Beneil Dariush wants to clean out the UFC’s lightweight division

One of the best lightweights in the UFC who is still flying under the radar is Beneil Dariush (20-4-1). Dariush has been with the promotion for over seven years and he’s currently on the best stretch of his career.

He fought just a couple of weeks ago at UFC Vegas 18. That night, Dariush won a decision over Diego Ferreira. This was actually the second time that the two men had fought and Dariush won both matchups.

After the win, Dariush has now won six fights in a row in the lightweight division. The win also vaulted Dariush into the UFC‘s top ten at number nine. After the fight was over, Dariush expressed a little frustration with his lack of top opponents.

With his current winning streak, Dariush wants to fight someone that will put him into title contention. Well, now that he’s in the top ten with that winning streak, I believe the UFC is going to give him someone significant next.

Dariush’s UFC title aspirations

Dariush had an interview with ESPN this week where he talked about his plans for the lightweight division. He made it no secret that he plans on winning the UFC lightweight title and defending it a few times.

“I just need to get that belt. I’m going to defend it and I’m going to clear this division out quickly. We won’t have this mess anymore,” Dariush said of the lightweight division. Of course, the mess he’s referring to is the lack of clarity at 155 pounds.

The UFC’s lightweight division is in limbo at the moment. Khabib Nurmagomedov (29-0) is still the champion, but he’s said he’s retired. However, Dana White will not strip him out of the hope that he will eventually return.

Dustin Poirier and Conor McGregor appear to be heading towards their trilogy matchup. All other top contenders are lining up, however, there’s no clarity on who will be fighting for the UFC lightweight title at any point this year.

Dariush is hoping that his run to the top clears up the mess. He wants to get the title and takedown all challengers so we don’t end up in this position again. Lofty goals, but Dariush is on a roll and he does have a style that can create problems.

Michael Chandler believes he will be the UFC lightweight champ this year

Michael Chandler

One of the biggest storylines for the UFC that came outside the actual octagon in 2020 was the promotion’s signing of Michael Chandler (21-5). The former Bellator lightweight champion finished his contract back in August.

After he knocked out Benson Henderson, Chandler was the hottest free agent in MMA. All of the big promotion’s were throwing money at him, however, there was one place he knew he wanted to be at.

Despite the UFC not offering the most money, Chandler signed with the biggest MMA promotion in the world. For Michael Chandler, signing with the UFC was more about his legacy and the competition over the money.

Chandler has made it very clear that he wants to prove that he’s one of the very best in the world. He served at the backup at UFC 254 if Khabib Nurmagomedov or Justin Gaethje would have fallen out of the main event.

Chandler showed up and made weight despite not being officially booked for a fight. He wanted to get the feel of being in the UFC and he wanted to meet everyone behind the scenes to get a sense of what it’s like.

After initially struggling to get him a fight, the promotion has booked Chandler for his debut at UFC 257. Chandler will be taking on top lightweight contender, Dan Hooker (20-9), in the co-main event of the evening.

Will Chandler become a UFC champion?

Michael Chandler recently sat down with MMA On Point where he talked about his journey in getting to UFC 257. He made it clear that he believes he will prove he’s the best in the world saying, “I truly believe I’m going to be the UFC Lightweight Champion this year.”

Defeating Dan Hooker would be a great first step for the former Bellator champion. However, even beating Dan Hooker isn’t likely to net Chandler a title fight right away. More than likely, he will have to win twice to get that shot at the title.

Granted, starting in January is a great thing for Michael Chandler and the UFC. Chandler has a desire to be active in 2021 and if he’s going to be champion, he’s going to have to fight three times this year.

Michael Chandler does have the skills to become a champion in the UFC. However, it’s going to be far from easy, but that’s his prime motivation. Chandler’s addition made the best division in the promotion even more exciting in 2021.

UFC targeting Justin Gaethje – Charles Oliveira per Dana White

Last night the UFC President did a live Q&A for fans and subscribers of ESPN+. Dana White fielded a number of questions on a variety of topics surrounding the promotion. A fan asked him about what’s next for Justin Gaethje (22-3).

The former interim lightweight champion is coming off of a loss to Khabib Nurmagomedov (29-0) at UFC 254. Since then, it’s been relatively quiet on what would be next for The Highlight.

