UFC 256 was supposed to be the return of ‘El Cucuy’ who was scheduled for his first fight back since his win streak was snapped by Justin Gaethje for the interim lightweight title. The focus circulated around Tony & what his demeanor would be in his return. Tony hadn’t suffered from two weight cuts this time, and was eager to prove to the MMA world he still belonged among the best lightweights in the world. As fate would have it, the MMA gods sought differently and Charles Oliveira crashed the party obliterating any hope of Tony’s return to the title.
Where had Charles Oliveira been all this time? It’s easy for names in the lightweight division to fade to obscure noise in such a deep division where any loss has such gravitational consequences. Charles Oliveira certainly rings a bell among fans, he’s been in there with the company’s finest to no avail including Max Holloway, Anthony Pettis, Frankie Edgar, & Donald Cerrone. He portrayed a hungry fighter with a willingness to fight anyone-anywhere, yet was scratching the surface of the elite level demanded by the UFC to knock on the door of a title shot.
Charles Oliveira seemed to be on waves of highs and lows throughout his career, stringing together a few win streaks in the lower rankings only to be batted back down when a superior foe was called. This pattern was replicated across two weight classes. Charles kickstarted his career at lightweight, and after a tough losing streak sought success among the featherweights only to be plagued with injuries & poor weight cuts to ultimately make another run at lightweight.
The second run was different that is now 10-1, with only one decision win. That decision was in his most recent outing against Tony. It seems that Charles has fallen into a newfound rhythm and groove stacking a 8-fight win streak with 5 submissions & 2 TKO’s. An impressive feat, in particularly among the lightweights which is by far one of the toughest weight classes ever in combat sports. Furthermore, victories over contenders such as Kevin Lee back in March 2020 are credible wins. Kevin Lee was coming off an unbelievable head-kick KO over Gregor Gillespie armed with the full resources of Tri-Star Gym & the wizard mind of Firas Zahabi. No factor for Charles and he would go onto to sink in a nasty guillotine. His best win is of course Tony when he achieved a complete shut-out victory in the form of a UD & nearly snapped off his arm with a close-submission in the first.
Charles Oliveira has transformed from the gate-keeper to a prestigious contender among the lightweights who’s on the brink of a title shot or a super-fight with Conor McGregor. His submission skills are a danger for anyone in the division with a 3rd degree black belt in BJJ, and his evil striking that illustrates shades of world class kick boxing & Muay Thai. Charles Oliveira has arrived.
Big fights lie on the horizon for the Brazilian and glory lies at his fingertips. There are many fights left to unfold mainly Conor McGregor vs. Dustin Poirier & Dan Hooker vs. Michael Chandler that will significantly affect the lightweight rankings. All results move a piece on the lightweight chess board where Charles’s move will be called upon soon. A name that lies in the wings that isn’t matched up yet is Justin Gaethje who equally put on a clinic against Tony Fergusson before his loss to Khabib. A very intriguing match-up if they pair are set to meet. The fights await & legacies will be formed.
By Mark Schmelter