UFC Auckland: Felder vs Hooker & The Fragmented Lightweight Division

UFC Auckland: Felder vs Hooker & The Fragmented Lightweight Division

By James Lee

As Paul Felder and Dan Hooker prepare to headline this weekend’s event in New Zealand, a cloud of uncertainty follows their future.

The main talking point surrounding a fight should always be the actual contest, however, it is hard in this case to ignore the consequences afterwards, or lack there of in fact.

Usually, a contendership fight like this between the number #6 and #7 ranked fighters in the world would mean something. Maybe even a chance at gold, or at worst, a future fight for the number one contendership spot for the victor.

That will not be the case after Saturday though.

In turn, the lightweight division has become a division of excitement, not one of championship capability for most.
Its congested nature poses a situation where the winner of Hooker/Felder will need at least two or three more wins before they receive an opportunity at undisputed gold, if they are lucky.

In other circumstances, success over top ten fighters would ensure progression, but at 155 lbs, it guarantees little. A top five opponent next is unrealistic, which outlines a multitude of issues that lightweight has at this moment.

One is the aura of Conor McGregor that will forever reign over the top of the division until it is his time to retire. For the sport and viewership, his participation is always welcome, but for those wanting to achieve championship greatness at lightweight, their chances slim significantly when he is active.

Similarly, issues such as that have created problems where Tony Ferguson is on a 12 fight winning streak that stretches over six years and will fight for the undisputed title on April 18th in Brooklyn.

That fight may clear up the top of the pact, but it may worsen it. A win for Ferguson will have three arguing for their shot at the title. Deservingly, at that.

The unforgiving nature has made most refuse to allow somebody a chance at taking their spot. Both Justin Gaethje and Dustin Poirier feel a title fight or what they would deem a super fight with Conor McGregor or Nate Diaz should be next. Neither of them are likely to be willing to give a chance to somebody outside of that bracket for the risk that they will lose their spot and find it significantly more difficult to return.

Whether they have deserved that position or not, it doesn’t bode well for those outside that pact. The key to lightweight success is to take an opportunity, stay there and don’t take a fight unless it guarantees mass money or gold.

A sad state of affairs for arguably the sport’s best division and although the pair will showcase everything positive about the division, the lack of opportunity afterwards is unreflective of the high quality nature they will show.

The potential 25 minutes between two of the sport’s most exciting will go down on Saturday. Somehow though, what could be only described as a inconsequential future will linger greatly over the contest, with implications unlikely for he who is most joyful upon UFC Auckland’s closure.

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