On Saturday night, Justin Gaethje picked up the biggest win of his MMA career to date when he brutally knocked out top-ranked lightweight Edson Barboza in the first round with a right hook. Gaethje improved to 3-2 overall in the UFC with the win, and he’s now riding a two-fight win streak with back-to-back knockout wins over Barboza and James Vick. After many left Gaethje for dead following consecutive brutal TKO losses to Eddie Alvarez and Dustin Poirier, it seems like Gaethje is somehow even better than ever, and the win over Barboza announced him as a top contender at 155lbs. Now, the UFC matchmakers have to figure out what’s next for him.
Below are five potential opponents for Gaethje’s next fight:
Although he’s currently dealing with personal issues and his return date to the Octagon is unknown, a fight between Gaethje and Ferguson would be incredible. Both men are known for their highly-aggressive fighting styles and for leaving everything they have in the cage. Truthfully, Ferguson should be getting a title shot in his next fight, but based on what else is happening in the division he may need to take another fight, and Gaethje would be the ideal opponent. This could very well be the “Fight of the Decade” if the UFC ended up getting it booked.
A fight between Gaethje and Diaz would also be tremendous. Of course, Diaz hasn’t fought since August 2016 and we really have no idea when or if he plans to return to the Octagon, but if he does than a matchup against Gaethje would be incredible. Both Diaz and Gaethje are incredibly durable and would surely put on a great show for the fans. If the UFC wants to get this fight done, they will probably have to restructure both fighters’ contracts, and knowing the UFC they may not want to do that. But if terms can be agreed to, then Gaethje against Diaz would be a great fight.
If the UFC can figure out how to get McGregor to return to the Octagon, then a fight against Gaethje would be perfect for both guys. For McGregor, it would be a winnable fight against someone who likes to stand and trade in the pocket with his chin in the air. For Gaethje, it would be the biggest fight of his career and also a well-deserved money fight against the sport’s biggest star. If the UFC can figure out the monetary aspect of things, then this is the fight to make.
This one is a little more unrealistic, but Gaethje has called out the champion Nurmagomedov in what would be a potential matchup between Ali Abdel-Aziz clients. The problem with this fight is that Nurmagomedov isn’t likely to return until the fall at the earliest, and when he does he’ll probably fight the winner of the interim title fight at UFC 236 between Max Holloway and Dustin Poirier. But if for whatever reason a matchup between Nurmagomedov and Gaethje could be booked, then it would be a great fight between the best wrestler in the division and the more aggressive striker. But with a few other fighters ahead of Gaethje, this one seems like a pipe dream.
Yes, Anthony Pettis just knocked out Stephen Thompson in a welterweight contest and it would make more sense for him to stay at 170lbs. But Pettis did mention he would be interesting in moving back down to pursue a fight against Gaethje. Both guys are extremely aggressive strikers who would surely put on a show for the fans. I prefer Pettis to stay at welterweight, personally, but I admit a fight against Gaethje would be very appealing to any fan of the sport.
Who should Justin Gaethje fight next? Leave your thoughts below.