As we enter 2021, we look at the lightweight rankings of the UFC. 155 is one of the deepest divisions in the promotion and has some of the best fighters on the planet.
At the top of one of the toughest divisions in the UFC, reigns Khabib Nurmagomedov. Lightweight has always been home to some of the best fighters in the promotion. However, Khabib Nurmagomedov has repeatedly overcome the odds. The Russian champion remains undefeated till this day with a record of 29-0; 13 of those wins coming in the UFC.
Nurmagomedov captured the title against Al Iaquinta in 2018 and has defended his title three times. He has submitted the likes of Gaethje, Poirier, and McGregor.
Currently also sitting at the top of the UFC’s pound-for-pound list, Nurmagomedov is arguably the greatest lightweight champion in the company’s history. Fans now eagerly expect further news if the ‘Eagle’ will return to the octagon or will relinquish his belt to complete his retirement from the sport.
The American Justin Gaethje is one of the most entertaining fighters in the promotion. ‘The Highlight’ joined the UFC in 2017 from the World Series of Fighting, and after going 1-2 in his first three fights, he finally found his feet in the promotion. Gaethje put together an impressive four-fight win streak to earn his title shot.
Having finished ‘El Cucuy’ at UFC 249, Gaethje was crowned interim champion, however, in the post-fight interview with Joe Rogan, ‘The Highlight’ threw the belt to the floor and said he wanted the real title.
Gaethje’s wish was granted, and at UFC 254 he faced Nurmagomedov to unify the belts. However, he tapped out in the second round. Nevertheless, he became the second person to outpoint ‘The Eagle’ after having achieved that feat in the opening round.
Hailing from Louisiana in the United States, the MMA fan base has watched Dustin Poirier grow from a young prospect to one of the top lightweights in the world. ‘The Diamond’ made his UFC debut in 2011 and is now 10 years into his career in the promotion. With a record of 26-6, Poirier is one of the best fighters in the division having 19 career finishes.
At UFC 257, Poirier will step into the octagon opposite Conor McGregor. The two lightweights will headline the card at Fight Island on January 23, but fans are yet to find out if the title will be on the line following Khabib’s retirement from the sport. Although Poirier lost the first fight to McGregor via TKO, he believes his skills have grown since then and can help him get the win.
The Brazilian submission specialist has been on a roll of late in the UFC. Coinciding with his change in hairstyle, ‘Do Bronx’ has matured into one of the top lightweight contenders in a deep division. Oliveira is currently on an eight-fight win streak and holds impressive wins over Kevin Lee and Tony Ferguson in 2020.
Oliveira will now look to finally compete for the biggest prize in the sport, to be a UFC world champion. Having made his debut in 2010, Oliveira has stayed in the promotion, overcoming all obstacles put in front of him. With a record of 30-8, Oliveira is looking like one of the best lightweights in the world.
Just like 2020, Conor McGregor will kick off the first UFC pay-per-view of the year in 2021. McGregor has not competed in the octagon since his 40-second win over Donald Cerrone at UFC 246. Now on January 23, the Notorious will make his way to Fight Island to take on Dustin Poirier in a rematch from 2014.
A win for Conor would put him back into title contention. With Khabib Nurmagomedov’s supposed retirement all but confirmed, UFC President Dana White still holds a slim chance of a potential Nurmagomedov vs McGregor rematch, the highest selling PPV in the company’s history.
‘El Cucuy’ could be the biggest loser of 2020. The fan-favorite UFC lightweight contender started the year with a fight scheduled for the fifth time against Khabib Nurmagomedov. As history repeated itself, the fight got canceled again because of the emergence of the COVID-19 virus.
With Khabib stuck in Russia and global travel bans being imposed, Tony Ferguson accepted an opponent change. He faced Justin Gaethje for the interim lightweight title. Gaethje finished ‘El Cucuy’ in the fifth round and many fans cited Tony’s extra weight cut as one reason for his loss. Subsequently, Ferguson suffered his second loss for 2020 at UFC 256 and will look for a better 2021.
New Zealand lightweight contender Dan Hooker will fight Michael Chandler at UFC 257. The two lightweights will be on the same card as Conor McGregor and Dustin Poirier and will have a lot of eyes on them. ‘The Hangman’ recently lost to Dustin Poirier in June 2020 and will look to get back in the win column against the UFC debutant.
Rafael dos Anjos has been one of the toughest fighters at 155. A former champion, Dos Anjos has beaten the likes of Nate Diaz, Anthony Pettis, Neil Magny, and Robbie Lawler. After an unsuccessful stint at welterweight, Dos Anjos has moved back down to lightweight to mount one last title challenge being 36 years of age. RDA most recently secured a win over Paul Felder at a UFC Fight Night event.
When Paul Felder accepted the fight against Rafael dos Anjos on less than a week’s notice, it proved to the MMA community what a warrior Felder was. Although he lost the fight, Felder’s stock could not be higher.
The Irish Dragon has contemplated retirement, but given his last fight, it’s safe to say that he has a lot left in him. Furthermore, he is also one of the best analysts on the UFC commentator team, even going back to work a week after his defeat to RDA.
A relatively unknown name to the UFC fanbase, Ferreira has been in the promotion since 2014. The Brazilian holds a respectable record of eight wins out of 10 in his UFC career. He has beaten the likes of Anthony Pettis, Rustam Khabilov, Jared Gordon, and Olivier Aubin-Mercier while losing to Dustin Poirier and Beneil Dariush. At 35, Ferreira will look to mount a title challenge while still in his prime.
One of the toughest fighters in the division, Al Iaquinta, joined the UFC from The Ultimate Fighter in 2012, losing in the finals to Michael Chiesa. Since then ‘Raging Al’ has been one of the most entertaining fighters on the UFC roster.
Iaquinta is the only fighter in Khabib Nurmagomedov’s last four opponents to go the distance when he stepped in on short notice for the UFC lightweight title. Since his title fight with Khabib in 2018, the American has gone 1-2 in his last three fights.
#11 Kevin Lee
#12 Beneil Dariush
#13 Islam Makhachev
#14 Gregor Gillespie
#15 Drew Dober
– Michael Chandler (Unranked)
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