The main event of UFC 280 pits a champion who never lost his title in the cage against a fighter who believes the time has come to take the throne once occupied by his mentor.
Charles Oliveira won the vacant UFC lightweight title ag UFC 262 with a come-from behind win over Michael Chandler, then defended his belt with a submission of former interim champ Dustin Poirier at UFC 269. But the wheels came off his championship reign in controversial circumstances at UFC 274 in May this year.
After seemingly completing his weight cut the night before, Charles Oliveira arrived on weight-in day half a pound over the championship limit, and was stripped of his title as a result. Complaints were made about the calibration of the scale, but the damage had been done.
Oliveira made sure he left no doubt on fight night as he submitted another former interim champ, Justin Gaethje, in less than three and a half minutes to make a statement to the watching world. His message was clear, and oft-repeated in the weeks that followed: “The champion has a name, and his name is Charles Oliveira.”
Now Oliveira will look to extend his 11-fight win streak when he faces Russian phenom and protege of UFC Hall of Famer and former champion Khabib Nurmagomedov, Islam Makhachev.
Makhachev is riding a 10-fight win streak, with each of his last four victories coming inside the distance. Many believe he is the real deal, and the natural successor to Nurmagomedov, but he has yet to face top five-calibre opposition.
That will change on Saturday night when he takes on the best 155-pound fighter in the world.
It’s a superb matchup between two dominant fighters with championship-level skills. But only one can leave Abu Dhabi as the undisputed champion of the world. Ahead of fight night, check out UFC 280 Countdown, as we go behind the scenes with both camps ahead of their huge lightweight title clash in the desert.