The Lightweight Division in the UFC is possibly the busiest division the Sport has ever known. With three very polarizing fighters sitting at the top and a heap of hungry contenders battling for a chance at one of the top three. In my Opinion, Lightweight is the second most stacked division, but it is the division that produces the most exciting fights.
Champion – Khabib Nurmagomedov
Khabib “The Eagle” Nurmagomedov is the most dominant fighter that I’ve seen fight inside the octagon. According to his head coach Javier Mendez, Khabib has never lost a round in competition or in training. That’s Fucking Scary. His win over Edson Barboza ended 30-24, 30-25 and 30-25, that is incredibly difficult to do, he dominated all three rounds so badly that one judge thought that Barboza didn’t do enough, even to warrant a 10-9. Khabib’s Grappling Skills are currently the most well-rounded in the UFC as a whole regardless of division and the pressure that he puts on his opponent is just smothering. Khabib won his last fight by Unanimous Decision. His opponent, Al Iaquinta, Could’ve easily been finished but Khabib wanted to show that he could go all five rounds at a good pace. Currently, Khabib is in possibly the most furious rivalry in the UFC as he and Conor McGregor have frequently been at odds, culminating in the event known to me as #McGregorGarbageCanBrokenBusWindowGate. There are rumors that Khabib and Conor will duke it out later this year and that would be the biggest fight the UFC has had inside their octagon since Diaz/McGregor 2.
Conor McGregor: McGregor hasn’t been inside the UFC octagon since he defeated Eddie Alvarez to take the Lightweight title at UFC 205 and as a result, he has had both his Featherweight and Lightweight titles stripped due to inactivity. Now, don’t get me wrong, I love Conor McGregor. He is a great Mixed Martial Artist and has been able to get many more eyes on the sport. But, a champion is supposed to defend his belt once he wins it and Fighters who don’t do that regularly piss me off. Of the Three top-tier lightweights, Conor’s Striking is obviously the best, the combinations that he utilized in the Eddie Alvarez and Chad Mendes fights shown his prowess on the feet. Overall, McGregor’s way to retake the belt is through negating Khabib’s Takedowns and catching Khabib with strong and precise strikes. As I stated above, his rivalry with Khabib is incredible and I expect it to rival some of the biggest rivalries in the history of the sport.
Tony Ferguson: I Genuinely believe that if the Tony and Khabib fight was to happen, then someone would literally die. I mean the fight fell through four times and in the weirdest ways each time, I feel like God is doing it on purpose at this point. Of the Three top-tier Lightweight’s Tony has the best cardio and the best chance to pull something crazy off grappling wise. His fight strategy is typically to weather the early storm and then use his superior conditioning to take you down and submit you. Overall, Ferguson is a Mexican Freak, He trains harder than anyone and has some of the best Jiu-Jitsu in the UFC as a whole. Right now, I believe that Ferguson defeats anyone in the division not named Khabib Nurmagomedov, and he has a long road ahead of him to recover from a crazy accident involving a TV wire in which he tore his LCL.
Eddie Alvarez: The former Champion Alvarez has an important fight on the horizon when he once again faces Dustin Poirier in the main event of UFC on Fox: Calgary. Their first battle ended in a no-contest after Alvarez threw some illegal knees at a grounded Poirier. Since that fight, Alvarez had a fight of the year contender against Justin Gaethje at UFC 218 and was waiting for a good matchup that will give him a chance at a belt once again. Alvarez’s wrestling is his strong suit and his coaches Mark Henry and Ricardo Almeida have helped him round out his striking and grappling skills immensely. I would love to see a Kevin Lee Vs. Eddie Alvarez fight someday in the future.
Dustin Poirier: Poirier is one of the more active fighters in the UFC Lightweight Division, and has been competing in the promotion since 2010. Over his career, Poirier has had some stinging defeats, but many many more brilliant performances. One of them came in his Fight of the Night victory over Justin Gaethje in a fight that I believe is as of now Fight of the Year, in that fight, Poirier showed that he will no longer back down to powerful strikers like he did once in the Past (Conor McGregor). Poirier has multiple angles to his game as his striking is great, his clinch game is solid and his grappling skills are not something to be messed with. Now going into his third straight main event, he has the conditioning to go all five rounds easily and I believe that he will make his second match with Alvarez one to remember.
Kevin Lee: Kevin Lee is a star in the making at lightweight. He is good on the mic, has skills inside the octagon to back up his talk and has a great and exciting fighting style that can match up with anyone. When he came under the UFC Microscope for the first time, he and Michael Chiesa had an altercation at a press conference, in the fight between the two of them Kevin Lee got a bit of an assist from the Referee. After that, he was gifted a fight against Tony Ferguson in which he lost by submission in the third round. I started believing that Lee would turn out to be a flash in the pan, but boy was I wrong. He dominated Edson Barboza in their main event tilt in Atlantic city and got the finish in the third round. As of right now, Kevin Lee doesn’t have a fight lined up yet and to be frank, that’s how it should be, everyone in the top 10 either has a fight lined up or have already faced Lee. I think that Lee should face the winner of Dustin Poirier and Eddie Alvarez, I know the winner will call for a title shot but with Tony lurking, they won’t get it.
