UFC Lightweight Division: Results, Ranking, History, Fighters to Watch



UFC Lightweight Division: Results, Ranking, History, Fighters to Watch

Regardless of what you think of the UFC lightweight division's current state, there is no doubt that this weight class has featured some of the most talented MMA fighters of all time. From BJ Penn to Khabib Nurmagomedov, many of the most prolific practitioners of the UFC all hail from this division. 

Read on for everything related to the UFC lightweight division, including its history, fighters to watch out for, their rankings, and much more. If you are a fan of the current lineup of UFC lightweight fighters, or new to the sport, we have everything you need to know.

Current State of the UFC Lightweight Division Explained

It would come as no surprise to say that the UFC lightweight division has lost some of its steam over the past few years. Since Khabib’s retirement in 2021, fans of MMA have been struggling to fully invest themselves in the weight class in a meaningful way.

Islam Makhachev is the only fighter who is keeping the division alive. However, when there is little to no competition to his title reign, it is hard to be excited about what may happen next. The current roster of UFC lightweight fighters does not pose much of a challenge to him and will likely be beaten if they contest him for his belt.

Additionally, the division is not as youthful as it once was. Fighters like Charles Oliveira, Justin Gaethje, and Dustin Poirier, are all in their mid-thirties, meaning they are all close to retiring. There haven’t been any notable young talents making waves in the division either. Given these factors, MMA fans have moved on to other dynamic divisions with more heated rivalries. 

Recent UFC Lightweight Results

  • Dustin Poirier vs Benoit Saint-Denis (UFC 299) – Poirier won via KO

This lightweight war between Dustin Poirier was one of the most thrilling fights we've seen in some time. Poieire weathered the storm in round 1 and delivered an iconic knockout against Saint-Denis. With the win, Poirier secured himself a title shot against the current champion (more on that in a moment).

  • Justin Gaethje vs Max Holloway (UFC 300) – Holloway won via KO

This fight for the “BMF” title between Gaethje and Holloway delivered and then some. With 10 seconds left in the fight, Holloway — who was already winning by a wide margin — pointed to the center of the octagon and exchanges reckless fists with Gaethje. With one second remaining, Holloway knocked Gaethje one in what might be the most iconic knockout in UFC history.

  • Charles Oliveira vs Arman Tsarukyan (UFC 300) – Tsarukyan won via split decision

Another UFC 300 fight that lived up to the hype was the bout between Oliveira and Tsarukyan. Despite Tsarukyan being in big trouble in the first round, he gutted it out and secured an impressive win over the former lightweight champion. Now Tsarukyan is in a prime position to fight for a title very soon.

Upcoming UFC Lightweight Division Fights

The biggest lightweight fight that's taking place is the highly anticipated return of Islam Makhachev, where he will fight against Dustin Poirier at UFC 302:

  • Islam Makhachev vs Dustin Poirier (UFC 302)
  • Justin Gaethje vs Max Holloway (UFC 300)
  • Charles Oliveira vs Arman Tsarukyan (UFC 300)

While Makhachev might be the UFC's most dominant champion, many fans are thrilled to see Poirier earn another shot at his belt. And what's most impressive is that Poirier recently fought, but is stepping up for this massive opportunity.

Who is the Current UFC Lightweight Champion?

Islam Makhachev is the current UFC Lightweight Champion and the poster boy of the division. Makhachev made his debut for the UFC in 2014. He has a career record of 25-1-0, where he won 5 bouts with a KO and 11 with submissions. 

Hailing from Russia, Islam Makhachev quickly proved that he is one of the best pound-for-pound MMA fighters in the world. He won the UFC Lightweight Championship after beating Charles Oliveira at UFC 280 on October 22, 2022. The fight was decisively in his favor as he made the BJJ specialist submit in the second round of the bout with an arm triangle.

Makhachev would then go on to defend his title twice against Alexander Volkanovski, where he won the first match via unanimous decision and the second with an incredible head kick knockout in the first round.

Makhachev is one of the best all-round fighters in the UFC right now. He has excellent striking power and knows how to mix things up to keep his opponents guessing. Moreover, critics credit him for his equally impressive ground game.

Fans of MMA also gravitate toward him due to his humble yet ruthless nature, making Islam Makhachev one of the most respected athletes in the UFC. Did we mention that he’s also a very close friend of Khabib? 

UFC Lightweight Rankings in 2024

While many fighters want to make their name in MMA, here are the top 15 best UFC lightweight fighters that are currently actively competing:

Champion: Islam Makhachev

  1. Arman Tsarukyan
  2. Charles Oliveira
  3. Justin Gaethje
  4. Dustin Poirier
  5. Mateusz Gamrot
  6. Beneil Dariush
  7. Michael Chandler
  8. Rafael Fiziev
  9. Max Holloway
  10. Renato Moicano
  11. Dan Hooker
  12. Jalin Turner
  13. Benoît Saint-Denis
  14. Rafael Dos Anjos
  15. Bobby Green

This list has been taken directly from the UFC lightweight ranking board. 

There has been a lot of movement recently, as Tsarukyan was 5th prior to his UFC 300 performance. Many fans are confused why Max Holloway is so low on the new rankings, considering that he knockout out Gaethje, who is currently holding the #3 spot.

Fighters to Watch in the UFC Lightweight Division

Though many fighters in the UFC lightweight division are indeed nearing retirement age, there are still many faces that have that “it” factor to them apart from the names we already love. So, here are some fighters that you will likely hear more about in the upcoming years:

1. Arman “Ahalkalakets” Tsarukyan

At age 27, Arman Tsarukyan has proved to the world that he is one of the top UFC lightweight fighters to watch. He currently has a record of 21-3-0, with 9 wins coming from knockouts and 5 from submissions. However, his true test awaits him on UFC 300 as he is set to take on Charles Oliveira, one of the best fighters in the division.

