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Although his climb to the top of the division was not without controversy as he hadn’t faced any top-five contenders, no one can deny the dominance on display when Islam Makhachev submitted former champion Charles Oliveira for the vacant title at UFC 280 last October.
Now riding an 11-fight winning streak, Makhachev is now listed as the number-two pound-for-pound best fighter in the UFC and the favorite to be lightweight champion by the end of the year.
Makhachev’s first title defense and fight of 2023 has already been announced. In the main event of UFC 284 in February, Makhachev will take on the number-one pound-for-pound fighter and featherweight champion Alexander Volkanovski.
As mentioned above, Alexander Volkanovski is next in line for a shot at the lightweight title.
Volkanovski, the top pound-for-pound fighter in the UFC, fought twice in 2022 - defending his featherweight title against both “The Korean Zombie” Chan Sung Jung and former champion Max Holloway.
He will now move up to the lightweight division this February to make an attempt at double-champ status.
Should Volkanovski win his second title, he has made it known that he would plan to consistently fight at both lightweight and featherweight - defending both titles for as long as possible.
Charles Oliveira was riding a 10-fight winning streak and held the lightweight title heading into 2022.
However, he started last year by being stripped of the title after he missed weight prior to his UFC 274 bout against Justin Gaethje. He won that fight via first-round submission but was not eligible to leave with the belt.
He then fought Islam Makhachev at UFC 280 for the vacant title but was submitted in the second round.
Oliveira made his way to top-lightweight status over the past two years but, unfortunately, he hasn’t been able to leave his weight cutting issues behind him.
The former champion, who holds the record for most submission wins and most finishes in the UFC, is still ranked as the number-one lightweight contender but his next fight has yet to be announced.
Currently riding an eight-fight winning streak, Beneil Dariush was only able to fight once in 2022.
Dariush was actually expected to have a number-one contender fight against Islam Makhachev last February but had to pull out due to injury.
Last October he took on top-prospect Mateusz Gamrot at UFC 280 and defeated him via unanimous decision.
Now ranked as the fourth-best UFC lightweight, Dariush’s name has recently been linked to Dustin Poirier for a future fight although nothing has yet been announced.
Another fighter who fought only once in 2022, former interim champion and two-time undisputed title challenger Dustin Poirier had a fight of the night bout against Michael Chandler at UFC 281 last November.
Poirier defeated Chandler via third-round submission but no future plans have been set in place.
Not only has Poirier been vocal about how he selects his opponents moving forward, wanting big names and marquee fights, but he has also been dealing with a significant staph infection that has had him in and out of hospital since the end of last year.
With that said, Poirier still ranks as the number-two lightweight contender and can never be written off as a possible future champion.
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