OPINION: The Deepest Division in the UFC is the Lightweight Division

(MMA)

When we think of the “who’s who” of MMA, many notable figures come to mind, from Conor McGregor and Khabib Nurmagomedov to Donald Cerrone and Tony Ferguson. All of these incredibly talented fighters have one thing in common: sharing the UFC Lightweight Division.

Sure, there are a lot of very talented divisions within the UFC. One could even argue that some of the pound-for-pound best fighters currently on the UFC roster reside within many of the lighter divisions. However, no one can really argue with the fact that the Lightweight Division contains so much raw talent and personality that the fights seem to market themselves.

MEDIA RECEPTION

Obviously, the outspoken Conor McGregor is a major reason why the Lightweight division gets so much attention…even if he is supposedly “retired” at the moment. I mean, it seems as though you can’t have a post-fight interview with a fighter without them dropping the Irish Whiskey mogul’s name; whether it’s to call him out or simply just to talk trash. There is no arguing that Conor McGregor’s notoriety helped propel the UFC Lightweight Division to not just stardom, but mainstream status.

Similar to how the mainstream media welcomed Ronda Rousey with open arms, talk shows and news outlets can’t seem to get enough of our favorite Lightweight fighters. Conor’s relationship with the media is pretty self-explanatory, but fighters who otherwise wouldn’t be a thought, are suddenly the “it” topic among the media. Even Khabib, who, let’s be real, was previously only newsworthy when video clips of him wrestling a bear as a child were involved is now suddenly the topic of many Yahoo! headlines.

It seems as though the world can’t get enough of some of the greatest Lightweights actively competing in the sport of MMA…and for good reason.

IMPRESSIVE RESUMES

UFC Lightweight Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone holds so many UFC records, it’s becoming hard to keep track of them all. A list of his records was compiled by MMAJunkie in January of this year, as listed below:

Cerrone’s (35-11 MMA, 22-8 UFC) was successful in his return to the lightweight division. He earned a victory in the weight class for the first time since May 2015.

Cerrone’s 22 victories in UFC competition are most in company history.

Cerrone’s 28 victories in UFC/WEC/PRIDE/Strikeforce competition are most in combined organization history.

Cerrone’s 16 victories in UFC lightweight competition are tied with Gleison Tibau for second most in divisional history behind Jim Miller (17).

Cerrone’s 16 stoppage victories in UFC competition are most in company history.

Cerrone’s 20 stoppage victories in UFC/WEC competition are the most in combined organizational history.

Cerrone’s 20 stoppage victories in UFC/WEC/PRIDE/Strikeforce competition are tied with Wanderlei Silva for second most in combined organizational history behind Mirko Filipovic (21).

Cerrone’s 10 stoppage victories in UFC lightweight competition are tied with Miller for second most in divisional history behind Joe Lauzon (12).

Cerrone’s seven knockout victories stemming from a head kick in UFC competition are the most in company history.

Cerrone’s 18 knockdowns landed in UFC competition are tied with Anderson Silva and Jeremy Stephens for most in company history.

Cerrone’s 21 fight-night bonuses in UFC/WEC bouts are the most in combined organizational history.

Cerrone’s 16 fight-night bonuses in UFC bouts are most in company history.

- per a list by MMA Junkie

That is an impressive resume for any fighter, but it’s not just Cerrone who make’s the UFC Lightweight Division one of the best.

DIVISION RANKINGS

The most recent star-studded UFC Lightweight Rankings:

Current UFC Lightweight Rankings:

Champion: Khabib Nurmagomedov

1. Dustin Poirier (Interim Champion)

2. Tony Ferguson

3. Conor McGregor

4. Al Iaquinta

5. Justin Gaethje

6. Kevin Lee

7. Edson Barboza

8. Donald Cerrone

9. Anthony Pettis

10. Paul Felder

11. Gregor Gillespie

12. Alexander Hernandez

13. James Vick

14. Charles Oliveira

15. Islam Makhachev

- UFC Lightweight Rankings

Typically, casual fans can only recognize the names of the top five or so fighters of a given division, however, you would be hard-pressed to find a fan who isn’t familiar with the likes of Edson Barboza, Donald Cerrone, Anthony Pettis, or Paul Felder. Even the fighters ranked beyond the tenth position are still very recognizable names. This ranking list, and the lightweight division as a whole, is a MMA matchmaker’s dream.

