The lightweights take center stage once again in a showdown that is not only interesting in terms of a style match-up, but has a curveball thrown into the mix in that the bout was created due to both original opponents dropping out of the fight due to injury. Efrain Escudero (13-1, 3-1 UFC) and Charles Oliveira (13-0, 1-0 UFC) will go to battle on Wednesday night within the confines of the UFC lightweight division in a battle that will not only test their skills, but their mental capacity to prepare themselves for an opponent they didn't expect to see across the Octagon so quickly.
Oliveira serves as the well-hyped newcomer to the UFC in this battle, sporting an impressive 12-0 record before submitting Darren Elkins at UFC Live on Versus: Matyushenko vs. Jones back in August. Dangerous on the feet and on the floor, Oliveira brings solid grappling skills and proven power into the cage in this contest. He also has shown solid conditioning in the past, and he should provide Escudero with a legitimate challenge. His only major weakness is that he may be susceptible to wrestlers who can control him from the top, and his level of competition hasn't been very high.
Escudero doesn't have a lot of fights under his belt against strong competition either. He defeated Dan Lauzon, Phillipe Nover, and Cole Miller, but he was submitted by Evan Dunham at UFC Fight Night 20 in a minor upset. While that does give the slightest hint that he may be susceptible to Oliveira's jiu-jitsu, he has strong wrestling and decent kickboxing ability. His wrestling will likely be his greatest asset in this fight, but can he control a dangerous opponent like Oliveira for three rounds?
It's a tough call due to Oliveira's lengthy frame and very quick transition ability. He showed us a flash of it against Darren Elkins after he was slammed to his back. Quickly transitioning to a triangle choke and then catching the arm as he rolled over, he quickly dispatched of the wrestler in impressive fashion. Escudero will need to prove he has sured up his defense on the ground, maintain his posture out of Oliveira's active guard, and bomb him when he has the opportunities. Easier said than done.
I've been mulling over this fight for awhile now, and Oliveira continues to come out on top in my mind. He has better striking in that he has strong punching and brutal kicks, something you'd expect from a Brazilian fighter. Most of his opponents have tried to avoid those exchanges at all costs by taking him down, but he's submitted most of those challengers inside two rounds. Any way you cut it, it's tough to pick Escudero here with all of the threats that Oliveira imposes.
Oliveira is my pick here. I think he's good enough on the ground to give Escudero fits in his guard, and if he's unable to transition to a submission over the course of this fight -- I think he'll be able to gain his feet once again and pepper Escudero with his lengthier frame and heavy kicks. I think Oliveira impresses in this unique opportunity for him to showcase his talents in front of many casual UFC viewers. Oliveira via submission.