The UFC’s lightweight division is hailed for producing some of the most storied careers and biggest celebrities in mixed martial arts. The 155 lbs division has hosted the most popular fight in the promotion’s history, UFC 229: Khabib vs. McGregor, and today stands as a division rife with talent.
Today’s 155 lbs division is top-heavy, to say the least. At the top resides Charles Oliviera (32-8), who has dispelled the likes of Dustin Poirier (28-7), Michael Chandler (22-7) and Tony Ferguson (25-6). Those vying for the belt beneath Oliviera, beyond Poirier, Chandler and Ferguson, make up a myriad of talent not liken to any other division.
Gaethje, Makhachev, Dariush, Dos Anjos and even McGregor are all floating around the top-10 in this division. This is the wake left by Khabib Nurmagomedov (29-0) who retired in 2020. I could speak at length about the many champion-caliber fighters at the top of this division, Islam Makhachev (22-1) chief among them, however, I will focus on the guys outside of the rankings who are likely to soon be fighting at the top.
All the same, making the UFC roster is an impressive feat in and of itself that many fighters spend their whole careers pursuing. Doing so before exiting your 20s, is even more so, especially in this division. I will focus on relatively younger fighters, prospects, in the 155 lbs division, who I could see causing trouble for the lightweight division, if not taking it over entirely.
Turner (12-5) made his Dana White’s Contender Series debut, and subsequent UFC debut at age 23. His first assignment? Vicente Luque (21-8-1) at welterweight. Oof. Turner (12-5) battled to a 1-2 record in his first three UFC fights. Since then, he has looked like a much more complete fighter.
Do not take Turner’s record at face value. He started young and has only just begun to show what he can do. He’s undefeated in his last four, balancing two second-round knockouts over Joshua Culibao (9-1-1) and Uros Medic (7-1) with two rear-naked chokes over Brok Weaver (16-6) and Jamie Mullarkey (14-5).
I like Turner for his ability to get it done on both his feet and the mat. He has completed takedowns at an 80% clip in his UFC career and has outstruck opponents 198-109 in his last four fights. Turner is a towering lightweight at 6’3, and can descend strikes over his often shorter opponents. Further, he is extremely lanky, and as such very difficult to roll with.
Google “Ignacio Bahamondes knockout,” watch that clip, a few times if you have to, and then return to this column. The thumbnail of Bahamondes (13-4) kicking Roosevelt Roberts (11-3) is justification enough to get excited about the 24-year-old Chilean.
Bahamondes puts on a striking master class every time he steps into the Octagon. He has two flatline knockouts in UFC-sanctioned fights by head kicks alone. Ignacio is a walking highlight-reel, and has a submission win to boot most recently over Zhu Rong. His sole loss was a split decision loss to John Makdessi (18-7).
Let’s keep the South American prospects going with Peru’s Puelles (11-2). Puelles has been in the UFC since his 2016 debut at age 20. Now 26, Puelles is 4-1 in the MMA’s top promotion and is on a four fight win streak over three years.
Puelles has been lurking in the division for a little while now but increased his activity last year winning twice over Jordan Leavitt (10-1) and Chris Gruetzemacher (15-5). He takes on lightweight stalwart Clay Guida this Saturday.
Puelles has not one, but two third-round kneebar submissions to match his two unanimous decision victories in the UFC. He clearly has a deep gas tank, and, should he keep Guida’s strikes at bay, can continue to climb toward the 155 lbs rankings.
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