PLAYING MATCHMAKER

People often wonder why “superfights” have been gaining so much traction with the UFC brass as of late, and when the Lightweight division is concerned, pretty much every fight is a “superfight” - with very few exceptions. Who wouldn’t want to see Cerrone vs McGregor, Pettis vs Iaquinta, Gaethje vs Poirier 2, or Ferguson vs Khabib? These would all be great fights.

I think it makes the most sense to have Interim Lightweight Champion Dustin Poirier face off against Lightweight Champion Khabib Nurmagomedov, however, there are still some amazing fights that I believe should happen first.

FIRST - The first fight I would make is easily Cerrone vs McGregor; the fight sells itself. Two big names squaring off in a USA vs Ireland, Budweiser vs Proper Twelve war. The fans and the fighters would eat this up, and pay-per-views would sell like hot cakes. McGregor has been on a long hiatus from the Octagon, and no matter how “Notorious” he is, he does not deserve an immediate title shot. Cerrone, though he is very deserving of a shot at the title, I feel a win over McGregor would show the world exactly how dangerous he is. The winner of this fight gets a crack at the winner of the next fight on my list…

SECOND - The second fight I would make would be Tony Ferguson vs Justin Gaethje. Ferguson, the Former Interim Lightweight Champion, is simply not ready mentally for a crack at the title. He is definitely deserving of the title shot, but with all of his personal problems as of late, he needs to prove to himself that he is truly back on track and there is no better way to do so than to derail an up-and-comer. Gaethje is a gritty fighter and is extremely talented to boot, however, he needs to tackle at least one more big name in order to cement his status as a true title contender.

THIRD - The winner of Cerrone vs Mcgregor and the winner of Ferguson vs Gaethje, I feel, should fight and whoever emerges victorious from that battle is who should get the first crack at the winner of Poirier vs Khabib.

But hey, I’m not a UFC matchmaker…give me a call Dana, I’ll happily join the team.

ADDING TO THE ROSTER

Sometimes, the next big thing in MMA isn’t yet signed to the UFC. There are so many talented lightweights who aren’t a part of this conversation simply because they haven’t gotten the call from Dana White just yet.

Michael Chandler definitely needs to be a part of this conversation.

Michael Chandler (19 - 4) has won the Bellator Lightweight Championship Title not once, not twice, but three times, setting the record for the most title reigns in Bellator MMA history. Chandler successfully defended his title (cumulatively) three times during his first two title reigns. Chandler currently holds the record for the most finishes in Bellator MMA history with 11, the record for most title fights under the promotion’s banner with 10, and is tied with Patricio Friere for most wins in Bellator MMA history with 10. C’mon Dana, let’s bring Chandler into the fold. (I personally would love to see Chandler fight 10th ranked UFC Lightweight Paul Felder; that would be a great fight.)

IN CONCLUSION

With so many very talented fighters in the top fifteen, there are many incredible fights to be made within the UFC Lightweight Division. Let’s just hope that the UFC brass takes all of these talented guys into consideration before thinking of handing a title shot to McGregor…assuming that the Irishman hasn’t hung up his gloves for good.

I think it’s pretty apparent why I think the Lightweight Division is the deepest division in the UFC, as of right now. For all I know, half of these guys could pull a McGregor and tweet their retirement tomorrow. But for now, the Lightweight Division is definitely atop the list of the deepest divisions in the UFC…and I think there is at least one name that should be added to that star-studded Lightweight Roster.

Author: Bailey Silveira