGregor of Ireland in a lightweight fight during the UFC 257 event inside Etihad Arena on UFC Fight Island on January 23, 2021 in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. (Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC)
Dustin Poirier punches Conor McGregor of Ireland in a lightweight fight during the UFC 257 event inside Etihad Arena on UFC Fight Island on January 23, 2021 in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. (Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC)

Outlook: Many felt Poirier deserved a crack at the title after he ousted McGregor to start 2021, but “The Diamond” instead opted to dance with the Irishman once again and settle that score first. Until then, a pocket of fight fans might feel like Poirier is somewhat an uncrowned champion, but all that matters is the belt which Oliveira holds in his possession. That said, a second win over McGregor not only puts him over on the sport’s biggest star, it likely earns him another shot at the undisputed title. Unlike many fighters, it seems like Poirier is more or less in complete control of his fighting destiny.

UFC 262 FLASHBACK: Final Results | Dana White Presser | Bonus Coverage

2) Justin Gaethje
(22-3, 19 KOs, 1 Submission)
Last Fight: Submission Loss vs Khabib Nurmagomedov @ UFC 254
Next fight: N/A

Justin Gaethje CT

Outlook: Gaethje was the odd man out when McGregor and Poirier signed on for their trilogy and the UFC tabbed Oliveira and Michael Chandler to fight for the vacant title, but he’s potentially the division’s boogeyman. Those who’ve lost to Gaethje in the UFC have gone a combined 4-15 (1 no contest), which might not mean anything, but fighting “The Highlight” more than likely means going to war in the Octagon. Gaethje says he was training to fight Chandler before the title fight was booked, so perhaps that’s the fight he is eyeing. If Oliveira wants to be a super active champion, maybe he tabs Gaethje as next, but at the very least, it probably makes most sense for Gaethje to either fight for gold or in a “title eliminator” of some sort.

3) Beneil Dariush
(21-4-1, 5 KOs, 8 Submissions)
Last Fight: Unanimous Decision Win vs Tony Ferguson @ UFC 262
Next fight: N/A

Beneil Dariush Post-Fight Interview | UFC 262: Oliveira vs Chandler
Beneil Dariush Post-Fight Interview | UFC 262: Oliveira vs Chandler
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Outlook: The Top 5’s newest entrant earned a signature win with a dominant decision win over Tony Ferguson and has a world of options ahead of him. Dariush hasn’t fought anyone currently in the division’s Top 5, so he very well could have two or three fights ahead of him before he gets a crack at the title. That said, four of Dariush’s previous five wins before the Ferguson fight were performance bonus winners, and the only reason he didn’t earn one for his spinning backfist KO of Scott Holtzman was because he missed weight. He is the kind of fighter who warrants eyeballs, and now, he isn’t far off from warranting a shot at the king.

4) Michael Chandler
(22-6, 10 KOs, 7 Submissions)
Last Fight: TKO Loss vs Charles Oliveira @ UFC 262
Next fight: N/A

ABU DHABI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES - JANUARY 23: (R-L) Michael Chandler punches Dan Hooker of New Zealand in a lightweight fight during the UFC 257

Outlook: The lightweight division’s chaos agent in 2021 found himself on the fast track for the title and was perhaps one or two more clean ground-and-pound strikes away from earning the belt in the first round against Charles Oliveira. As it happens, though, MMA reared its fickle head, and it was the Brazilian walking out of the Octagon with the belt around his waist. The good thing for “Iron” is that he has a world of options ahead. He is determined to get another shot at the belt, and for maybe the first time in a long time, the division doesn’t feel super settled with Khabib Nurmagomedov gone. The belt could change hands one or two times by the time Chandler potentially gets back to a challenging position. It’s been a whirlwind since Chandler signed with the promotion, so he has earned a bit of a vacation, but when he returns to work, fights with Gaethje, Dariush, or even the loser of McGregor and Poirier are on the table, and that’s just in the Top 5. Chandler is a name in the division, so plenty of fighters hoping to crack the top half might eye him as their target, and that could also provide Chandelr with an opportunity to get back on track toward the title.

5) Conor McGregor
(22-5, 19 KOs, 1 Submission)
Last Fight: KO Loss vs Dustin Poirier @ UFC 257
Next fight: vs Dustin Poirier @ UFC 264

ABU DHABI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES - JANUARY 23: Conor McGregor of Ireland prepares to fight Dustin Poirier in a lightweight fight during the UFC 257

Outlook: With all indications pointing toward a multi-fight year for McGregor for the first time since 2016, it seems like “The Notorious” one is all-in on the sport for the time being. Surely, his plan was to be fighting for the belt or to already have it in his possession by now, but the fight game is the fight game, and instead, he’s locked in for a trilogy with Poirier. There’s buzz around McGregor that this is perhaps a crossroads moment for the Irishman, a fight he needs to win to both keep him in the title picture and engaged in the sport. Maybe that’s silly talk, seeing as he is already the biggest star in the promotion’s history, but it also holds some water. A loss to Poirier puts McGregor in a position of maybe needing two to three wins to earn a title shot (although it’s also fair to say his timeline is different than most). How McGregor adjusts to what he learned from his loss to Poirier is paramount, and if his suggestions that his time away from the sport had an adverse impact on his performance are to be taken as truth, then fighting on his quickest turnaround in five years is absolutely notable.

In the Mix: Rafael Dos Anjos, Dan Hooker, Islam Makhachev

Outlook: The lightweight rankings are always stacked with exciting and dangerous talent, but because the top of the division is so loaded with big names wanting big fights, things get a little stagnant for the rest of the Top 15. That said, perhaps nobody in the division represents a potential wrecking ball the way Islam Makhachev does. The 29-year-old Dagestani bulldozer looked every bit the second coming of Khabib Nurmagomedov in his submission win over Drew Dober at UFC 259, his first fight in nearly a year-and-a-half. He is looking to fight in the summer, and given his suffocating style, he might need to take the path of dominating lower or unranked fighters before getting force fed to a top contender. He was at one point booked to fight Rafael Dos Anjos, who made his grand return to the lightweight division when he beat a short-notice entrant in Paul Felder in 2020 and looked every bit the physical force at 155 pounds. Dan Hooker is always game to fight and wants to get back into form after a disappointing knockout loss to Chandler at UFC 257, and “The Hangman” always feels like a hot streak away from finally getting within touching distance of the title.