Edson Barboza: Edson just got worked by Kevin Lee in his last bout, but Edson is still the scariest striker in the Lightweight Division. His Knockouts of Beneil Dariush and Terry Etim are UFC highlight reel footage when promoting the sport as a whole. His leg kick game is also nothing to be trifled with as well as he has TKO’D two opponents due to leg kicks and has the ability to change the complexion of a fight with one swift strike to the thigh. The Negative thing for Edson is that he has lost his last two fights to Khabib Nurmagomedov and Kevin Lee. I believe that if Eddie Alvarez defeats Dustin Poirier, Poirier will be Barboza’s next opponent.
Justin Gaethje: Gaethje is the most exciting fighter in the UFC, so far all of his UFC Fights have been Fight of the Night, and all are or have been in contention for Fight of the Year. I will not miss a Justin Gaethje fight, he is just that goddamn exciting. The problem with that exciting style is that he takes a lot of damage during those fights, I mean when he defeated Michael Johnson he was so messed up he couldn’t even celebrate properly. Gaethje himself is aware that his style will probably cut his career short and that’s just fine with him. He doesn’t care about the belt, he only cares about putting on great performances for the fans that come out to see him. He takes on the up and coming James Vick in his next fight in the Main Event of UFC Lincoln and I can not wait to watch.
Nate Diaz: Nothing much to say about Nate, Every so often he will say something on social media to keep himself relevant, but he is only looking for a third fight with Conor McGregor, that’ll be the only thing that gets him out of Stockton.
Al Iaquinta: Raging Al is the very outspoken Lightweight Brawler who has gone after the UFC Brass and the way that they do things since he was wronged by them back in 2016. He just was defeated by Khabib Nurmagomedov, but there is no shame in that for the Serra-Longo product as he stepped in on one day’s notice in the face of the cesspool that is the New York State Athletic Commission. Also, if you are looking to purchase a home in the Long Island area look no further than Raging Al Realty.
Michael Chiesa: Michael Chiesa hasn’t fought since being brutally screwed by Referee Mario Yamasaki in the Kevin Lee Fight. He was scheduled to fight in Brooklyn in April, but then Conor threw a dolly at a bus and broke a window that Chiesa was next to and the NYSAC Pulled him due to his cuts. His ground game is still very stellar and he goes into his next fight against a deflated Anthony Pettis.
James Vick: James Vick is a surging prospect who I believe has a very good style and has a great reach and height advantage over any possible opponent at 155 pounds. His win over Joe Duffy was very impressive and I look to see more flashy tactics from him again as he takes on Justin Gaethje in the main event of UFC Lincoln.
Anthony Pettis: The Former Champion Pettis has been on a massive slide since he lost his belt back at UFC 185. Apparently, he has been in his own head and it’s all a mental thing with him and I believe that. Pettis showed he still has the skills to fight with the best of them when he defeated Jim Miller and Charles Oliveira. Pettis needs a bounce-back performance against Michael Chiesa to keep relevancy in the division
Paul Felder: Felder has been very unlucky lately with his opponent draws, at UFC 223, Iaquinta was moved up to take on Khabib and Felder was left without an opponent. James Vick was then also pulled from a matchup with Felder in favor of the Main Event Spot against Justin Gaethje at UFC Lincoln. Felder was so fed up that he stepped up to Welterweight to take on One-Trick Striker Mike Perry at UFC 226.
Olivier Aubin-Mercier: OAM is a Tristar product who has really impressed in his most recent performances, especially his 53 second TKO of Evan Dunham.
Mairbek Taisumov: Taisumov is a scary Russian Striker, finishing the likes of Alan Patrick, Damir Hadzovic and Felipe Silva with terrifying Strikes.
Dan Hooker: The Former Featherweight has definitely found a home at Lightweight. Hooker has three straight wins over Jim Miller, Marc Diakiese, and Ross Pearson and all of them ended in a finish.
Gregor Gillespie: Gillespie is a very well rounded Lightweight Prospect who has taken out some tough competitors in a variety of different ways. Defeating Vinc Pichel and Jason Gonzalez by Submission and Defeating Jordan Rinaldi and Andrew Holbrook by KO. He is also an avid angler.
David Teymur: The Former TUF: 22 competitor definitely “took care of his opponent’s underwears” in his UFC Career so far (Google it). Wins over Martin Svensson, Jason Novelli, Lando Vannata, Drakkar Klose and Nik Lentz have propelled him up into ranked opponent territory.
Alexander Hernandez: Hernandez is only in this conversation because he starched Beneil Dariush on short notice at UFC 222. If he defeats OAM at UFC: Calgary then he is the real deal.
I’m sure I missed some fighters as Lightweight is a stacked division right now.