How is the Lightweight Title picture going to play out now that Eddie Alvarez edged past Anthony Pettis? Give your scenarios for if RDA beats McGregor, and if the reverse happens.
MICHAEL BANE, MMATORCH CONTRIBUTOR
I was all for the winner of Eddie Alvarez vs. Anthony Pettis getting the next title shot at lightweight, but then the actual fight happened. With Alvarez’s less-than-inspiring victory over Pettis, I’d much rather see him in a number one contenders fight now to earn a title shot. With the Lightweight belt being defended in two months, the timing of this works out decently well anyway.
For the record, I did score the fight for Alvarez, despite my early prediction that Pettis would win. It’s a debatable result, for certain, and somehow a split decision win for either guy felt like the right call. Alvarez did enough to win in the eyes of those that mattered, but he wasn’t convincing in any meaningful aspect of his win. The perfect fight to make right now is to match him up with Tony Ferguson, a man on a remarkable seven fight win streak. Many have clamored for Ferguson to get the next title shot, particularly off the strength of his stellar bout against Edson Barboza. A win over the perennially exciting but ultimate non-contender Barboza does not a title challenger make. Ferguson is still missing that signature win over a big name opponent on his fight resume, and a victory the new number one ranked contender Alvarez would more than justify him in a title fight.
Alvarez is the number one contender, according to the UFC rankings, but his arguable split decision victories over Pettis and Gilbert Melendez don’t leave me very excited about seeing him in a title shot. There isn’t a true obvious candidate at 155 pounds to challenge for the belt after McGregor. We’ve already went over why Alvarez and Ferguson aren’t great candidates, and the rest of the lightweight field gives us more of the same. Khabib Nurmagomedov has been out too long, Pettis just lost. Donald Cerrone just lost to the champ. Nate Diaz shouldn’t be considered for a title shot yet. Michael Johnson just lost. Beneil Dariush likely needs another two wins. We round out the top ten with the aforementioned Barboza and Al Iaquinta. No one’s jumping out here, which makes everyone taking another fight a great idea. Nurmagomedov called out for a fight against Alvarez recently, and that would also make sense, although I’d prefer rewarding Ferguson with an obvious step toward a title shot given his recent run.
It’s hard to predict what will happen if Rafael dos Anjos beats Conor McGregor. It depends on whether or not the UFC wants to set up a contender bout, and also how soon RDA wants to fight again. If they find a marketable fight between him and Alvarez, the UFC could ultimately decide to go that route. Alvarez may match up better than Pettis did against dos Anjos. While his offense isn’t nearly as proficient or explosive, his grind it out style and forward aggression may keep him from being overwhelmed by the champ like Pettis and Cerrone were. Styles do make fights, and Alvarez’s ability to absorb stupid amounts of damage and convince judge he won rounds may make for a competitive scrap.
If McGregor wins, it’s almost certain that the UFC faces two top lightweights off against each other for a shot at the belt. McGregor’s already indicated he’ll be defending his Featherweight belt after he fights dos Anjos, leaving plenty of time for a contender fight if he takes the 155 pound crown as well. Pettis losing his last fight really was a shame, as watching him take on McGregor for a title would have been an explosive standup affair. Somewhat off topic, though, has there ever been a better time for Jose Also vs. Pettis? Pettis can win at lightweight, but he’s probably coming to the realization that almost everyone he fights is going to try to back him up, keep him on his heels, and take him down. Yes, he can win, but he might find the slightly smaller fighters of the Featherweight division a more surmountable task. Pettis drops to 145 pounds to fight Aldo, with the winner getting a shot at the Featherweight title (hopefully McGregor, sorry Frankie) in December/January. I’d love to see Pettis vs. McGregor, and a rematch against Aldo for longer than 13 seconds has definite appeal as well. Despite the two both coming off of losses, it’s a fantastic fight to make due to fight styles, and the second biggest one you could make at 145 pounds at the moment. See what McGregor did? He got me talking about the featherweight division in a question about the lightweight championship. Everything he touches is elevated right now, and if he beats dos Anjos, well, we might just have to make every Roundtable question about him going forward.
RICH HANSEN, MMATORCH COLUMNIST
First of all, let’s hope this was the last fight on Alvarez’s contract and that Bjorn Rebney opens a new MMA promotion and repeats history by signing Alvarez. That gets his should-be-winless-in-the-UFC, wall-and-stalling ass out of the way. But I’m not bitter or anything.
Alvarez beating Pettis, in the manner that he beat him, really screws up the title picture at 155 lbs. Had Alvarez not been scared of Pettis and won the fight while actually, you know, fighting, then he’s getting the winner of dos Anjos vs. McGregor. Of course, if McGregor beats dos Anjos, and if he then fights at 145 lbs, that would be a year out, so who the f*** knows what’s going to happen anyhow?