The speculation was that Gaethje would be fighting Michael Chandler (21-5) at UFC 257. However, as we’ve recently learned, Dan Hooker (20-9) is going to be tasked with being the first to welcome Chandler to the UFC. 

With those two booked against each other, White said they have an opponent in mind for Gaethje. White said that the UFC is working on Gaethje taking on Charles Oliveira (30-8, 1 NC) if all goes as planned.

UFC lightweight showdown

This is the perfect fight to make for the lightweight division. It’s also the fight that makes the most sense given the current landscape of 155. Conor McGregor (22-4) and Dustin Poirier (26-6, 1 NC) are headlining UFC 257 in a couple of weeks.

White said that the winner of that fight will be the number one contender. There had been speculation that the fight could be for the UFC lightweight title should Khabib Nurmagomedov completely vacate his title.

However, it appears that it will just be a title eliminator. Should Khabib stay retired, the winner of UFC 257 would likely take on the winner of this proposed matchup between Gaethje and Charles Oliveira.

Prior to the loss to Khabib, Gaethje had won four fights in a row and all of them came by knockout. Charles Oliveira is looking better than ever and he just picked up his eighth straight victory at UFC 256 over Tony Ferguson (25-5).

It appears that the UFC is putting together a little lightweight tournament. White said last week that in a perfect world, Khabib would fight one more time. If that happens, the winner of UFC 257 would get the shot at him.

If that were to happen, the winners of the Gaethje – Oliveira and Chandler – Hooker fights would likely fight. However, I believe that Khabib is likely to stay retired thus the winner of McGregor – Poirier will take on the winner of Gaethje – Oliveira for the UFC lightweight title.

State of the UFC’s lightweight division entering 2021

As we close out 2020, the UFC‘s lightweight division is in limbo. The reason is that the undisputed champion, Khabib Nurmagomedov (29-0), said after his last fight that he was walking away from competition.

Khabib choked out Justin Gaethje (22-3) at UFC 254 to successfully defend his title. While in most cases the UFC would just move on and book a title fight for the vacant title, Dana White has said that he’s going to try to convince Khabib to compete again. 

Originally, Khabib wanted to retire at 30-0. However, after his father passed away this year, the UFC lightweight champion promised his mother that his fight against Justin Gaethje would be his last fight.

As of now, we still don’t know what’s going to happen. Nurmagomedov came out this week and said he believed that his title could be up for grabs at UFC 257. The main event of that card features the rematch between Conor McGregor (22-4) and Dustin Poirier (26-6, 1 NC).

State of the UFC’s lightweight division

If we do get confirmation that Khabib is no longer going to fight, it would make sense that McGregor and Poirier fight for the UFC title. The promotion wanted McGregor to fight for the title in 2020. Poirier is the former interim champion and deserves another shot.

It’s a fluid situation, but I think there’s a good chance we see some form of UFC title fight happen at 257. Although not officially announced, the co-main event that night is also a big fight for the lightweight division.

The UFC‘s prized signing of 2020, Michael Chandler (21-5), is expected to make his promotional debut. We found out last week that it appears he will be taking on Dan Hooker (20-9) in the co-headliner.

Again, that’s not confirmed. Whoever wins that matchup will be right at the top of the division alongside Justin Gaethje and Charles Oliveira (30-8, 1 NC). Oliveira announced his status as a top contender at UFC 256.

A few weeks ago, Oliveira completely dominated Tony Ferguson (25-5). The fight was incredibly one-sided and Oliveira should be in the conversations for a title eliminator after that performance.

2020 was a rough year for Ferguson who lost in dominant fashions to both Oliveira and Justin Gaethje. Ferguson was the boogey man of the lightweight division for so many years. However, he took a major step back in 2020.

There’s a reason why the lightweight division has been the best in the UFC for some time. It’s a murderers row of contenders and with Khabib stepping away, the division is up for grabs. Should be a very fun 2021 in that division.

UFC looking to book Islam Makhachev – Drew Dober (Report)

The UFC is currently working on finalizing a big time matchup in the lightweight division. ESPN’s Brett Okamoto is reporting that the promotion is currently looking to book Islam Makhachev (18-1) against Drew Dober (23-9, 1 NC).

