MMAOB staff writer Adam Martin takes a deeper look at the main event of UFC 274, a five-round UFC lightweight title bout between champion Charles Oliveira and Justin Gaethje. The event takes place on Saturday, May 6 at Footprint Center in Phoenix, Arizona.
Charles Oliveira (-165)
Oliveira (32-8, 1 NC) is the UFC lightweight champion. The 32-year-old Brazilian is 20-8, 1 NC in the UFC since joining the world’s leading MMA promotion back in 2010. During his 29 fights in the UFC, he has fought at both featherweight and lightweight and he has achieved plenty of success in both weight classes over the years. However, after making the permanent move up to 155lbs back in 2017, Oliveira has been a different animal. He is 11-1 at lightweight, with 10 of those wins coming by stoppage, including wins over the likes of Dustin Poirier, Michael Chandler, and Tony Ferguson. Oliveira’s submissions are deadly and his striking has also improved, making him incredibly dangerous anywhere the fight goes. While Oliveira used to be considered a “quitter,” he has not been finished in nearly five years now, and at this point, he’s the best lightweight in the sport.
Justin Gaethje (+145)
Gaethje (23-3) is the No. 1 contender in the UFC lightweight division. The 33-year-old American joined the UFC in 2017 and since then he has gone 6-3 in the lightweight division, with wins over the likes of the aforementioned Ferguson and Michael Chandler. One of the best strikers in the lightweight division, Gaethje has won five of his six UFC fights by way of knockout. In fact, 19 of his career wins have come by knockout, so we know that he is incredibly dangerous on the feet. If this was just a kickboxing fight, you would have to favor Gaethje over Oliveira. However, it’s an MMA fight, and that’s where it gets tricky because the grappling comes into play. Although Gaethje comes from a wrestling background, we rarely see it in his fights. The one time he was tested on the ground, by former UFC lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov, he was tapped out rather quickly with a triangle choke. Nurmagomedov is one of the best to ever do it, but still, it showed a weakness. Gaethje can keep this fight standing he can KO Oliveira, but if this fight goes to the ground, then he could be in trouble. It should be an incredible fighter regardless of what happens.
Fight Breakdown: This should be an amazing fight for the UFC lightweight title. Oliveira has been unstoppable over his last 10 fights, while Gaethje has consistently put on some of the most exciting fights that fans will ever see. It’s not an easy fight to call, but ultimately I lean towards the champion Oliveira retaining his belt. His grappling is just utterly dominant and as long as he doesn’t get clipped on the way in for a takedown — which is definitely a possibility, given Gaethje’s striking acumen — then Oliveira should be able to tie Gaethje up and take his back or his neck, just like he does to pretty much everyone fights these days. Of course, Gaethje has a puncher’s chance in this fight, but overall Oliveira is the more well-rounded fighter, and I have to go with Oliveira to win by submission.
Prediction: Charles Oliveira