Following the retirement of UFC legend Khabib Nurmagomedov, the lightweight division title has been one of the most intriguing to follow. While there are plenty of top-flight fighters, Charles Oliveira capitalized on the vacant belt and has become the weight class’ new top dog.
Oliveira’s jiu-jitsu has been unsolved to this point, taking down Michael Chandler and Dustin Poirier during his brief title stint. Now the question arises: “is this Oliveira’s division to rule for the distant future, or is his reign coming to an end very soon?” In this article, I reveal my best contenders to take the belt from Oliveira, and my prediction for how each fight would play out.
In his next fight, Oliveira is set to fight against one of the most powerful strikers in the division, American Justin Gaethje. Outside of his title fight loss to Khabib, Gaethje has been on fire in the Octagon, winning every other fight he was a part of since the second half of 2018.
Gaethje’s striking is not only powerful but precise. He has been able to outduel other powerful punchers within the division in recent fights, most notably Michael Chandler and Tony Ferguson in recent matchups. For Oliveira to win, he will have to control the pace of the fight, and cannot by any means allow Gaethje to get comfortable on his feet.
Despite Gaethje’s incredible skill set, I will give the edge to Oliveira in this matchup. The Brazilian is no stranger to dealing with top tier strikers, and while there has been situations where he has been caught by a clean hook, Oliveira has proven to have a strong chin and can recover quickly.
Prediction: Oliveira by submission
Check out Will’s thoughts on the Middleweight Division crown.
A rising fighter in the division, Beneil Dariush seems to be on pace to earn a title shot sooner rather than later. Dariush is a versatile fighter who has proven to be able to finish opponents with his fists and wrestling ability, with his most recent win coming against Tony Ferguson in a dominating performance.
Dariush would be a much better wrestling matchup for Oliveira, however I do believe Oliveira will still have the advantage on the ground. Once again, I have Oliveira winning this matchup, and am more confident he takes care of business here than Gaethje in UFC 274.
Prediction: Oliveira by unanimous decision
No contender in the lightweight division is a larger threat to Oliveira’s reign than Islam Makhachev. A Russian wrestler who is trained by Khabib Nurmagomedov, Makhachev has rapidly risen in the division’s rankings, and is well on his way to getting a title opportunity.
Makhachev has been virtually unbeatable since joining the UFC roster, with his only loss coming way back in 2015. He is a much improved fighter now, ending his last two fights in the first round, both against ranked fighters.
In a title fight against Oliveira, Makhachev will have the advantage on the ground, which will be an unfamiliar experience for Oliveira. Makhachev has an incredible understanding of angles and leverage, and has the ability to end the fight early if the champ is not careful.
In this potential matchup, I will predict that Charles Oliveira will be dethroned. Makhachev has become an unstoppable force since joining Khabib’s gym, and it will pay off with a title belt by the end of the year.