Per Okamoto, a date for the potential UFC fight has not been settled on. However, there is a possibility that the fight takes place in early March. We originally were supposed to see Makhachev fight just a few weeks ago.

Originally, Makhachev was set to fight former UFC lightweight champion, Rafael Dos Anjos. However, Makhachev got staff infection and had to pull out of the fight. That was a big opportunity for the Russian.

Makhachev hails from Dagestan and he’s one of the primary training partners of lightweight champion, Khabib Nurmagomedov. Like Nurmagomedov, Makhachev divides his time between Eagles MMA and AKA here in the United States.

With all of the recent retirements from AKA fighters, Makhachev is looked at as the next potential AKA UFC champion. The Russian will enter the octagon against Dober on a six-fight winning streak.

UFC Lightweight Matchup

However, Makhachev will not have an easy time with this next UFC matchup. Drew Dober has shown that he’s a handful in the lightweight division. Going back to 2017, Dober has only lost once inside the octagon.

He’s worked his way into the UFC‘s top 15 on the heels of three straight wins. All three of those wins have been knockouts within two rounds. However, he did slip up against Beneil Dariush in March of 2019.

Outside of that loss, Dober has looked sensational inside the octagon. Of his last six victories, only two of them have gone to the scorecards. This is going to be a big test for the Russian, Makhachev.

Both of these men are ranked inside the UFC‘s top 15. This is a fantastic matchup to gauge just where both of these men are at in their careers. A win for either should guarantee them a top ten opponent in their next fight.

UFC: Michael Chandler is in camp, but who is he fighting?

Michael Chandler

Earlier this year, the UFC made headlines when they signed top lightweight, Michael Chandler (21-5). Chandler had been a Bellator champion on a number of occasions. He was always considered to be one of the best in the world.

However, with him fighting outside the UFC, there have always been questions on just how good he is. Chandler wanted to prove himself and see for himself just how good he is which is why he took a deal with the UFC.

He recently stated the the UFC was not offering him the most money. However, they provided the best competition which is what meant the most to Chandler. Originally, Chandler was supposed to make his debut at UFC 254 against either Tony Ferguson or Dustin Poirier.

The UFC tried to make a fight between Ferguson and Poirier, but after that fell through, they tried booking either against Chandler. A fight never materialized between Chandler and either of those top contenders.

Instead, Chandler still flew out to Fight Island, but as the backup for the UFC 254 main event. Chandler said it was his way of showing the UFC and the world that he is willing to take anything that they throw at him.

Recently, Chandler posted on Instagram that he was starting up his fight camp. He has aspirations to fight on the UFC 257 card which features the rematch between Conor McGregor and Dustin Poirier. So, who is Chandler training for?

Chandler at UFC 257?

Based on Michael Chandler being in camp, the safe assumption is that the plan is for Chandler to fight in January. With that in mind, there are a couple of potential opponents for Chandler to face at UFC 257.

The front-runner in my opinion is Justin Gaethje (22-3). Gaethje is the top ranked lightweight in the UFC and the former interim champion. Gaethje said he needs to get a win before fighting for the title again, and Chandler needs an opponent.

Chandler has openly expressed his desire to fight Justin Gaethje. Another opportunity would be Dan Hooker (20-9). Hooker is currently ranked fifth in the division and he said that he wanted to send Chandler back to the B-Leagues.

The UFC could also turnaround either Tony Ferguson or Charles Oliveira if one of them wins without taking too much damage this weekend. No matter what, Chandler’s first opponent will be a top five lightweight. We should know sooner than later who that opponent is.

UFC: Justin Gaethje says he needs a win before another title shot

There might not be many in the business more likeable than Justin Gaethje (22-3). The former interim UFC lightweight champion just tells it like it is and he’s never afraid to be brutally honest even at his own expense.

We haven’t seen or heard much from Gaethje since his failed attempt to capture undisputed gold at UFC 254. That night, Gaethje took on Khabib Nurmagomedov. Gaethje was looked at as the most dangerous challenger to Khabib’s reign.

However, Khabib continued to show just how special he is dominating the fight and submitting Gaethje in the second round. Now, the former interim champion is ready to get back on the horse to try to capture UFC gold.

