Even before it was made official, there’s already been a lot of hype behind UFC 280’s lightweight title fight between Charles Oliveira and Islam Makhachev. Khabib Nurmagomedov, for one, expects nothing less than a dominant performance from his close comrade, and expectedly so.
Former interim champion Justin Gaethje, however, doesn’t see it that way. As he told the media during a backstage scrum at UFC 278 this weekend, he does expect a great fight, but it won’t be a lopsided one in favor of the Dagestani.
“I’m 100% confident that Islam will not dominate Charles,” he said.
“I don’t know how to explain it, that’s how I feel. The last time I stepped in there with him, there’s no way that… it’s gonna be a great fight. I wish I was there, I wish it wasn’t in Abu Dhabi so I could be there. But we’re all in for a treat.
“I think Charles is gonna move forward. Islam’s gonna try, and eventually, he might be successful. And if he is, he’ll win. But I don’t see him tiring (Oliveira) out. Even if he takes him down for the first two rounds, I don’t see Charles getting submitted, and I don’t see him being too exhausted to continue to fight the fight that he needs to fight.”
Speaking of the last time Gaethje stepped in there with Oliveira, “The Highlight” spoke candidly about that particular experience.
“My last fight, Charles was brilliant. And he hurt me often, he hurt me early. Ten seconds in, I was really hurt, and probably four times after that. I felt something I never felt in the cage,” he said. “It’s just one of those fights where I was against adversity the whole time.
“It’s a feeling I’ve never felt. Usually, you get hit, you call it a buzz, call it a flash. This is more like my tongue just went on a super powerful battery and it just… my entire body was crazy.
“It was perfect shots, perfect time, one or the other. And it was factors that I faced that night.”
In the same scrum, Gaethje also predicted a fourth-round knockout win for teammate Kamaru Usman against Leon Edwards. We all know how that turned out.
UFC 280 happens on October 22nd in Abu Dhabi. Co-headlining the event is Aljamain Sterling’s second title defense, as he takes on ex-champion T.J. Dillashaw. Right before it is another high-profile bantamweight showdown between Sean O’Malley and former titleholder Petr Yan.