Charles Oliveira will square off against Justin Gaethje at UFC 274 for the second title defense of his career. The Brazilian mixed martial artist will go into the fight on the back of a stunning win against Dustin Poirier last year.
Gaethje, too, has had a good run in the promotion of late. With just one loss in nearly four years, 'The Highlight' has been at the top of his game in recent times.
Having run through the likes of Tony Ferguson and Michael Chandler, the American looks all set for another crack at UFC gold. Despite all the firepower that the former interim UFC champion possesses, 'Do Bronx' is by no means going to be an easy target for him.
Here are three reasons why Charles Oliveira will defeat Justin Gaethje and two reasons why he won't.
#5. Charles Oliveira's high endurance
Charles Oliveira has been around in the UFC for a long time. It took him 28 fights to get his hands on the first UFC title of his career, which says a lot about the Brazilian's determination.
Surprisingly, however, the same couldn't be said about the 32-year-old's endurance a few years ago. For the longest time, 'Do Bronx' was criticized by fans for his lack of durability. But since his loss to Paul Felder in 2017, the Brazilian has improved significantly in terms of his ability to withstand punishment in the octagon.
With a 10-fight winning streak in the promotion, 'Do Bronx' has shown why he is deservingly the lightweight champion. His last two fights against Michael Chandler and Dustin Poirier are testimony to his improved durability.
At UFC 262, Charles Oliveira overcame a great deal of punishment in the first round, including a submission attempt to come back and knock Chandler out in the next round.
At UFC 269, once again, he had a tough time containing Poirier in the first round. 'The Diamond' landed more significant strikes on target (54-48) on 'Do Bronx', including a knockdown.
Oliveira, however, displayed tremendous determination as he outstruck Poirier in the second round before submitting him in the third.
#4. Charles Oliveira is a well-rounded fighter
Charles Oliveira's grappling skills are undoubtedly one of the best in the promotion, but his striking has improved significantly as well.
'Do Bronx' has been precise with his combinations and mixes them well with his grappling. Though not the most potent striker in the 155lbs division, the UFC lightweight champion has enough firepower to cause an upset.
Oliveira proved this during his title fight against Michael Chandler at UFC 262. Despite being pounded by 'Iron' in the first round, he came back from behind to knock Chandler out with a crisp, short, left-hook.
Justin Gaethje, meanwhile, is a wrestler-turned-striker who relies heavily on striking, which could arguably make it predictable and more effortless for Charles Oliveira to play his cards well.
Although 'The Highlight' has the advantage standing, the Brazilian's longer reach could make it difficult to close the distance during the fight.
#3. Charles Oliveira's BJJ skills
Charles Oliveira is one of the best fighters in the UFC when it comes to ground fighting. The 32-year-old is an elite-level Brazilian jiu-jitsu practitioner and has 15 wins via submissions to his name - the most by any fighter in the UFC.
Additionally, with 18 finishes, 'Do Bronx' also holds the record for the most in the promotion. He poses a threat on the ground and from a standing position, which was evident during his last title defense against Dustin Poirier.
Despite being outstruck by Poirier in the first round, Oliveira had the presence of mind to lock him into a rear-naked chokehold in the third round, and he did all that while still being on his feet. 'Do Bronx' latched on to Poirier's back and slipped his arms under his chin. It was only seconds before it became too much for 'The Diamond' and he tapped out.
#2. Justin Gaethje has revamped his focus on wrestling
Interestingly, the Arizona-native seems to be focusing on his wrestling of late as part of his preparation to face Charles Oliveira at UFC 274. In the gym, 'The Highlight' was recently seen wrestling with UFC welterweight champion Kamaru Usman.
Watch Justin Gaethje and Kamaru Usman wrestle here:
Training with Usman, an elite wrestler himself and the best pound-for-pound fighter in the promotion is a sure sign that Gaethje is leaving no stone unturned. Given his performance in his last title fight against an elite wrestler like Khabib Nurmagomedov, it is the right choice to make.
Gaethje faced 'The Eagle' at UFC 254 for a title unification bout. However, he couldn't prevent Nurmagomedov from taking him down and choking him unconscious in the second round.
With a 73% takedown defense, the American won't be an easy target to take down. It might compel Charles Oliveira to fight from a standing position, where Gaethje arguably enjoys a clear advantage.
#1. Justin Gaethje is a lethal striker
Striking has undoubtedly been Justin Gaethje's best attribute in the UFC, which is something that Charles Oliveira will do well to be wary of. Of the six wins in his UFC career, five have come from knockouts.
Under the tutelage of Trevor Wittman, the former interim champion has become the perfect mix of poise and explosiveness. His strong overhands and hooks, coupled with kicks, make him a difficult opponent.
His last bout against Michael Chandler at UFC 268 was a slugfest and was adjudged the Fight of the Year of 2021. In what was arguably the best fight of his career, he went the distance and won by unanimous decision. According to official stats, 'The Highlight' landed 116 significant strikes on target as compared to Chandler's 103.
Although Charles Oliveira has worked on his durability and striking, trying to close the distance against someone with such explosive strength will be difficult.