In an interview with The Schmo, Gaethje talked about what he wants to do next. “McGregor and Poirier are fighting soon, I would love to fight the winner of that. I wholeheartedly believe that you should be coming off a win to fight for a belt. So my job now is to get a win,” Gaethje said.

The Schmo followed up asking if Gaethje wants to wait for the winner of that fight. Gaethje replied, “I want to fight for the belt. If it’s the winner of that fight (who will be fighting for a belt), then in turn, I would have to beat somebody first.”

What’s the UFC’s plan for Gaethje?

You have to love the honesty from Justin Gaethje. He’s not sitting there demanding a UFC title shot despite the fact that he’s the top ranked lightweight in the division. He truly believes he has to win again before fighting for the belt.

So what should the UFC do with Gaethje? I think there are two very clear options for the promotion and Gaethje. I think the top option is for Gaethje to face Michael Chandler in January at UFC 257 as the co-main event.

Chandler has said he’s already in training camp and wants to fight on the McGregor – Poirier card. If the UFC pairs Gaethje with Chandler that night, you can see a little lightweight tournament forming for the championship.

The other option for Gaethje would be Dan Hooker. Hooker has expressed interest in fighting Gaethje and Hooker is also a top ranked lightweight. I think this should be the secondary option, but it’s another good one.

What we do know is that Gaethje wants to fight and win again before getting his next UFC title shot. I think we will get some clarity on the Justin Gaethje front sooner than later. I expect him to have a fight in January or February.

UFC Matchmaker: Paul Felder – Al Iaquinta

A few weeks ago, Paul Felder (17-6) became the hero at UFC Vegas 14. Islam Makhachev was supposed to headline that card against Rafael Dos Anjos. However, due to staff infection, he had to pull out of UFC Vegas 14.

The card was left without one half of the main event six days before the event. The UFC searched for a replacement and found it at the commentary table. Felder was scheduled to call the action, but decided he would step up for the promotion.

Felder hadn’t fought since February and hadn’t stepped into an MMA gym in months. Admittedly, Felder said that he had somewhat lost the passion for competing. However, he was in shape due to training for a triathlon so he decided to give it a go.

With nothing to lose and a lot to gain, Felder stepped into the main event at UFC Vegas 14. He did come up short against RDA, however, he found that fire to compete again. He said he wouldn’t be going anywhere anytime soon. 

Just a few days ago, Felder tweeted out that he was ready to go. Now that Felder is ready to jump back in the cage, who should the UFC pair him against. I think the best choice is right there in the top ten with Felder.

Potential UFC Lightweight Matchup

I think the perfect opponent for Felder would be Raging Al Iaquinta (14-6-1). Iaquinta is currently the tenth ranked lightweight in the UFC and he’s in a very similar position as The Irish Dragon.

Both men are currently on two-fight losing streaks. However, they are still in the top ten and they deserve a quality matchup in their next fight. Both of these guys love to trade and it would make for a very exciting fight.

When looking at the division, this fight just jumps out at me. Again, they are both in a very similar spot and you know that they’d put on a show for UFC fans. Neither have an opponent at the moment, and I wouldn’t be shocked to see the promotion try to make this happen.

UFC books Tony Ferguson – Charles Oliveira

Tony Ferguson, UFC

Some breaking news has come in tonight on the UFC front. ESPN’s Brett Okamoto was first to report this evening that the promotion is finalizing a big time lightweight matchup between Tony Ferguson (25-4) and Charles Oliveira (29-8, 1 NC).

The fight will take place on December 12th at UFC 256. This fight is a much needed addition to the UFC 256 card that has seen two title fights erased from the card due to injuries. Ferguson was originally calling for a fight with Michael Chandler on that card. 

However, Chandler countered offering to fight Ferguson in January. Ferguson came back to the UFC and said that he wanted to fight in December and they found a willing opponent in Charles Oliveira.

Ferguson hasn’t fought since he lost to Justin Gaethje back in May. Prior to that loss, Ferguson hadn’t lost since 2012. The former interim UFC lightweight champion has remained the boogey man of the division for a reason.

This is a massive opportunity for Charles Oliveira. Oliveira has always been looked at as someone with tremendous talent, but he never quite put everything together. Well, he’s currently on a seven fight winning strike that has found him ranked sixth in the UFC‘s lightweight division.

