Oliveira Remains Dominant In Lightweight Division
Image By: Jeff Bottari Zuffa LLC
Controversy surrounded the main event featured for UFC 274 at the Footprint Center in Phoenix, Arizona, between lightweight champion Charles Oliveira and challenger Justin Gaethje.
Oliveira was stripped of his title shortly after weigh-in because he exceeded the 155-pound weight limit to remain eligible to defend the title. The setback shocked Oliveira, but it did not stop him from displaying his dominance in the octagon and continuing his reign in the division. Gaethje started quickly in the first round with consistent activity and pressure, and that pressure overwhelmed Oliveira. Shortly after, Gaethje managed to land two effective strikes that knocked Oliveira down and caused significant damage. Momentum was in Gaethje’s possession. However, he failed to capitalize on the moments because Oliveira is a black belt in Brazilian Ju-Jitsu with the ability to reverse and submit his opponent with his superior grappling ability. Ultimately, Gaethje’s opportunity to potentially secure a knockout victory via ground and pound slipped from his grasp.
After weathering the initial storm, Oliveira began mixing up his attack with knee thrusts and boxing strikes that hurt Gaethje and made him more cautious defensively. Despite the defensive change, Gaethje was over-aggressive in his attack and started loading up for every punch and kick he threw. It was a costly mistake because Gaethje missed on several strikes, which caused him to lose his footing and overexert energy. Leaning on the experience of his previous bout against Dustin Poirier, where Oliveira was able to mount a comeback after receiving devastating blows that almost caused him to lose consciousness, he did not falter after Gaethje’s initial success. He leaned on his experience and Brazilian Ju-Jitsu skills to hit Gaethje with an overhand right and followed up with a rear-naked choke after Gaethje landed on the canvas. Gaethje battled valiantly to escape the grasp of Oliveira, but he was unable to escape and submitted to avoid being choked out unconscious.
After the impressive first-round victory, Oliveira’s mixed martial arts record improved to 33–8–1 with an eleven-fight win streak. With the loss, Gaethje’s record fell to 23–4. Despite being a number one contender and former interim lightweight champion, his chances of becoming the undisputed champion become extremely difficult after losing to Olivera and Khabib Nurmagomedov in his only undisputed championship matches.
Now UFC president Dana White has an interesting decision on the next potential lightweight championship match for the vacated title due to Oliveira’s inability to make weight in this past event. Contenders Beneil Dariush ranked number six, and Islam Makhachev, ranked number four in the lightweight division, are strong candidates to face Olivera for the vacant title. Also, they both pose threats to Oliveira for the reign of supremacy in the lightweight division. Oliveira and Makhachev should be the next match because each fighter possesses high-level grappling ability combined with advanced striking skills.
Furthermore, UFC 274 was an exciting event for fans because they got to see veteran/legend Shogun Rua battle in potentially the final match of his illustrious career against Ovince Saint Preux, where he lost via split decision. Michael (iron) Chandler demonstrated his explosive power by delivering a knockout front kick to veteran Tony Ferguson. Ferguson was looking to get back in the win column after losing consecutive matches to Justin Gaethje, Charles Oliveira, and Beneil Dariush. However, he could not capture the past glory and dominance he displayed earlier in his career.
The co-main event featured women’s strawweight champion Rose Namajunas and number one contender Carla Esparza. Considering the reputation of both women, who have given fans exciting bouts in the past, this fight was very uneventful as both fighters fought cautiously and did not initiate any significant action throughout the championship match. Despite the lack of theatrics, Esparza used timely takedowns and strong defense to edge out the split decision victory and was crowned the new strawweight champion a week before her wedding ceremony.
The next big UFC event will feature middleweight champion Israel Adesanya, who will defend his middleweight championship against top-rated contender Jared Cannonier, who is looking for a second consecutive knockout victory. Featherweight champion Alexander Volkanovski will be defending his crown against former champion Max Holloway in a trilogy bout. The event will take place on July 2 for UFC 276 in Las Vegas at the T-Mobile Arena.