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UFC Fight Pass Flashback: Vacant title fights

Ahead of next month's UFC 280, which features a fight for the UFC's vacant lightweight title, take a look at prior bouts for vacant belts.

On October 22, former lightweight champion Charles Oliveira meets Islam Makhachev in UFC 280's main event live from Abu Dhabi. They will compete for the vacant lightweight title stripped from Oliveira after he failed to weigh-in at, or under, the 155-pound limit prior to his bout against Justin Gaethje in May.

As we approach a month away from the highly anticipated bout, we break down several pivotal vacant title fights, some of which have led to eras regarded as the most revered championship reigns the UFC has seen.

Matt Hughes vs. Georges St-Pierre

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On October 22, 2004, Matt Hughes and Georges St-Pierre fought to determine the fifth UFC welterweight champion, a title left vacant by BJ Penn. Hughes reclaimed the title of champion, which he had previously held for 820 days with five title defenses, which he preserved for another 757 days across two title defenses. At welterweight, Matt Hughes's combined reigns lasted for more than 1,500 days, with seven title defenses.

B.J. Penn vs. Joe Stevenson

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On January 19, 2008, B.J. Penn and Joe Stevenson fought for the UFC lightweight championship title, left vacant by Sean Sherk. Penn defeated Stevenson with a second-round submission coming by way of rear naked choke to claim the title of UFC lightweight champion. Penn, the third-ever UFC lightweight champion, went on to defend his title three times during a reign which lasted 812 days.

Daniel Cormier vs. Anthony Johnson

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On May 23, 2015, Daniel Cormier secured a third-round submission victory via rear naked choke over Anthony Johnson to claim the UFC light heavyweight title left vacant by Jon Jones. Cormier went on to defend this title three times during a reign that lasted 1,315 days. Cormier then vacated the belt after defeating Stipe Miocic for the UFC heavyweight title, becoming the second-ever champion to hold belts in two UFC weight classes simultaneously, on July 7, 2018.

Cris Cyborg vs. Tonya Evinger

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On July 29, 2017, Cris Cyborg faced Tonya Evinger for the UFC women's featherweight title left vacant by Germaine de Randamie. Cyborg defeated Evinger by way of third-round TKO and went on to defend her championship title twice over the course of 517 days before losing the belt to the current champion, Amanda Nunes.

Khabib Nurmagomedov vs. Al Iaquinta

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On April 7, 2018, Khabib Nurmagomedov defeated Al Iaquinta by unanimous decision to become the 10th UFC lightweight champion, a spot left vacant by both Conor McGregor and Tony Ferguson. Nurmagomedov defended his title three times over the course of nearly 1,100 days before retiring as one of the all-time greats, with a final mixed martial arts record of 29-0.

Valentina Shevchenko vs. Joanna Jedrzejczyk

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On December 8, 2018, Valentina Shevchenko defeated former UFC strawweight champion Joanna Jędrzejczyk by way of unanimous decision to win the UFC flyweight championship left vacant by Nicco Montaño. Shevchenko has now defended that belt seven times, most recently defeating Taila Santos at UFC 275 in June.

Henry Cejudo vs. Marlon Moraes

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On June 8, 2019, Henry Cejudo moved up to bantamweight to challenge Marlon Moraes for the UFC bantamweight title, which was left vacant by T.J. Dillashaw. Cejudo defeated Moraes by way of TKO with just nine seconds remaining in the third round to become the fourth-ever fighter to hold UFC championships at two weights simultaneously. Cejudo defended his bantamweight title once over the course of nearly a year, before announcing his retirement following his title defense victory over Dominick Cruz.

Petr Yan vs. Jose Aldo

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On July 12, 2020, Petr Yan was matched to face Jose Aldo for the vacant UFC bantamweight title left open by Henry Cejudo. Yan defeated Aldo with a fifth-round TKO, with just over 90 seconds remaining in the fight. No longer champion after his disqualification loss to Aljamain Sterling at UFC 259, Yan will face UFC superstar Sean O'Malley at "UFC 280: Oliveira vs Makhachev."

Deiveson Figueiredo vs. Joseph Benavidez

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On July 19, 2020, Deiveson Figueiredo faced Joseph Benavidez for a second time to claim the vacant UFC flyweight title. The first time the two met, nearly five months prior, Figueiredo defeated Benavidez by way of TKO, but missed weight and was made ineligible to win the title. Figueiredo defeated Benavidez for the second time, by way of first-round technical submission, to claim the UFC flyweight title left vacant by Henry Cejudo.

Jan Blachowicz vs. Dominick Reyes

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On September 27, 2020, Jan Blachowicz faced Dominick Reyes to claim the UFC light heavyweight crown left vacant by Jon Jones. Blachowicz defeated Reyes via second-round TKO. Nearly six months later, Blachowicz made his first successful title defense when he defeated Israel Adesanya, who moved up from middleweight to challenge Blachowicz for a second belt. The "Legendary Polish Power" handed "The Last Stylebender" his first loss in mixed martial arts, while successfully defending the UFC light heavyweight title.

Charles Oliveira vs Michael Chandler

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On May 15, 2021, Charles Oliveira met Michael Chandler in the main event at UFC 262. Oliveira rode an eight-fight win streak coming into the bout, while Chandler only had one fight and one win in the UFC – a first round TKO against Dan Hooker. They competed for the lightweight title, a belt vacated by UFC Hall of Famer Khabib Nurmagomedov, who relinquished the belt after retiring from mixed martial arts in October 2020. In a back-and-forth fight, that saw Chandler on the cusp of finishing Oliveira in the first round, “Do Bronx” mounted an epic comeback, earning a TKO victory only 19 seconds into the second round.

This story first published at UFC.com.