After his big victory over Dustin Poirier at UFC 269 in his first UFC lightweight title defense, there can be little doubt now that Charles Oliveira is the best lightweight on the planet. However, one man who could dispute that is Khabib Nurmagomedov.
Khabib Nurmagomedov never lost his UFC lightweight title inside the octagon – so could he defeat the current champion Charles Oliveira?
It’d be an extremely hard fight to pick. Despite Khabib’s stellar record of 29-0, there’s definitely an argument that ‘The Eagle’ would come up short against ‘Do Bronx’. This would make Charles Oliveira the first man to defeat the legendary Dagestani.
With that considered, here are five reasons why Charles Oliveira could beat Khabib Nurmagomedov if they were ever to fight.
#5. Charles Oliveira is a superior striker to Khabib Nurmagomedov
It’d be unfair to label Khabib Nurmagomedov a weak or unskilled striker. After all, ‘The Eagle’ was willing to trade hands with practically every fighter he stepped up against in the UFC. He was even able to knock Conor McGregor down in their clash at UFC 229.
However, despite his uppercut knockout of Thiago Tavares back in 2013, it’s probably fair to say that Khabib’s striking was not his bread and butter. As everyone is aware, the Dagestani’s biggest strength was in the grappling realm.
So would Charles Oliveira hold an advantage over Khabib on the feet? If you’d asked that question even four years ago, the answer probably would’ve been no. However, in more recent times, things have changed.
Charles Oliveira now has an extremely dangerous striking game. He’s not only developed his punching power hugely, but he now appears to know exactly how to make full use of his long 74” reach.
The Brazilian has now produced three knockout finishes in his last six bouts, including a truly brutal stoppage of the ultra-tough Michael Chandler at UFC 262.
In comparison, Justin Gaethje – who is usually labelled the 155lbs division’s heaviest hitter – was unable to put Chandler away over three rounds.
Essentially, a fight between Charles Oliveira and Khabib Nurmagomedov would be unlikely to be a straight shootout on the feet. However, if it did come to that, ‘Do Bronx’ would probably come out on top.
#4. Charles Oliveira has faced adversity in the octagon – something Khabib Nurmagomedov has never done
While Charles Oliveira has eaten his fair share of losses, Khabib Nurmagomedov’s incredible record of 29-0 stands up against any other fighter in UFC history. However, being that great can have a couple of unexpected drawbacks.
One such drawback is the fact that because he was always so dominant in the octagon, Khabib simply never faced any adversity during his tenure with the UFC. Essentially, ‘The Eagle’ brushed aside every foe he was faced with, often with seeming ease.
However, the same cannot be said for Charles Oliveira.
While ‘Do Bronx’ entered the UFC with a perfect record of 12-0, it wasn’t long before he suffered his first loss to Jim Miller. In the years that have followed, Oliveira has lost a further seven fights, suffering both knockout and submission defeats.
Those defeats, however, have only made the Brazilian stronger. Once considered a glass cannon of sorts, it’s now clear to see that Charles Oliveira is one of the toughest men on the entire UFC roster.
Many fighters would’ve been stopped by the power of Michael Chandler, for instance, but Oliveira recovered from a horrific first round to win. He also weathered quite the storm against Dustin Poirier before taking over to dominate the fight.
Could Khabib simply blow through ‘Do Bronx’ as he did with his other foes? Perhaps. However, we now know that Oliveira can come back from some seriously bad situations. If he were to put Khabib in a bad position in return, we just don’t know how the Dagestani would react.
It’s a bit of a stretch, but based on this, the advantage in a potential fight might lie with Charles Oliveira.
#3. Charles Oliveira might be able to find a way to put Khabib Nurmagomedov in a bad position
Khabib Nurmagomedov might not have had the amateur wrestling credentials of some of the UFC’s other lightweights. However, there can be no doubt that while the Dagestani was active, he was the best takedown artist in the division.
