Sports Sorting out the UFC's lightweight division after Khabib's retirement

02:01  27 october  2020
02:01  27 october  2020 Source:   thescore.com

3 takeaways from UFC Fight Night: Ortega vs. 'Korean Zombie'

  3 takeaways from UFC Fight Night: Ortega vs. 'Korean Zombie' Featherweight contender Brian Ortega beat Chan Sung Jung via unanimous decision in the UFC Fight Night main event Saturday at Flash Forum in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. Here are three takeaways from the event. Y'all must have forgot This goes for me, too. Two years is an eternity in mixed martial arts. That's how long it had been since Ortega last stepped into the Octagon. And Ortega lost his most recent fight, a title challenge against then-champion Max Holloway at UFC 231 in December 2018, in devastating fashion.Ortega was a +170 underdog against "The Korean Zombie," and most pundits predicted the latter would walk away with the victory.

A new era in the UFC lightweight division is on the horizon after Khabib Nurmagomedov' s retirement . Nurmagomedov (29-0 MMA, 13-0 UFC ) retired from MMA competition Saturday following a second-round submission win over Justin Gaethje (22-3 MMA, 5-3 UFC ) to defend his

Khabib ' s retirement has thrown the lightweight division wide openCredit: Getty Images - Getty. With a record of 29-0 to his name, Khabib promised his mother he would not fight without his father who died during the summer following a fight with coronavirus. And his absence from the Octagon means the

The UFC lightweight division is wide-open after Khabib Nurmagomedov announced his retirement following his 155-pound title defense against Justin Gaethje at UFC 254 this past weekend.

Conor McGregor standing in front of a building © Brandon Magnus / UFC / Getty

With "The Eagle" out of the picture, who should face off for the vacant belt? What are some other key matchups to make in the sport's deepest division? Is there one fighter, in particular, to watch out for? Let's dive in.

The title fight to make

a man looking at the camera: Josh Hedges / UFC / Getty © Provided by theScore Josh Hedges / UFC / Getty

A rematch between former interim champions Gaethje and Dustin Poirier should serve as the vacant title fight.

Khabib: St-Pierre only fight that excites me after Gaethje

  Khabib: St-Pierre only fight that excites me after Gaethje Khabib Nurmagomedov has a specific opponent in mind after his title defense against Justin Gaethje at UFC 254. The lightweight champion said Tuesday he would only be excited about facing Georges St-Pierre if he beats Gaethje on Saturday in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. "I really become excited when I think about Georges St-Pierre," Nurmagomedov said during an appearance on ESPN's "First Take." "I don't know if he wants to fight with me or not, can he make weight - 155 (pounds) or not - but this fight makes me excited, honestly."And I think me versus Georges is going to be very, very big fight.

But, following Khabib ' s shock retirement announcement after his victory, Chandler offered a solution to the UFC as they look to plan for life at "I’m excited to be a part of the UFC lightweight division right now at the top when there is no UFC lightweight champion. So we’ll see what happens next.

Khabib just misses out on the top five while rival Conor McGregor is down in 16thCredit: Getty The Brazilian dominated all before him in the UFC featherweight division and was well on his way to GOAT status after an undefeated Conor McGregor sends Khabib classy message after UFC retirement .

Before his loss to Nurmagomedov, Gaethje was riding a four-fight winning streak, which included a TKO win over Tony Ferguson earlier in 2020. Gaethje is the UFC's No. 1-ranked lightweight, and many would consider him second best behind Nurmagomedov.

Poirier, meanwhile, recently rebounded from his 2019 loss to Nurmagomedov with a victory over Dan Hooker in a "Fight of the Year" candidate. He's ranked No. 2 and holds a TKO win over Gaethje from April 2018.

Their first clash was one of the best that year, and a rematch would be no different. While Gaethje and Poirier are most deserving of an opportunity, that doesn't always count for much in the UFC, especially when a certain Irish superstar is looming.

The title fight the UFC wants to make

Jeff Bottari / UFC / Getty © Provided by theScore Jeff Bottari / UFC / Getty

Former champion Conor McGregor is closing in on a return to the Octagon, and, from a business standpoint, the UFC would be foolish not to give him the title shot. McGregor has verbally agreed to face Poirier on Jan. 23 in what would've been a non-title bout, but that can easily be turned into a fight for the vacant title.

UFC 254 best bets: Back Cannonier in co-main event

  UFC 254 best bets: Back Cannonier in co-main event UFC 254 takes place Saturday at Flash Forum in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. It features a lightweight title fight between champion Khabib Nurmagomedov and interim champ Justin Gaethje. Nurmagomedov is a big favorite, currently sitting at -360. Though I like "The Eagle" to retain his championship, there isn't nearly enough value to make a bet at that price. Gaethje possesses the tools - including pressure and wrestling defense - that could give Nurmagomedov a serious fight, so I'll be avoiding this one altogether.If you're adamant about betting Nurmagomedov, the T/KO or submission prop has a solid price of -120.

