After a summer that included just one main event featuring lightweights, UFC heads into a stretch in which 155ers top three of the next four events, including a title fight rematch serving as the exclamation point. Granted, the sole summer lightweight headliner was the BMF title fight between Justin Gaethje and Dustin Poirier, a fight nobody will forget soon due to Gaethje’s stunning head kick finish. The summer also saw Charles Oliveira cement his case as a Top-2 lightweight in the world with his first-round steamrolling of Beneil Dariush at UFC 289 in Vancouver, which earned him a second crack at champion Islam Makhachev.
Before “Do Bronx” shoots for gold once again, though, UFC shifts the spotlight a little further down the division’s rankings for a pair of five-round fights that’ll certainly carry weight as the months roll along.
First, a pair on the edge of title contention lock horns in the UFC APEX when Rafael Fiziev and Matuesz Gamrot do battle. Both recently dropped bids to move into the Top 5. Fiziev went to battle with Gaethje in London, and while they both won Fight of the Night honors (Fiziev’s sixth consecutive performance bonus), the judges ultimately gave the nod to the BMF title holder. Gamrot, on the other hand, fell to Dariush via decision in Abu Dhabi before bouncing back with a hard-fought split decision over Jalin Turner the same month Fiziev fell to Gaethje.
Fiziev-Gamrot shapes up to a classic striker-vs-grappler matchup. Gamrot averages 4.5 takedowns per 15 minutes, but Fiziev’s takedown defense ranks fourth all-time among lightweights at a 90 percent clip, and has earned eight of his 12 professional wins via knockout. The winner of this fight will likely get another chance to catapult themselves into the title picture, so the stakes are critical as the title goes up for grabs weeks later.
Smack in the middle of Fiziev-Gamrot and UFC 294 is a main event between the surging Grant Dawson and veteran fan-favorite Bobby Green. Dawson, who is unbeaten through nine UFC fights, seems to have rounded into form since moving up to lightweight in March 2021. A mauling-style grappler with slick jiu jitsu, Dawson has made a habit of earning rear naked choke submissions (four of his eight UFC wins came via rear naked choke).
He faces a solid test for his first five-round fight in Green, a 46-fight veteran who has faced the toughest in the division since joining the roster from Strikeforce in 2013. Green most recently earned a last-second submission win over former interim lightweight champion Tony Ferguson and headlined a fight night in February 2022 against Makhachev.
While the winner of that fight won’t challenge for the belt in the next few months, it’s a crucial fight for Dawson’s championship aspirations. A win over Green, while maybe not a Top-10 win, is a result he needs in order to fight his peers in the rankings and prove he’s ready to make that leap to top-billing.
Of course, everyone previously mentioned is chasing Makhachev and Oliveira. Their rematch comes almost a year-to-the-date of their initial meeting in Abu Dhabi when Makhachev’s submitted the Brazilian to claim the vacant title.
Since then, they’ve fought once each. Makhachev outdueled Alexander Volkanovski in Australia as “The Great” made his bid for double-champ status, showing excellent striking and championship grit along the way.
Oliveira, on the other hand, steamrolled Dariush in Vancouver, further substantiating his claims that the first fight against Makhachev was simply an “off night” for “Do Bronx.”
In a month’s time, the lightweight division could look completely different or, at the very least, have plenty of clarity. Gaethje waits in the wings for whoever walks away from Abu Dhabi with the strap, as does Volkanovski, who has been clear in his intention to go for the lightweight belt once again in the near future.
Lightweight has been the defining weight class for the UFC in the last few years, and as things are set up right now, there is no reason to see that changing any time soon.
UFC Fight Night: Fiziev vs Gamrot took live from the UFC APEX in Las Vegas, Nevada on September 23, 2023. See the Final Results, Official Scorecards and Who Won Bonuses - and relive the action on UFC Fight Pass!