UFC 256 lightweight showdown

This is such a fantastic matchup for the UFC 256 card. It’s a good fight and a fun fight stylistically. If you look at the skillset of both men, the fight on paper would favor the former UFC interim champion, Tony Ferguson.

You have to imagine that Ferguson will have the advantage on the feet. Ferguson is extremely slick on the ground, however, on the ground is where Oliveira is likely going to have the advantage.

If this fight touches the mat, I’m expecting some very entertaining reversals and scrambles. On the feet, I think these two are going to scrap. UFC 256 needed a banger and it got a good one in Tony Ferguson – Charles Oliveira.

Rafael Dos Anjos wins grueling fight against Paul Felder at UFC Vegas 14

Tonight the UFC returned for their 14th fight night inside the APEX. In the main event of the evening, there was a lightweight matchup between former champion, Rafael Dos Anjos (29-13), and The Irish Dragon, Paul Felder (17-5).

It’s been a wild ride on how we got to this UFC main event. Last week at this time, fight fans thought they were going to see RDA take on Islam Makhachev. However, staff infection pulled Makhachev out of the anticipated main event.

The UFC looked around for a replacement and found a quality one at the commentators booth. Paul Felder was expected to be the color commentator for tonight’s fights. Instead, the seventh ranked lightweight in the UFC found himself in the main event.

Opening Rounds

As the fight underway, Felder looked very sharp in the striking. Felder was doing a good job of landing kicks up the middle and straight shots. RDA had his moments as well, but Felder was getting the better of the exchanges.

Two minutes into the first round, Dos Anjos shot in and landed his first takedown. Felder did a good job of working his way back to the fence and getting back up. Once back on their feet, RDA was doing much better popping Felder with straight lefts.

Competitive first round, but it should go to RDA. As the second round of the UFC Vegas 14 main event got underway, RDA continued to pop Felder with shots up the middle. A minute into the round and Felder started opening up with powerful kicks.

Just as Felder started to land, Dos Anjos shot in for a takedown. However, Felder did a good job of defending. Once they separated, both men started trading big shots. RDA then shot in and landed a takedown with two minutes left in the round.

Middle Rounds

The former UFC champion was able to control Felder the rest of the round to take a 2-0 lead. As the third round got underway, Felder continued to look for low kicks. The opening 30 seconds were all Felder which caused RDA to shoot for a takedown.

Felder defended extremely well and kept the fight standing. As soon as RDA got close, Felder initiated the clinch and pushed Dos Anjos against the fence. However, RDA used it to shoot in for a takedown which he landed.

RDA came close to getting Felder’s back, but Felder forced a scramble to get the fight back to the feet. After a brief exchange, Dos Anjos shot in for another takedown. Dos Anjos was able to slam Felder down to the ground and sealed the third round for him.

Felder opened the fourth strong knowing he needed to finish the former UFC champion. RDA started landing decent shots, but he was continuing to look for the takedown. However, Felder was doing a good job of holding the center.

Felder was landing some good shots, but a RDA shot found Felder once again against the fence. Felder did a good job of staying on his feet and he even reversed the position. However, he wasn’t able to separate until there was about a minute left in the round.

In the final minute, Felder really started to open up his striking. Just as Felder was landing some good shots, he shot for a takedown and landed. RDA got back up, but it was a much better round for the Irish Dragon.

RDA’s successful return at UFC Vegas 14

As the final round of the UFC Vegas 14 main event got underway, Felder knew that it was all or nothing. Felder opened with a beautiful 1-2, but RDA countered with a good body kick.

Dos Anjos shot in for a takedown, but Felder defended well. However, after a brief separation, RDA shot in and landed the takedown. Dos Anjos was looking for the submission when he was on top in the final round.

However, Felder was doing a decent job of defending. Despite that, Dos Anjos was doing a good job of holding him down. With a minute left in the fight, Felder was able to work his way back up to his feet.

However, the former UFC champion was able to get him right back down. Felder displayed an incredible amount of heart, but RDA was too efficient and strong throughout all five rounds.

Rafael Dos Anjos defeats Paul Felder by Split Decision (50-45, 50-45, 47-48)