Charles Oliveira is quietly building a resume and a legacy that could rival Khabib Nurmagomedov at lightweight

Charles Oliveira may no longer be the official UFC lightweight champion after losing his title on the scales last Friday. His subsequent performance, however, in submitting Justin Gaethje in the first round at UFC 274 in Phoenix, largely contributed to making this key footnote nothing more than a moot note for the new No. 1 contender. the 155-pound division.

With or without the belt around his waist, Oliveira’s current winning streak (33-8, 1 NC) has gone a long way towards declaring him the best lightweight on the planet not named Khabib Nurmagomedov, who retired after his last fight at the end of 2020. The only question that remains is how much more needs to be done for the 32-year-old Oliveira before the Brazilian star overtakes Nurmagomedov as the greatest 155-pound champion in the history of the ‘UFC.

Nurmagomedov (29-0) took such a circuitous path to his first title of 2018, thanks to injuries and bad luck, that he only managed a trio of title defenses, putting him in a tie for the most in division history with fellow former champions BJ Penn, Frankie Edgar and Benson Henderson. But “The Eagle” was largely able to separate himself from the pack due to his absolute dominance as lightweight king, which included stoppage victories over former champions Conor McGregor, Dustin Poirier (interim) and Gaethje (interim) while barely losing a single lap. throughout his career.

Oliveira spent five years in the UFC featherweight division between 2012 and 2017, meaning he never crossed paths with Nurmagomedov at 155lbs. In fact, when the Russian native edged out late replacement Al Iaquinta for the vacant lightweight title in 2018, Oliveira had just wrapped up a streak in which he was 2-4 in his last six fights, culminating in a 2017 TKO loss to Paul Felder. .

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The good news for Oliveira is that he would never lose in the Octagon again. In fact, two months after Nurmagomedov first wore the belt around his waist, Oliveira submitted Clay Guida to kick off his current 11-game winning streak, including an astonishing 10 by stoppage.

Oliveira now holds UFC records for submission wins (16) and overall finishes (19). And even if he fails to match Nurmagomedov’s clean sheet throughout his professional career with eight losses (and a total of five times the missing weight), he has clearly used the lessons learned from the defeat to complete his game while building an almost global level of determination and self-confidence.

Now that his striking has caught up with the dangers he presents on the court, it wouldn’t be out of the question to call Oliveira the most dangerous finisher in UFC title history. It’s a nickname best defended by the stats which reveal that only four of Oliveira’s 42 professional fights have ever needed the judges’ decision to return a result.

In theory, all of Oliveira might need to supplant Nurmagomedov as the greatest UFC lightweight champion would have a few more title defenses. Still, a closer look at their respective lightweight resumes shows they might not be that far off right now.

Because Nurmagomedov has only fought once in 2014, 2017, 2019 and 2020 (and missed 2015 entirely due to a knee injury), his UFC run consists of just 13 fights, which he won all of them, although six of them went the distance. And while Nurmagomedov holds an impressive 2014 demolition of former 155-pound champion Rafael dos Anjos, most of his legend has been built on his last five fights, which include elite victories over Edson Barboza, Iaquinta, McGregor, Poirier and Gaethje.

Oliveira’s current run since returning to lightweight in 2017 has produced a similar stretch to Nurmagomedov in that it has consisted of 13 fights. Oliveira is 12-1 on that streak, with only one fight going the distance. But it’s his own recent five-fight streak against a string of former champions and title contenders that could be even better than those Nurmagomedov closed his career with.

As of 2020, Oliveira beat Kevin Lee and Tony Ferguson (who went 12-1 over his last 13) before knocking out Michael Chandler to capture the vacant title Nurmagomedov left behind. Since then, Oliveira has been even more dominant by submitting Poirier (as a betting underdog) before doing the same with Gaethje.

Oliveira vs. Nurmagomedov by CV

Last five fights

Just Gaethje (Rd.1 submission – 2022)

Justin Gaethje (Rd.2 submission – 2020)

Dustin Poirier (Rd. 2 Submission — 2021)

Dustin Poirier (Submission Rd. 3 — 2019)

Michael Chandler (Route 3 TKO — 2021)

Conor McGregor (submission Rd. 4 — 2018)

Tony Ferguson (UD — 2020)

Al Iaquinta (UD — 2018)

Kevin Lee (Rd.3 Submission — 2020)

Edson Barboza (UD — 2017)

While the break in line of Oliveira’s title reign due to missing weight last weekend will mean he will have to work harder to add enough title defenses to overtake Nurmagomedov, he is closing in at an alarming rate. . And much of Oliveira’s success has centered on his willingness to place himself in precarious situations (while often absorbing damage in the process) without succumbing to the danger before him.

Oliveira’s ability to swim so consistently to the bottom of the pool against some of this generation’s most dangerous action stars was eye-opening. And it has clearly helped his cause when it comes to the mythical matchmaking eye test, as many pundits now openly question whether it was Oliveira – and not Ferguson, who signed five times to fight Nurmagomedov without ever touching the gloves at inside the cage. – who had the best chance all along to hand “The Eagle” their first loss.

On paper, at least, Oliveira’s case is pretty solid. His grappling skills and the danger he presents from his back are the perfect antidote to Nurmagomedov’s dominant wrestling game. Oliveira has also evolved enough on his feet that the striking advantage would certainly go his way over Nurmagomedov.

The question you’re probably thinking about isn’t a bad one: How many more dominating victories would Oliveira need to have before the 33-year-old Nurmagomedov feels like coming back and keeping his place in history?

Given the retirement promise he made to his parents, including his late father and trainer Abdulmanap, it’s unlikely Nurmagomedov will ever give us that shot at the 155-pound close. But that doesn’t mean it’s impossible, especially since Nurmagomedov is now training the most deserving fighter of the next title shot in Islam Makhachev (22-1), who is currently riding his own 10-fight winning streak.

Being worthy of the title, however, never guarantees one will get it, meaning Makhachev could find himself waiting while everyone from Chandler (in a rematch) to even McGregor could cut the line. ahead of him depending on the decisions of the UFC matchmakers. In this scenario, it would be only fitting for Oliveira to come face-to-face with a fighter trained by Nurmagomedov in an attempt to potentially overtake him on the list of the greatest lightweight champions in UFC history.

Either way, Oliveira’s current streak of eight performance-of-the-night bonuses over his last 10 wins has produced one of the most memorable streaks the Octagon has ever seen. Given the division’s historic depth over its winning streak, it may not be long before Oliveira overtakes the only UFC champion to walk away unblemished on his path to lightweight immortality.