Essentially, everyone Khabib faced – even powerful wrestlers in their own right like Justin Gaethje and Michael Johnson – was easily taken down by ‘The Eagle’.
With that in mind, it’s hard to imagine Charles Oliveira outwrestling Khabib. Hailing from Brazil and coming from a jiu-jitsu background, ‘Do Bronx’ is not a heavily credentialed wrestler, and he isn’t a master of explosive double leg takedowns.
However, over the years he’s developed into a highly dangerous takedown artist in his own right, with plenty of tricks that he utilizes to get his opponents down.
Tony Ferguson, for instance, had almost impenetrable takedown defense before he faced Oliveira, who got him down on numerous occasions – including with a high-impact bodyslam in the first round.
Against Dustin Poirier this weekend, Oliveira wasted no time in clinching with ‘The Diamond’ before quickly transitioning to take his back, where he eventually secured the fight-ending rear-naked choke.
While it’s unlikely that ‘Do Bronx’ would outwrestle Khabib, there’d be a definite possibility that he could get close to him and find a way to get him to the ground – or at least put him in a difficult position. This was something that nobody was able to do in the Dagestani’s UFC run. If he could do that, ‘Do Bronx’ could win.
#2. Charles Oliveira doesn’t mind being put on his back
There’s a chance Charles Oliveira would find a way to take Khabib Nurmagomedov down in a hypothetical fight between the two. However, it’d be much more likely that ‘The Eagle’ would be the one to wind up on top in a grappling exchange.
In his previous UFC outings, once he was on top, it was hard to stop Khabib. Opponents such as Conor McGregor, Justin Gaethje and Dustin Poirier were unable to get up from underneath the Dagestani, who then destroyed them with ground-and-pound en route to submission finishes.
If Khabib were to put Charles Oliveira down, would he find it quite as easy? It’s highly unlikely.
The likes of Demian Maia, Ronaldo Souza and Rodolfo Vieira brought more Brazilian jiu-jitsu credentials with them to the octagon, but Oliveira is the man who has the most submission finishes in UFC history with 15.
Of those 15 submission wins, eight have come from the bottom position or from a scramble that initially saw Oliveira taken down.
Put simply, few fighters in UFC history have been as comfortable fighting off their back as ‘Do Bronx’. Therefore, if Khabib Nurmagomedov were to take him down, would he be able to work him over as he did to the likes of Gaethje and McGregor?
It’s highly doubtful. Instead, it could be Khabib who might be forced onto the defensive.
#1. Charles Oliveira would offer Khabib Nurmagomedov the biggest submission threat he’s ever faced
In his initial run in the UFC, Khabib Nurmagomedov defeated a total of 13 different opponents, including some of the greatest lightweights in UFC history.
However, it’s worth noting that while ‘The Eagle’ was able to run through the majority of his foes, he never really faced many high-level grapplers in the octagon.
In fact, of his 13 victims, it’s probably fair to class at least at least seven of them – including Conor McGregor, Justin Gaethje and Edson Barboza – as almost pure strikers.
While the likes of Rafael dos Anjos and Thiago Tavares had strong grappling skills, Khabib never faced a submission artist as skilled as Charles Oliveira.
Not only is Oliveira capable of wrapping an opponent up in a submission from seemingly any position – whether he’s on top or on his back – but he’s also proven himself willing to go for low-percentage moves.
‘Do Bronx’ is one of the few fighters to utilize an anaconda choke to submit an opponent in the octagon – using the hold to defeat both Hatsu Hioki and David Teymur. He was also the first fighter to ever use a calf slicer to submit an opponent.
Essentially, in a prospective fight between the two. Oliveira would offer Khabib the biggest submission threat that he’s ever faced inside the octagon – and there’s a real question mark over how ‘The Eagle’ would be able to respond.
If his submission defense wasn’t up to snuff, there’s no doubt that Charles Oliveira could wrap him up and force him to submit.