So let’s run the numbers twice. First if dos Anjos wins in March; second if McGregor wins.
If dos Anjos wins in March, then he’s probably going to defend his belt in late summer or early fall. It wouldn’t shock me if they let him headline in Brazistol on pay-per-view. Word on the street is that the UFC is going to run another pay-per-view down there in September or October. Alvarez wants a title shot and says he’s willing to wait for it. I think the way he beat Pettis negates all of the juice that just beating Pettis afforded him. In other words, he’s no closer to a title fight than he was a week ago.
Tony Ferguson, Khabib Nurmagomedov, and Nate Diaz are the only other guys who could claim the right to fight next for the title. In a just world, Diaz is out because his resume doesn’t support the shot. Nurmagomedov holds a win over the champion, but he hasn’t fought since 2009 (give or take), so he’s out. At this point, it comes down to Ferguson or Alvarez next, and I’m giving it to Ferguson. He’d be a major underdog to dos Anjos, but that’s how they would like to schedule their champion if in fact he defends his title in Brazistol. Then you book Diaz, Nurmagomedov, Alvarez, and Pettis in any combination, and figure it out from there.
Now, if McGregor wins over dos Anjos in March, and if he stops ducking Frankie Edgar, and if his next fight after this hypothetical Edgar fight is at 155 lbs, that would be the best thing for the UFC, because then they have time to pit Ferguson and Alvarez against one another to determine the next contender. Or Nurmagomedov, or Diaz, whatever. You get the point. If I had all the answers Joe Silva would be selling insurance, okay?
FRANK HYDEN, MMATORCH CONTRIBUTOR
This was another decision I didn’t agree with, as I thought Pettis did more during that fight. It wasn’t a great fight by any means, but I thought Pettis won. Before this fight, I thought Tony Ferguson should get the next title shot, and I still feel that way. I think he’s got a much stronger case. If Rafael dos Anjos wins, he should fight Tony Ferguson. If Conor McGregor wins, he should fight Tony Ferguson. I think Alvarez is still another win away from a title shot. This is especially true given the nature of his win over Pettis. It was a lackluster win, certainly nothing that would give you any thought of him beating RDA or McGregor. If you’re going to jump past a guy with a longer winning streak, you need to have an impressive win, not a dull and plodding one.
BRAD WALKER MMATORCH COLUMNIST
Well, the Lightweight Title picture looks an awful lot like the Featherweight Title picture. You’ve got Dos Anjos at the top appearing to be untouchable, then somewhere in the mix is Alvarez and Melendez and Nurgomedov. And for some reason here we have Conor McGregor screwing up rankings, but hey, at least we get a super fight knahmsayin?
If RDA gets hammered by Conor then we probably see Conor defend the featherweight belt against Edgar before defending the Lightweight belt against (insert rotatable name here). If we get a close fight to the end we get a rematch and make these two even richer than they already will be. If RDA smokes McGregor then we get RDA vs Alvarez.
There’s a lot of situations to shake out if McGregor wins this fight and becomes a two division champion simultaneously. Big Daddy Dana wouldn’t let anyone else do it – despite some previously having been much more qualified and decorated. If RDA wins we get Alvarez a title shot. If McGregor wins we probably don’t. If I’m Eddie Alvarez I’m rooting for the Brazilian to crush the Irishman and keep him at his home weight class.
DAYNE FOX, MMATORCH CONTRIBUTOR
Damn you Eddie Alvarez! You just have to go and throw a wrench into everything. Joking aside, I kind of like the way things are shaping out. Pettis was angling for another title shot with a win over Alvarez, and I felt he needed to do more to earn that as there are a number of viable contenders at lightweight. With him out of the picture for title shots for the next year or two, fresh faces in the title picture seems to be guaranteed.
Alvarez called for a title shot himself after the fight, but he doesn’t deserve it either. Yes, he has two wins over two of the best lightweights in recent history in Pettis and Gilbert Melendez. But he can’t call them definitive wins as they were razor thin decisions that really could have gone either way. So how about putting him in a fight with Tony Ferguson? Ferguson has won seven straight without ever really having any of his fights in question as he has been dominant in them all. The winner gets the next shot at whoever emerges victorious between RDA and McGregor. It shouldn’t matter who emerges victorious out of March’s title fight at this point, the winner of Alvarez and Ferguson should get next.
Khabib Nurmagomedov wants to interject himself into the picture as well, but it appears it will have been at least a full two years between appearances. Rather than give him a contender, I’d give him a warm up against whoever ranked between 6-15 is willing to attempt to leapfrog him into contention.I can see Dustin Poirier being willing to take that chance, but I don’t see him being successful.
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