Charles Oliveira (33-8 MMA, 21-8 UFC) is the best lightweight in the world, although many of us had already reached that conclusion after watching him dispatch Dustin Poirier at the end of last year to close out his 2021 campaign. As a matter of fact, some have been calling him the best since even before then. Well last Saturday night, in the main event of UFC 274, 'Do Bronx' emerged victorious once again in a manner that left zero doubt in anyone's mind. He is unambiguously the greatest fighter 155lbs has to offer, with or without a shiny belt around his waist.
At UFC 274, Oliveira knocked down and subsequently submitted a formidable threat in Justin Gaethje, a man revered for his heavy hands and undying thirst for violence. After absorbing serious punishment and facing substantial adversity early on, something that has become almost requisite at this point, Oliveira was able to pick himself up off the canvas and secure a first round finish. That's right, another finish. Not only did Oliveira add another big name to his ever-improving resume, but he also extended his UFC records for both most finishes and most submissions respectively. Oliveira is now riding a remarkable 11-fight win streak since last losing to the now-retired Paul Felder back in 2017, a streak that includes the likes of Justin Gaethje, Dustin Poirier, Michael Chandler, Tony Ferguson, and Kevin Lee. Of these 11 wins, 10 of them were stoppages. Altogether, 30 of his 33 wins have been stoppages (21 via submission, 9 via KO/TKO), giving the Brazilian a 91% finish rate. Needless to say, Oliveira is the most prolific finisher in UFC history.
Oliveira has been a known jiu-jitsu ace since making his UFC debut all the way back in 2010, but in addition to his status as an admirable submission threat, we have also witnessed him evolve into an exceedingly competent striker before our very eyes since joining the Chute Boxe Academy in 2018. While Oliveira merely holds 3 knockout wins inside the octagon, his precision accuracy and overall technical prowess in the striking realm have transformed him into a legitimate dual-threat combatant, capable of giving any potential challenger serious problems wherever the fight goes. The eminent threat of Oliveira's grappling further enhances his ability to create openings and find success on the feet, as it causes his opponents to fixate so much on not being taken down that they end up leaving themselves vulnerable to powerful strikes, reminiscent of how the great Khabib Nurmagomedov found much of his success in the striking department. As things currently stand, Oliveira's newly developed Muay Thai combined with his cutthroat submission game make him one of the most well-rounded (and most entertaining) active fighters in the entire sport. For all of the recent success Oliveira has been relishing, the fact that welcoming large amounts of damage has become the backbone of his game is undoubtedly a cause for concern. The deficiencies in Oliveira's striking defence represent a gaping hole in his overall skill set, a shortcoming he must resolve before it ultimately costs him. That being said, Oliveira has managed to survive the three heaviest hitters currently sitting atop the 155lb division, so it could be a while until he must once again concern himself with a power puncher.
Having now defeated the aforementioned Gaethje, Poirier, and Chandler, the only bonafide lightweight contender left for Oliveira to conquer is the similarly unstoppable force from Russia, Islam Makhachev. Although Makhachev has not been facing the same level of competition, he is currently riding a 10-fight win streak of his own, and a showdown between these two is unquestionably the fight to make for the "vacant" lightweight championship. Should these two engage one another on the mat, their grappling exchanges would be a thing of beauty. The jiu-jitsu of Oliveira versus the sambo of Makhachev is simply must-see. It should be noted that the Oliveira-Makhachev fight is essentially the spiritual successor to the Khabib-Tony fight we desperately wanted but never got to see, so hopefully the UFC does the right thing and books this intriguing matchup between two streaking competitors.
Charles Oliveira is inching closer and closer to cleaning out the lightweight elite, which is remarkable considering the various rough patches we've witnessed throughout his UFC career. I personally have him ranked #3 pound-for-pound in the wake of his recent victory, and as previously mentioned, he is absolutely the best fighter in the lightweight division. His ascension toward the top of the sport has been extraordinary, and if this recent run has taught us anything, it's that we should never count him out of a fight.
From rags to riches, Charles 'Do Bronx' Oliveira is one of the greatest fighters in the world.