Charles Oliveira splitting his face open last week created a multitude of problems.
The most obvious of which was that UFC Lightweight kingpin Islam Makhachev was left without an opponent for the main event of UFC 294, which is scheduled this weekend (Sat. Oct., 21, 2023) from Abu Dhabi. Fortunately, Featherweight champion Alexander Volkanovski stepped in on short-notice, eliminating that issue and leaving us with a stellar main event.
How does the rest of the Lightweight division move forward, however? Prior to Oliveira’s injury, there was a clear consensus. The Brazilian was next up for a shot at Makhachev, then BMF belt holder Justin Gaethje was on deck, credit to his stunning high kick KO over Dustin Poirier.
Now, we have two Lightweights who deserve an opportunity at gold but just one champion. Fortunately, Islam Makhachev has the solution, and it involves both putting their win streaks on the line for a shot at his title.
“I’m pretty sure that after this fight, there’s already two definite opponents that are ready for a fight with me,” Makhachev during the UFC 294 media day (via MMAJunkie). “I think the two of them should fight each other so we have an actual No. 1 contender for the belt.”
Hopefully Makhachev’s pre-fight planning doesn’t mean he’s overlooking Volkanovski!
Oliveira and Gaethje fought previously at UFC 274 in May 2022, with Oliveira scoring an early submission win in a thrilling fight. The two squaring off would certainly result in a clear-cut contender, but since both have already earned a shot, it could take some convincing for either to gamble it away. If Volkanovski is victorious and a trilogy becomes necessary, that could also logjam the Lightweight title picture for a significant period of time.
That’s a potentially big issue for up-and-coming Lightweights tired of the old guard.
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