We are FINALLY getting clarity in the lightweight division after the absolute train wreck left by Conor McGregor. The UFC has been living in his shadow since he took the belt from Eddie Alvarez in 2016 and we are JUST starting to clean it up. Current champion Khabib Nurmagomedov will face interim champion Dustin Poirier later this year and there will finally be just one belt and a que for title challengers with the only loose end being Tony Ferguson who may not have a belt, but does have a legitimate claim to it. The UFC did not learn their lesson and they are leading the welterweight division down the same path.
There may be no Champ Champ at 170 but they do have two belts and there is no unification on the horizon. While Tyron Woodley was out needing surgery Colby Covington took the interim title with a win over Raphael dos Anjos and was promised a fight with Woodley, but that fight never materialized. What happened instead was the UFC stripping Colby of the belt, which he did not take lightly.
Covington has not stopped carrying his interim title around with him and opening hunted UFC president Dana White down in order to clear the air. It appears they made peace and Colby might (?) be the Interim champion still, but we really don’t know. Colby was sidelined with surgery and Kamaru Usman faced Tyron Woodley instead and won the belt. All signs pointed to a clash between Colby Chaos Covington and Kamaru Usman to see who the true champion of 170 was. Unfortunately for fans something seems to have gone wrong. Usman is taking his turn at surgery and at this point it is unclear if Colby is taking a fight in order to stay busy or if he has lost his title opportunity once again.
Regardless of how you feel about Chaos as a person he has gotten the shaft several times in this situation. He pushes buttons and he is intentionally annoying, but he moves the needle and the UFC have not given him the free reign some of the other fighters have. His situation is very similar to that of Tony Ferguson at lightweight where we have to start asking ourselves just what does it take to get a title shot these days? Colby appears to check all the boxes and it still just isn’t happening. Colby has long said that he is the true 170 champ and he isn’t taking the fight with Lawler to stay busy, but rather because it’s his first title defense. Lawler is a former champion himself and a legend in the sport of MMA and he is a VERY dangerous opponent for Covington. If Covington losses this fight to Lawler that derails his entire claim to the belt. There is drama between him and Usman and the UFC LOVES fights with storylines, but a good story isn’t enough.
Current fan favorite Ben Askren is knocking on the door to a title fight due to his undefeated record and hype entering the UFC as well as his winning personality. It will only take him a win or two to get that title shot. Rafael Dos Anjos is ALWAYS in title contention and just took out rising star Kevin Lee solidifying his spot in the top 5. Leon Edwards is the dark horse of the division quietly riding a 7 fight win streak and is slated to face Dos Anjos in July. Former lightweight Jorge Masvidal has decided to take his title aspirations seriously for the first time in his career and after he demolished former title challenger Darren Till and he has cracked into the top 5 himself. Anthony “Showtime’ Pettis is finding new success after brutally knocking out constant contender Stephen Thompson and just below the top ten are names like Santiago Ponzinibbio, Demian Maia, Neil Magny, Vicente Luque and Elizeu Dos Santos.
The 170 pound division has never been more exciting and full of rising challengers with a legitimate chance to take that belt. Don’t forget former champion Tyron Woodley is only one fight removed from the title after successfully defending it 4 times! All it will take is one slip up and Covington can kiss that unification fight with Usman goodbye and rolling the dice fighting what appears to be a revitalized Robbie Lawler might be the worst…. Or best decision he has ever made. No doubt a win over a quality name like that will place him right back on top of the list clamoring for a chance at gold. Either way… it’s a good time to be a UFC fan.