Monday, June 17, 2024

UFC 302 fight fallout: Islam Makhachev vs. Arman Tsarukyan up next, Dustin Poirier’s future

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Islam Makhachev is on the verge of a record-setting accomplishment after defeating Dustin Poirier in a bloody fight at UFC 302. It was an important step for the champion’s legacy and a crushing defeat for a challenger making his final rally. Makhachev can now attempt to break the UFC lightweight title record or become a two-division champion.

Makhachev’s willingness to strike and Poirier’s improved grappling defense made for a thrilling main event in Newark, New Jersey on Saturday. Makhachev tied BJ Penn, Frankie Edgar, Benson Henderson and mentor Kahbib Nurmagomedov with three successful title defenses. Makhachev’s career is at an all-time high while Poirier, who teased retirement, looks to be on the way out.

Let’s take a look at the best fights to make after Makhachev vs. Poirier and Sean Strickland vs. Paulo Costa.


Islam Makhachev vs. Arman Tsarukyan: Makhachev and I have different priorities. Makachev announced post-fight he wanted to challenge for the UFC welterweight title. Leon Edwards holds the 170-pound title and defends it against Belal Muhammad at UFC 304 on July 27. I prefer to see Makhachev pursue a record-breaking fourth UFC lightweight title defense against the most deserving challenger. Tsarukyan is rightfully ranked No. 1 in the UFC’s lightweight rankings after beating Charles Oliveira at UFC 300. Tsarukyan wisely declined to fight Makhachev on six weeks’ notice but he should be next in line. UFC president Dana White told reporters at the UFC 302 press conference that while he’s open to having Makhachev fill in should Muhammad get injured, Makhachev vs. Tsarukyan is the fight to make.

Dustin Poirier vs. Charles Oliveira 2: Candidly, I would like to see Poirier retire. “The Diamond” has nothing to prove and is one of the rare non-undisputed champions who legitimately deserves a spot in the UFC Hall of Fame. Poirier made it clear he won’t climb the ladder again and isn’t interested in a fourth Conor McGregor fight. That doesn’t leave much for him. If he does return, it’d be interesting to see how his improved grappling defense holds up in a rematch against Oliveira.


Sean Strickland vs. Robert Whittaker or Khamzat Chimaev: Strickland wants to fight for the UFC middleweight title, but his performance on Saturday won’t move the needle. It was decisive but far from entertaining. UFC president Dana White previously announced Whittaker vs. Chimaev as a title eliminator. There’s also an expectation that Dricus du Plessis will defend the title against Israel Adesanya next. That creates a logjam. Strickland’s best bet would be to fight the loser of Whittaker vs. Chimaev to make his claim to the title undeniable.

Paulo Costa vs. Jared Cannonier or Nassourdine Imavov: Do not let the split decision result fool you, Costa lost that fight. He’s currently ranked No. 7 in the UFC’s official middleweight rankings. Cannonier (No. 4) and Imavov (No. 8) will headline UFC Fight Night next Saturday. Pairing Costa with the loser of that fight makes sense in terms of timing, momentum and rankings.

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