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UFC: Dustin Poirier and Charles Oliveira handed stern tests against rising contenders

UFC: Dustin Poirier and Charles Oliveira handed stern tests against rising contenders

Former lightweight champions Dustin Poirier and Charles Oliveira have been booked against rising contenders Benoit Saint-Denis and Arman Tsarukyan at UFC 299 and 300, respectively.

Poirier, a former interim champion in the division, will face Saint-Denis in a five-round co-main event at UFC 299 on 9 March. Then, at UFC 300 on 13 April, former undisputed champion Oliveira will fight Tsarukyan in a No 1 contender’s bout.

American Poirier, 34, last fought in July, suffering a head-kick knockout against Justin Gaethje – another former interim champion at 155lbs – while Saint-Denis is on a five-fight win streak. The Frenchman, 28, won all of those fights with finishes inside two rounds.

Oliveira, 34, and Tsarukyan, 27, both stopped Beneil Dariush in their most recent fights, with Oliveira beating Dariush in June and Tsarukyan doing so in December.

Oliveira’s win over Dariush saw him bounce back from a loss to Islam Makhachev, who submitted him the Brazilian in 2022 to win the vacant lightweight title. Tsarukyan’s UFC debut came against Makhachev in 2019, with the Armenian-Russian losing a narrow decision.

The winner of Oliveira vs Tsarukyan will challenge Makhachev for the lightweight title “this summer”, according to UFC president Dana White, once the champion has recovered from injury.

Oliveira was due for a rematch with Makhachev in October but suffered a severe cut over his eye, leading Alexander Volkanovski to step in on short notice. Makhachev knocked out Volkanovski in round one, sealing his second straight win over the featherweight champion, whom he outpointed in February.

Oliveira previously held the lightweight belt from 2021 until 2022, knocking out Michael Chandler to win the gold after Khabib Nurmagomedov relinquished it upon his retirement from MMA. Oliveira then submitted Poirier to retain the title, before submitting Gaethje one day after being stripped of the belt for missing weight.

In his next fight, the Brazilian was beaten by Makhachev – a protege and childhood friend of Khabib.

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