Saturday night saw a massive card for the UFC Lightweight division with implications for legacy and title shots. What happened in the main and co-main events, and what happens next in an extremely stacked UFC Lightweight division?

Lets Talk About the Biggest Impact

First and foremost, Dustin Poirier is one of the most genuinely good human beings to grace professional sports. His charity, The Good Fight, impacts the state of Louisiana and the rest of the world. You simply cannot speak this man’s name and not mention his impact. Dustin “Diamond” Poirier uses his fists and his heart to make the world a better place. Everything after that is secondary. Conor McGregor publicly agreed to donate $500k when they negotiated this fight, a promise that was kept. I felt it was important to open with a little acknowledgement of the most impactful aspect of this past weekend. We all love sports, but this was bigger. Now lets get to what happened in the octagon in the UFC Lightweight division in the main and co-main events in Abu Dhabi.

Co-Main Birthed a New Star

I asked for this fight before it was announced because Michael Chandler vs Dan Hooker had fight of the year written all over it. We didn’t exactly get that kind of fight, which was a bit disappointing. This was more about Michael Chandler than it was about Dan Hooker. Let’s not be victims to recency bias; Dan Hooker is an absolute savage. Michael Chandler just came out and looked like a steamroller. Chandler took the octagon center, and kept relentless forward pressure before landing a devastating left that ultimately ended the fight. Chandler won via first round TKO, and likely punched his ticket to a title shot or a title eliminator. “Iron” Mike Chandler looked extremely comfortable in the big show, and demonstrated the kind of power that makes him a threat to anyone in the UFC Lightweight division.

So Whats Next for These Two?

This may be surprising, but despite Chandler’s excellent showing, I do not believe he should get a title shot next. 1-0 in the UFC is not enough for a title shot, just like a loss in your last fight shouldn’t get you a title shot. On that note, I believe Chandler vs Gaethje should be our next fight for a title eliminator. While I know that is likely not going to happen, it feels the most fair and makes me the most excited. We will cover who I want next in the title picture later on, and of course Khabib could change all of this. As for Hooker, he‘s 1-2 in his last three, but a look at who those three are makes that less damning. I think he needs to take a longer break, let his body heal, and come back in late 2021 or early 2022. While he threw his gloves down in the Octagon after his loss, I really hope we see the Hangman again. He is simply too fun to watch.

Massive Upset for the Diamond

In the Main Event, Dustin Poirier stunned Conor McGregor via a second round TKO. While Conor took the center of the octagon and pressed forward, Dustin immediately started attacking the lead leg. By the third leg kick, you could see some marking on McGregor’s lead calf. As most of us have never taken a leg kick from a professional fighter, let me assure you it is CRIPPLING. Once the lead leg is damaged, you can’t hide it. It’s either forward and taking damage, or in the back of the stance and compromising your ability to generate power. In addition to the leg kick, Dustin’s right hand didn’t seem to miss, especially once Conor’s mobility and power were compromised. He caught McGregor trying to evade multiple times, ultimately ending the fight with his right hand. Worth noting: Conor caught Dustin with that famed left in the first, similar to his previous finish of Poirier. This time, at a bigger weight, Dustin’s chin held up.

Best Path Forward?

If Khabib stays retired as he is expected to, I believe the title fight to make is Dustin Poirier vs Charles Oliveira. This isn’t the sexiest fight available, but it is the right one. Oliveira is a winner of eight straight at 155 and possesses elite level BJJ; he deserves this opportunity. The winner of Chandler vs Gaethje goes next. As for McGregor, he has options. A Diaz trilogy, Tony Ferguson, or Rafael Dos Anjos all feel right. Conor is 0-2 in his last two fights at 155; he just is not in the title picture right now, despite remaining the cash cow. While I don’t expect the UFC to get this right, this is the fair path forward.

A Special Night for the Lightweights

This was a promotion and career-altering result in the UFC lightweight division. A Conor victory was the best path to coaxing Khabib back in to the octagon. I know people always say Khabib doesn’t need or want the money; peep my man’s social media presence and then tell me that again. Meanwhile, Dustin just evened the score and cemented his legacy as one of the best fighters in the world, something many people already knew. Mike Chandler, meanwhile, accelerated his promotional ascent in the most spectacular way possible. Dan Hooker is a quality victory for anybody at 155, and his redemption tour will surely be violent. The UFC Lightweight division is stacked, and the path forward promises excitement.

What do you think is next in the UFC Lightweight division? Let me know @phicks7 on twitter, and check out Belly Up Sports for more MMA analysis.
About Author

Patrick Hicks

Poorly practicing martial artist who grew up in a football crazed family. I enjoy all aspects of MMA, particularly Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. I also love football, particularly fantasy.

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