Since UFC 209’s bout between Khabib Nurmagomedov and Tony Ferguson being cancelled, many have wondered what the next step is for the 155 pound division. Well, wait no longer because we’ve got you covered!
Champion – Conor McGregor
The face of the UFC is currently taking a well-deserved hiatus from the Octagon as he awaits the birth of his first child. There are talks that the Champ Champ is getting closer and closer to the superfight between him and Floyd Mayweather, and I truly think that this is going to come to fruition. As a result, there is likely going to have to be an interim title fight so Conor has an opponent ready should he return to MMA.
#1 Contender – Khabib Nurmagomedov
While there are not many certainties in MMA, I believe it is fairly certain that Khabib’s withdrawal from UFC 209 guaranteed that he will not fight Conor McGregor ever. He simply cannot be counted on to make it to the octagon between injuries and weight issues. He pulled out for the second time against Tony “El Cucuy” Ferguson, so he is in an odd situation. I hope he is going to take some time off to recover from his weight cut before he requests a fight, and how long that takes will determine who he is going to fight.
#2 Contender – Tony Ferguson
This is the true #1 contender in my eyes after Khabib had to pull out of their interim title fight at UFC 209. He is on an astounding 9 fight win streak, taking some fights on short notice. He is dangerous on the ground and is very creative with the stand up. He is a matchup nightmare for everyone in the division because of his length and how versatile he is. If Conor does not fight Floyd and wants to fight this summer, “El Cucuy” would be the fight to book.
#3 Contender – Eddie Alvarez
The former champion is in between a rock and a hard place. He has gone on record to say that he wants to fight the big money fights, but he isn’t much of a draw himself. He has to reach down in the rankings to find a bigger draw to fight, such as Nate Diaz, but they don’t want to fight him because he brings little drawing power. He is an explosive athlete, but he needs to realize that he needs to accept a fight soon so he can reestablish that he is a legitimate contender after being dissected by McGregor at UFC 205.
#5 Contender – Edson Barboza
Hot take: Barboza has the scariest standup in the lightweight division. Forget the creativity of Ferguson, or the left hand of McGregor, Edson Barboza is the last guy you want to get into a kickboxing match with. His leg kicks have caused a stoppage, he has the fastest switch kick in the UFC. He has hands, incredible kicks and devastating knees, as seen by the soul-stealing of Beneil Dairush this past weekend. He seems to be as game as they come, and he said he would like a rematch with Tony Ferguson. If he doesn’t end up fighting McGregor anytime soon, sign me up for that.
#8 Contender – Nate Diaz
The interesting case of Mr. Nate Diaz. He picked apart Michael Johnson before defeating the Notorious Conor McGregor in what was one of the biggest upsets in recent UFC history and spawned one of the great rivalries. After Conor evened the score at UFC 202, a trilogy should be expected eventually between the two. It may not be the next fight for McGregor, who has quite a few names above Nate. Nate, however, is fine with waiting for McGregor, as he says he wants a title fight or a McGregor trilogy and nothing else. I’m sure he made enough money to hang out in Stockton until one of those things happen, and I would like one to happen soon.
What to Book:
Assuming Conor fights Floyd in what would be the biggest event in combat sports, he is out, so here are the fights to make:
Tony Ferguson vs. Edson Barboza for the interim belt:
Since their fight in December of 2015, Barboza has won three in a row. Two of his wins were decisions over former champion Anthony Pettis and former title challenger Gilbert Melendez. His third, of course, was the knee that changed Beneil Dairush’s life. Similarly, Ferguson has continued to win. His two fights since Barboza’s were both Fight of the Night performances over Lando Vannata, who he fought on short notice, and former champion Rafael Dos Anjos. Both fighters are firing on all cylinders and show up on fight day, so let’s run it back.
Eddie Alvarez vs. Michael Chiesa:
The former champion needs to realize that he simply does not have much drawing power. He needs to reembrace the grind and get back to work. Chiesa is on a 3 fight win streak, two of which he ended by submission. This could be a fight that Alvarez tries to keep on the feet to avoid Chiesa’s dangerous Jiu Jitsu, or he could try to take him down and inflict ground and pound. Either way, it would be a good fight to tune in to.
Neither Khabib and Nate Diaz nor are included in this, as Khabib needs to recover from his harsh weight cut and Nate just doesn’t have a fight at the moment that makes sense for him financially.