A hectic night of fighting took place this weekend, after an already frantic week preceding it, involving a champion missing weight for the first time ever and fight cancellations. Charles Oliveira was stripped of his lightweight crown on Friday afternoon after he reported to the scales half-a-pound heavier than the 155lb limit.
Despite a first round submission victory over Justin Gaethje, who clearly didn’t heed the advice from Wu-Tang Clan’s 1993 debut single ‘Protect Ya Neck’, Do Bronx now has to fight again to win back the title that was made vacant by his weight issue. The doubters were proved wrong once again, and while The Highlight Reel put the Brazilian under immense pressure, he came out the other side smelling of roses once again.
The difficult task that Dana White and company have is picking a new opponent for the Champion-elect who is also worthy of a title shot. He has dealt with the usual suspects in Michael Chandler, Dustin Poirier and now Gaethje. Tony Ferguson was knocked out for the first time ever this weekend, meaning that he’s on a four-strike loss streak and Beneil Dariush still needs to fight to maintain his spot in the top five of the division. The only logical person for the job, should be Islam Makhachev.
The padawan of Khabib Nurmagomedov, Makhachev only has one loss in his 23 fights, and has dominated Bobby Green, Dan Hooker and Thiago Moises in his last three fights. He’s yet to face a top five opponent, which may see complaints from the rest of the division, but he is the next ranked opponent on the list for Oliveira to face.
Another shout from fans is a rematch with Dustin Poirier, who took to Twitter quickly after Gaethje was submitted via rear-naked choke, to say that he deserves another shot.
The Diamond also continued his ongoing feud with Conor McGregor via social media, but it seems that fans would rather see the Irishman matched up against another big winner of the weekend, Michael Chandler.
Chandler’s front kick landed flush to the head of Tony Ferguson, knocking El Cucuy out for the first time in his career and creating one of the more obscene images of the weekend. His fights since joining the UFC from Bellator have been immense, even though he’s lost to Charles Oliveira and Justin Gaethje. The win sets him up for either a mega-money fight against McGregor or another shot at the champ.
In terms of Justin Gaethje, he should take a break from the ring for a few months to recollect his thoughts. He still put in a valiant effort on Saturday night, and although he leaves another title fight frustrated, he can still be a headliner of the lightweight division. He could use the Rafael Fiziev-Rafael dos Anjos fight as a break, and guarantee himself a fight against the winner, a fight that we’d still see before the end of the year and will keep Gaethje amongst the top of the division. If he doesn’t want to wait it out, then Dustin Poirier would surely want to run it back as they’re both coming off the back of a loss to the now-stripped champion.
Elsewhere on Saturday night, we saw a dismal title fight between Rose Namajunas and Carla Esparza. Esparza won her title back in a fight that’s been slated by fans as one of the worst title fights the strawweight division has ever seen. More of the blame has headed the way of Thug Rose, and although she usually delivers exciting fights, her gameplan was clearly lacking the edge that she usually has.
It’s back to the drawing board for Namajunas, and it’ll be interesting to see who she fights next. Whoever the Cookie Monster fights, Rose should fight the loser of Weili-Jędrzejczyk. A trilogy fight against Jessica Andrade could be tempting, but maybe a step backwards in terms of title contention, and risking falling further away from a rematch if she loses again.
The only other fighter on the card that seemingly has come to a crossroads in his career is Tony Ferguson. Poor old El Cucuy has seemingly found himself in the right place at the wrong time once again in his career, after coming so close to title shots so many times but always failing to cross the line. He sits seventh in the lightweight rankings before they change, and it’s expected that he would fall further behind. Now might be a good time for Ferguson to headline a fight night card against someone outside of the top ten.
The winner out of Mateusz Gamrot vs Arman Tsarukyan would be a good option, with the experience of Ferguson perhaps allowing him to test himself against wrestlers who will want to jump up the rankings. If not them, then a send-off fight against Donald Cerrone would be good to see as the pair could run it back.