UFC 257 was the night of lightweights. It was the return of the Notorious, the superstar of sports, against Dustin “The Diamond” Poirier. The co-main event saw the introduction, finally, of Michael Chandler into the UFC against Dan Hooker. The results rocked the foundations of the division and all top players have opportunities in front of them. Dustin scored a career-high knockout victory over Conor, and Michael Chandler announced his presence with a first round TKO. The division is overflowing with talent, and there is a myriad of paths that the UFC can take with the match-ups in front of them.
The first and predominant question to address is who gets the next title shot. Khabib retired and the throne is empty, a champion needs to be crowned. The common denominator across any fight that is made is Dustin. The diamond walks the realm of the 155-pound division as the uncrowned king. A title earned and paid in full.
A more difficult task is picking Dustin’s dance partner. In terms of rankings, the two fighters that make the most sense are either Michael Chandler or Charles Oliveira. The strongest case of the pair would be by Charles Oliveira who is riding a 8-fight win streak with only one decision win. His most recent victory over former top contender Tony Fergusson pushes him to the front of the queue. Similarly, screaming for a title shot is Michael Chandler who cast a grenade in the sea of lightweights with his arrival to the stage. However, he stands at 1-0 in the division with one KO victory over Dan Hooker. It is a respectable victory that elevates his rank, however it does precipitate him for an immediate title shot. The UFC would also be best not to push Michael Chandler into the high-caliber bouts too quick that could spoil quality match-ups in the long-run.
The rankings dictate that Dustin should fight Charles Oliveira for the title. However, the rankings don’t always tell the story and Conor McGregor is writing his own script, of which he is the main character. Any move by the Champ Champ set events in motion in every direction. In addition, he had a moments in his last fight stinging Poirier occasionally with a left hand & a stiff jab. Perhaps, if his flow hadn’t been compromised by ring rust he could have potentially won. His presence & skillset command respect. The biggest superstar has significant pull no matter where you place him. Hence, it’s a relevant fight for the pair to run for the trilogy. The fight holds the narrative, the pair are 1-1 in their rivalry and both hold stoppage wins over each other across two weight classes. Moreover, Conor has shown in the past the ability to make adjustments from previous losses. An intriguing angle to the fight would be to see Conor come forward with an answer to the leg kicks of Dustin, and how does Dustin’s game unfold knowing that a prepared Conor will enter the fight.
The equation of the division stands with few constants and many variables. Any plug of a “number” will spit out a different answer for MMA fans. An unmentioned significant variable in the equation is the return of Nate Diaz to the lightweight division. The most lucrative fight to make would be a trilogy with McGregor, which fans have been yearning for since 2016. The return of Nate would equally have a paradigm effect on the competitive landscape.
Finally, never count out the Eagle. The 155 pound king & GOAT who circles his thrown, Khabib. The former champ has retired, and should he choose to ride off into the sunset as 29-0 and let the division unfold without his presence then so be it. However, if a competitive itch returns it’s tough to see any of the current contenders beat Khabib. His return would slash through the murderers row of 155.
Where do we go from here? No one knows. Be blessed for the time that we’re in, no fighter’s greatness has existed in a vacuum, and it takes the elites of competitors to bring out the best in them. Too many times have great fighters graced the octagon only to not have the quality of competition to propel them to GOAT status. We have the recipe for legendary fighters to be molded in the current status quo. A face will eventually emerge among the crowd as the king of 155, and it’s a dice roll for who it will be.