Critics have been split between the two fighters as many have sided with Arman Tsarukyan due to his elite wrestling techniques and technical striking prowess. Guess we will see who comes out on top on April 13!

2. Benoit “God of War” Saint-Denis

Being dubbed as one of the most dangerous people by Joe Rogan himself is no small credit. Benoit Saint-Denis is a fighting machine with a record of 13-1-0, with his only loss coming in a welterweight match which is not his natural weight class.

After he moved to the lightweight division, there has not been a single person who was able to stop him yet. His fight with the experienced Dustin Poirier is set for March 9, 2024, and will undoubtedly be a proof of concept for the God of War. 

3. Usman Nurmagomedov

With a record of 17-0-0, Usman Nurmagomedov is already being referred to as Khabib 2.0! At only 25 years of age, the young Russian is already a serious contender for the division title.

However, there has been some controversy surrounding him as a prohibited substance was found during a drug test which has suspended him from competing for six months. But despite public perception, we cannot wait for Usman to return to the Octagon and see whether he can hold on to his incredible undefeated streak.

History of the UFC Lightweight Division

We don’t think it would be a stretch to say that the UFC lightweight division has taken the brand and sport to new heights. With fighters like Conor McGregor, Khabib Nurmagomedov, BJ Penn, Benson Henderson, and Frankie Edgar, all dawning the coveted championship belt around their hips, it is through their contribution that the UFC is now heralded as one of the greatest sports brands in the world. 

This was not always the case though as the success of the UFC’s lightweight division comes from troubled beginnings. You may be surprised to know that the UFC lightweight division was initially the bantamweight class.

After some restructuring, the 146 to 155 lb weight class was later given its own category, thus giving birth to the UFC lightweight division. This is what makes Jens Pulver such a legend as he went on to claim the championship in UFC 30 and began his undefeated journey until he was forced to vacate the title over contract disputes. 

After Jens Pulver left, a four-man tournament featuring BJ Penn, Caol Uno, Matt Serra, and Din Thomas was held to determine a new champion at UFC 41. Unfortunately, the result of the final match was a draw, meaning no new champion was crowned that night. This caused the division to struggle greatly as it did not meet the expectations of the fans or the UFC. The company would then put the division and the title on ice until UFC 58. 

Sean Sherk was the first person to claim the vacated lightweight title after Jens Pulver but would not hold on to it for long as he tested positive for steroid use. By this time, several fighters were ready to make their mark in the UFC which led to the beginning of the golden era of the lightweight division.

Fighters like Frankie Edgar, Benson Henderson, Anthony Pettis, BJ Penn, and Rafael Dos Anjos (RDA), were the reigning kings of the UFC lightweight from 2008 to 2016. People from all across the world would tune in to see the intense rivalries between these men. And who can ever forget Anthony Pettis’ “Showtime Kick” on the head of Benson Henderson?

During this period, one man was slowly making his way up the ladder of the UFC. Having already won the UFC Featherweight Championship, on November 12, 2016, Conor McGregor made his face known to the lightweight division when he knocked out Eddie Alvarez in round two to become a two-division champion. 

Thus, began the era of the brash, loud-mouthed Conor McGregor, who not only could talk a lot but also back it up. By the time he beat Eddie, he already had a record of 21-3-0 before the fight. His rivalries with Jose Aldo and Nate Diaz are known worldwide. However, his biggest challenge didn’t come until October 6, 2018, when he squared off against arguably the best UFC fighter in the world – Khabib Nurmagomedov. 

Conor did not hold on to the UFC Lightweight Championship for long as he was stripped from it due to inactivity in 2018. Khabib took the opportunity to claim the vacant title by beating Al Iaquinta via unanimous decision. Taking notice of Khabib’s rising stardom, Conor made it a point to go after his belt in the most dramatic fashion possible, which led to one of the most heated clashes in UFC lightweight history! Though Conor usually backs up his words, his opponent proved to be way too much for him to handle at UFC 229. 

After successfully defending his belt and putting Conor in his place, Khabib cemented himself as the champ who cannot be bested. But due to the nature of his clash with Conor, Khabib was eventually suspended and Dustin Poirier became the interim UFC Lightweight Champion.

When Khabib returned, he beat and reclaimed his title from Dustin and then also defended his title against Justin Gaethje. Khabib then retired with a perfect record of 29-0-0, which should tell you everything you need to know about how unstoppable Khabib Nurmagomedov was in the Octagon. 

UFC Lightweight FAQs

Who is the UFC Lightweight Champion?

Islam Makhachev is the current UFC Lightweight Champion at the time of writing. He won the title from Charles Oliveira at UFC 280 and defended it twice against Alexander Volkanovski.

What is the Weight Limit in UFC Lightweight?

The UFC Lightweight division consists of fighters at 155 lbs, or 77 kg. 

Who is the Best UFC Lightweight Fighter Ever?

Khabib Nurmagomedov is the best ever UFC lightweight fighter. He is undoubtedly one of the best UFC fighters of all time, period. Khabib has a perfect record of 29-0-0, where 8 of his wins came from knockouts and 9 from submissions. 

Bren Gray is our resident Kiwi, and has been writing about sports since he could first string words together. He first fell in love with boxing when David Tua took on Lennox Lewis in 2000, and hasn't looked back since.