At UFC 274 on Saturday night, Charles Oliveira submitted Justin Gaethje in the first round to prevent the American from winning the vacant lightweight title. This also officially established Oliveira as the No. 1 contender for the belt, which was taken from him on Friday for lack of weight.
In the co-main event, Rose Namajunas lost the strawweight title to Carla Esparza, who became a two-time division champion with her second win over her American compatriot, which she submitted in 2014. It was a shockingly slow-moving competition that has fans bemoaning the lack of action booing all the time.
In the night’s other main fight, Michael Chandler secured a stunning knockout of Tony Ferguson, finishing his fellow lightweight with a front kick early in Round 2 after overcoming early adversity.
Under, indy sport plays matchmaker for the protagonists of UFC 274…
Charles Oliveira vs. Islam Makhachev
Makhachev stopped Bobby Green on the first lap in March when the American replaced Beneil Dariush on short notice. The result saw the Russian extend his winning streak to 10, with his last four victories coming from a stoppage.
It could be that Makhachev vs. Dariush will be postponed for some time in the coming months. It would be a fair decision but would also leave Oliveira without an opponent for some time. More likely, and perhaps more sensible, is the option to pair Oliveira (33-8, 1 no contest) with Makhachev (22-1).
Both men are in incredible form and stylistically speaking, the clash would be the best fans could achieve to see Oliveira take on his predecessor as lightweight champion: Khabib Nurmagomedov, a childhood friend of Makhachev who took his compatriot to the corners.
UFC 281 is scheduled for late October and will take place in Abu Dhabi. The fanbase there has always been very pro-Khabib and would certainly support Makhachev in the same way. Don’t be surprised if UFC President Dana White listens to Nurmagomedov’s advice and puts the pieces together.
That leaves us with the question of what to do with Dariush, but we’ll get to that shortly…
Michael Chandler vs. Dustin Poirier
Chandler followed up his stunning knockout of Ferguson with an almost equally impressive promo, calling out the winner of the night’s Main Event but also calling out Conor McGregor. We’re very excited for Chandler vs McGregor in what we think would be an exciting fight with a fun build, but rumors suggest the Irishman won’t fight again until 2023. Therefore, we will look for another opponent for Chandler (23-7).
The American has gone 2-2 in battles against Dan Hooker, Oliveira, Gaethje and Ferguson since joining the UFC in late 2020 – a who’s who of lightweights. The most obvious absentee from this list is former interim champion Poirier (28-7), who has long followed a clash with Nate Diaz – which was scheduled in 2018 but fell through – and teased a summer fight against an unnamed opponent.
It’s unclear what/who the “diamond” was alluding to, but if nothing is committed, meeting Chandler makes a lot of sense — and would almost certainly be a brawl from start to finish. Both men have failed against Oliveira with the title at stake, Chandler has started his way back to gold and Poirier must now do the same; unless the Louisian really wants to move up to welterweight…
Justin Gaethje vs Beneil Dariush
Gaethje (23-4) has now fought twice for the lightweight title and has been submitted both times. The American, who previously held the interim belt at 155 pounds, is never in a dull fight and his popularity with fans means he will never be too far from a shot at the gold. Still, he’s as far away now as he’s been since joining the UFC.
But if the ‘Highlight’ picks up a few wins and pulls them off confidently – as he does most of his wins – then he might be in contention for the title again.
We have already outlined how we would book the next trips from Oliveira, Chandler, Poirier and Makhachev, which really leaves only Dariush and Gaethje. Why not combine them together?
Of course, Dariush (21-4-1) could see his canceled fight with Makhachev rearranged and that would be a perfectly valid next move, but things look like they’re going a different route and we’re trying to match that with this one choice to anticipate.
Carla Esparza vs. Joanna Jedrzejczyk / Zhang Weili
No one is demanding that Namajunas have an immediate rematch with Esparza after Saturday’s weird, snail’s pace co-main event.
For Esparza (19-6), the next challenger will likely emerge from UFC 275 when former strawweight champions Zhang Weili and Joanna Jedrzejczyk meet. The first meeting between the two was the biggest women’s fight in UFC history and one of the biggest the promotion has ever seen – regardless of the gender of the contestants.
Zhang (21-3) was unlucky not to be on the judges’ scorecards in her last match, a rematch against Namajunas. Jedrzejczyk (16-4), meanwhile, has been out of action for two years and has had a patchy record lately, but fans respect her deeply and would welcome her back on the cover with open arms.
Esparza might not feel that way, having been dominated by the Poles in 2015, but that history works in Jedrzejczyk’s favor in terms of her viability as a contender.
Rose Namajunas vs Marina Rodriguez
So no immediate rematch for Namajunas indy sport is concerned, and we also have plans for Zhang and Jedrzejczyk – both of whom have already beaten “Thug Rose” twice.
So it’s worth keeping an eye out for a new opponent for Namajunas (11-5) as she begins her quest for a three-time strawweight champion.