5 Lightweight Contenders in 2015
Who do you think will become the next UFC LW champion?
#5 "Ragin" Al Iaquinta
One of the best prospects to come out of The Ultimate Fighter: Live season, "Ragin" Al Iaquinta has established himself as a solid Top 15 LW fighter. Coming in at #13 at the LW rankings, Iaquinta is on a 4 Fight Win Streak including TKOs over veterans Joe Lauzon and Ross Pearson. His most recent win a Split Decision over another Top 15 opponent, Jorge Masvidal. His next bout scheduled was with #11 ranked Bobby Green but with Green pulling out to injury, Iaquinta gets a huge step-up with a fight replacement of Gilbert Melendez who is #5 in the UFC's LW Rankings. A win over Gilbert Melendez will surely propel "Ragin" Al into the Top 10 and surely only a fight or two away from earning a title shot at 155.
#4 Tony "El Cucuy" Ferguson
Another TUF alumni, Tony Ferguson won season 13 of The Ultimate Fighter with a win over Ramsey Nijem. Since then, Ferguson has compiled an impressive run in the Lightweight division suffering only one loss to other top contender Michael Johnson. Ferguson is on a 6 fight win streak, with only one of those fights not being finished. Ferguson latest win was at UFC on Fox: Chicago where Ferguson handily beat Josh Thompson in an excellent showing where he bloodied Thompson up and even came close to finishing him a couple times within the 3 rounds. After claiming his 6th win a row "El Cucuy" finally cracks the LW Top 10 rankings coming in at #9. With #7 Barboza also claiming a win at UFC Chicago, a fight between these two may be in the works next to see who finally find themselves in the Top 5 of one of the deepest divisions in the UFC.
#3 Michael "The Menace" Johnson
After suffering a few losses in his first 2 to 3 years in the UFC, Michael Johnson has rebounded tremendously following his 2 fight loss streak from 2012/2013. Starting late 2013, Michael Johnson has found his footing in the UFC's lightweight division picking up a four fight win streak with wins over Joe Lauzon, Gleison Tibau, Melvin Guillard and Edson Barboza. After campaigning for a fight against former title-holder Benson Henderson, Michael Johnson coming in at #6 in the LW Rankings takes on rising star Beneil Daruish. Dariush while not ranked in the Top 15 is a solid and dangerous fight for Johnson who is looking to work towards a title shot. A win over Daruish is necessary for Johnson to keep his name in the contender talk and potentially gaining a #1 contender fight with another Top 5 opponent if he is the winner against Daruish. In a fight which Johnson has a lot to lose, he needs to keep his momentum of his current streak in this tricky fight against this lightweight prospect.
#2 Eddie Alvarez
For Bellator LW Champion, who is known for the amazing trilogy he had with Michael Chandler, is looking to make a big impact in the UFC's LW division and prove himself amongst the best of the best. Coming in at #4 in the UFC's LW rankings, Alvarez quickly rebounded from his debut loss to #1 Contender Donald Cerrone with a split decision win over former contender Gilbert Melendez at UFC 188. With Donald Cerrone in line to fight Rafael Dos Anjos next, Alvarez is likely to find himself in a number one contender bout next. With Khabib Nurmogomedov set to come back from injury, a fight between the two is likely or perhaps Michael Johnson if he gets past Beniel Daruish. A win over either of them will put Alvarez in prime position to take on the champion and a shot at becoming the champ in the prime organization in the world.
#1 Khabib Nurmagomedov
The man from Dagestan, who many believed was going to be the one to end Pettis' reign before Rafael Dos Anjos beat Pettis at 188; has found himself battling many injuries for the past year, his last bout being a win over now champion, Rafael Dos Anjos in April 2014. Khabib was originally scheduled to return at UFC 187 to fight Donald Cerrone in a number one contender bout but was side-lined once against with injury for a few months. Despite injury setbacks, many believe Khabib is going to claim the title, with his impressive wrestling and with his one-sided decision win over the current champ. Upon his return Khabib will most likely find himself in a number one contender bout. Depending on when he returns a bout with Eddie Alvarez is most likely, or perhaps Anthony Pettis who is out with injury similarily as Khabib and much of the heated talk while Pettis was champ still leaves business to be resolved. His return to the octagon, hopefully near the end of 2015 is highly anticipated and could bring a further shake-up of the UFC's LW division.