This past weekend’s UFC 274 pay-per-view saw the 155-pound title picture thrown in the air. While Charles Oliveira was victorious over Justin Gaethje, he left without the belt having missed weight for the event.
Instead of a second defense, the Brazilian’s first-round submission win in Phoenix secured his status as the number-one contender and filled one spot in the inevitable vacant title fight down the line.
And who should stand opposite “Do Bronx” next? Well, if Oliveira’s predecessor is to be believed, the answer is quite simple.
Despite UFC President Dana White’s previous claim that the originally-scheduled Makhachev vs. Beneil Dariush title eliminator, which fell through in February, would be re-booked, it seems Oliveira’s May 7 triumph has got the ball rolling for a potential change of plans.
As well as White admitting that he wouldn’t mind Makhachev fighting Oliveira next, Khabib, an ever-present in the #4-ranked lightweight’s corner and training camps, suggested that the promotion has “no choice” but to book his man opposite “Do Bronx” for the Abu Dhabi-held UFC 281 event, which is expected to take place in October.
On Twitter, “The Eagle” reiterated that sentiment, this time pleading his case to a fan. When one individual suggested that Makhachev must be made to go through Dariush first, Khabib responded with a simple, yet effective, eight-word rebuttal.
“but then who will fight for the title”
One man who thinks he has the answer to that question is Michael Chandler. The former Bellator champion returned to the win column this past weekend in some style, knocking out UFC vet Tony Ferguson with a brutal front kick.
Despite sitting a place below Makhachev in the rankings and coming off a victory over the now-#10-ranked lightweight, “Iron” Mike staked his claim for a rematch with Oliveira, whom he lost to at UFC 262 last May.
However, to Khabib’s point, the closest fighter to Oliveira in the rankings whom the Brazilian has not yet defeated is, in fact, Makhachev at #4. Meanwhile, Chandler is ranked at #5 and previously fell to Oliveira last year.
While there’s no confirmation of the promotion’s plans yet, Khabib and Makhachev do have the support of color commentator Joe Rogan, who White said stopped him backstage to urge him to place the Dagestani opposite Oliveira next.
Should Islam Makhachev fight Charles Oliveira for the vacant lightweight title?