Now that Charles Oliveira has rid himself of both Dustin Poirier and Justin Gaethje, along with former Bellator MMA champion Michael Chandler, the beltless Brazilian can set his sights on cleaning out the rest of the lightweight contender pool.
While reclaiming his lost crown in the process.
At the top of the list are a pair of worthy lightweight title hopefuls in the form of Islam Makhachev and Beneil Dariush. The Dagestani bruiser, currently ranked No. 3 at 155 pounds, is the winner of 10 straight with six nasty finishes.
As for Dariush, who recently defeated former interim champion Tony Ferguson to capture his seventh straight, he’s ranked one spot below Chandler at No. 6. Four of those seven victories have come by way of knockout or submission.
Not surprisingly, former champion Khabib Nurmagomedov has been campaigning for his fellow countryman but it appears his influence with promotion president Dana White will not be a factor in the final decision, for better or worse.
“Honestly this is first time since we [last] talk [with] each other he don’t respond,” Nurmagomedov told ESPN. “I send a message like, ‘No way some other guy have to fight for the title.’ I said something like similar message but he don’t respond. I think he was busy maybe. This first time. It’s okay, everybody make mistake.”
Makhachev and Dariush were expected to collide for the top spot in the lightweight title chase last February; however, Dariush got injured and was replaced by Bobby Green. Makhachev went on to win that fight by way of first-round technical knockout.
“If you wanna come back after injury, fight with someone like top guys, then fight for the title,” Nurmagomedov said. “Beneil have to fight contender fight, Islam have to fight for the title versus Charles Oliveira. This is my opinion. This is fair. 11 win streak vs. 10 win streak, Let them fight.”
A decision on Oliveira’s next opponent is expected within the next few weeks.