Khabib Nurmagomedov became the UFC lightweight champion under the tutelage of his father Nurmagomedov' s retirement was met by tributes from fellow fighters. Former two- division UFC This was a fighter who went out at the very top, on his terms, and had made a promise to his family after

Khabib Nurmagomedov was emotional as he announced his retirement from UFCCredit: Getty Images - Getty. It meant the Russian defended his lightweight title Now Chandler, the former Bellator star who was on standby if either of the main-eventers had to pull out at the weekend, wants a chance to

McGregor is the sport's biggest star, which makes this rematch the most likely option. He was stripped of the belt in April 2018 due to inactivity, but UFC president Dana White would love to see the Irishman - who knocked out Poirier in 2014 - as the 155-pound titleholder again.

He hasn't won as a lightweight in almost four years, and his only victory since then is a stoppage of Donald Cerrone at welterweight in early 2020. The No. 4-ranked lightweight is far from the most deserving, but don't be surprised if he fights for the belt anyway.

Potential No. 1 contender matchups

Tony Ferguson standing in front of a fence: Jeff Bottari / UFC / Getty © Provided by theScore Jeff Bottari / UFC / Getty

If Gaethje and Poirier meet for the vacant title, it would make sense to book McGregor against Ferguson to determine the new champion's first challenger.

But assuming that doesn't happen, Ferguson should square off with recent UFC signee and former Bellator champion Michael Chandler in what could be a No. 1 contender bout.

4 takeaways from UFC 254

  4 takeaways from UFC 254 Khabib Nurmagomedov retained the lightweight title via a second-round submission of Justin Gaethje during the UFC 254 main event Saturday in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. After the victory, the undefeated Nurmagomedov announced his retirement from mixed martial arts. Here are four takeaways from the event. Khabib two steps ahead of his opposition Nurmagomedov went largely unchallenged in his MMA career. However, a big narrative ahead of UFC 254 was the belief that if anyone could test - and maybe even beat - the undefeated champion, it might've been Gaethje, who destroyed Tony Ferguson earlier in 2020 to win the interim title.

SHOP. Sort by. Newest Most relevant. See what the MMA world had to say about Khabib Nurmagomedov' s retirement after UFC 254 The MMA community reacts to Khabib Nurmagomedov' s retirement Lightweight Title Bout. Khabib . vs. Gaethje.

Khabib Nurmagomedov has left an indelible mark on the UFC since his debut with the organization but, after 4 - Khabib headlined four major UFC events during his time with the company. In addition to his dominance at lightweight , he also has 10 fights in the welterweight division , the most recent of

Chandler was the backup fighter for Nurmagomedov-Gaethje, so it's obvious the UFC wants to move him up the ladder quickly. This would give Ferguson an opportunity to bounce back from his loss against "The Highlight." Some question whether "El Cucuy" still has what it takes to be a top contender, so Chandler would be a great measuring stick to see where the 36-year-old is at.

If the UFC goes with McGregor-Poirier, another fight that could determine the No. 1 contender is Gaethje versus No. 5-ranked Hooker. It would give both fighters a chance to rebound from recent defeats, and it would be a heck of a scrap.

Lightweight wild card

Max Holloway standing in front of a crowd: Chris Unger / UFC / Getty © Provided by theScore Chris Unger / UFC / Getty

I still believe former featherweight champion Max Holloway could make himself relevant in the lightweight division.

"Blessed" moved up to 155 pounds for an interim title fight against Poirier in 2019. He lost a competitive decision and immediately returned to 145 pounds, but with more time to properly adjust to the weight increase, Holloway could become a lightweight contender.

Holloway is coming off two straight losses to current featherweight champ Alexander Volkanovski. He won't be fighting for the 145-pound belt anytime soon, so he might as well try his hand at lightweight again.

In hindsight, it wasn't smart to throw Holloway to the wolves at 155 pounds without more time to prepare. If he wants to move up, I'd say give him someone like Al Iaquinta and see how he performs. If Holloway wins, we can start talking about him fighting the Gaethjes and Fergusons of the division.

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Split decisions: Answering this week's pressing MMA questions .
In "Split decisions," theScore's Nick Baldwin weighs in on the hottest topics in mixed martial arts. This week, UFC president Dana White announced middleweight champion Israel Adesanya will move up a division to challenge light heavyweight titleholder Jan Blachowicz. MMA legend Anderson Silva lost to Uriah Hall in the main event of UFC Fight Night in what might've been his final bout. White also revealed Khabib Nurmagomedov remains the lightweight champion and there won't be a vacant title bout booked in the immediate future. He believes Nurmagomedov may come back for one more fight.Let's discuss.

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