Oliviera vs Machachev: Biggest LW fight since Khabib?
- Author Antonio Llopart
- Published November 30, 2022
- Word count 515
In just a few days, Charles Oliviera will face Islam Makhachev in possibly the highest-profile fight the Lightweight division has seen since the retirement of UFC legend Khabib Nurmagomedov. At the moment, Makhachev is a small favorite. This is familiar territory for Oliviera, as he has been the underdog in three of his past four fights and has won them all. With Khabib in Makhachev’s corner, it seems possible that Islam is the new force at 155. He is 11-1 in the UFC and on a ten fight win streak since 2015 while finishing his last four opponents. Khabib’s run proves that Dagestani Sambo wrestling is one of the most dominant and revolutionary techniques that the UFC has ever seen.
Despite being far and few between, the Dagestani fighters have slowly been exposed as having holes in their gameplan. In March, Kai Kara-France edged out a decision victory against Askar Askarov, after being a 3-1 underdog. Abubakar and Said Nurmogomedov have suffered losses in the UFC against unranked opponents.
Charles Oliviera has a few weapons himself. He is a better striker than Islam and his jiu jitsu from his back is one of the best the UFC has seen. He has been stopped several times in his career but is undefeated in his last 11 fights, dating back to 2018. He was tested in his last three fights but came out victorious by knocking out Justin Gaethje and Michael Chandler and choking out Dustin Poirier. No doubt Islam will be a serious test, but he has yet to face anyone of Oliviera’s caliber.
So the question remains: If Oliviera has tremendous defensive grappling, better striking than Islam and has also faced higher competition, why is he the underdog? Gaethje, Chandler, and Poirier are all top 5 talents in the division with no debate, and he finished them all. Islam has dominated the game for several years with very little resistance, but the same can be said for the former champion before he was fighting top 10 fighters. The highest ranked fighter Islam has fought would be Dan Hooker, who was ranked 9th in the world at the time and was a good stylistic matchup for the Russian. His last fight was against an unranked and short-notice Bobby Green.
The dominant Sambo style and the influence of Khabib Nurmogomedov in his corner has an influence in the public opinion regarding which man would come out victorious. Khabib was the underdog in his 2012 matchup with Gleison Tibau, which he took by decision. After that he was the favorite in every single fight, and it was not even close. Many people hold the perception that Islam’s wrestling is unstoppable regardless of how talented and proven Oliviera is, and they may be right. However, “do Bronx” has proven several times that he is better than we think he is. Victory will not be easy for either man to achieve Saturday night in Abu Dhabi, and will possibly signify to us who will be the new king of the Lightweight division. That is, assuming the scales allow both men to make weight.
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