With an 11-fight winning streak that includes 10 finishes by knockout or submission, Charles Oliveira has cemented his place as the best lightweight in the world.
While he currently doesn’t hold UFC title after missing weight ahead of a recent win over Justin Gaethje, the 32-year-old Brazilian has still run roughshod over the best of the best at 155 pounds, including in statement wins over Michael Chandler and Dustin Poirier.
Right now, Oliveira is taking time off with plans to fight for the vacant lightweight title again in late 2022, but an opponent hasn’t been determined just yet. Many expect Islam Makhachev to receive the opportunity, but UFC color commentator Paul Felder, the last person to defeat Oliveira, actually believes there could be an even bigger threat looming near the top of the division.
“I am retired, so it can’t be me, but dare I say someone like Beneil Dariush is more of a threat to [Charles Oliveira’s] particular style,” Felder explained on The Fighter vs. The Writer.
“Because — and vice versa, I said the same thing when Khabib [Nurmagomedov] was still around — I always said that I thought Charles would be one of the bigger threats to him because of his style and the way he grapples and accepts bottom position but is so dangerous from there.”
According to Felder, it’s Oliveira’s unpredictability on the ground that could give wrestlers like Makhachev headaches. Dariush, meanwhile, maintains a different kind of grappling base as a credentialed Brazilian jiu-jitsu practitioner.
“I think a guy like Charles, you’ve got to get somebody [like Dariush],” Felder said. “The way he ran through Tony [Ferguson] was impressive. I think Beneil [is a threat to Oliveira], even more so than [Islam] Makhachev, just because [Makhachev] going to try and wrestle him, and Charles he has a way around those kinds of exchanges.
“It doesn’t matter if you have great takedown defense against Charles Oliveira. He will find a way to your back. I’m going to throw a big Hail Mary out there and say my pick [to beat Oliveira] is Beneil Dariush.”
During his current seven-fight unbeaten streak, Dariush has scored two submission wins along with two jaw-rattling knockouts after he finished Drakkar Klose and Scott Holtzman in back-to-back performances.
As dangerous as Dariush remains on the ground, Felder sees his finishing power on the feet as another key in a potential fight with Oliviera.
“For sure he can knock [Oliveira] out,” Felder said. “He’s a southpaw, he’s not afraid to stand. He’s got great kicks and he’s not afraid to bite down on his mouthpiece when the going gets tough. Now neither is Charles. I would love to see that fight.”
Dariush has been calling for a fight against Oliveira for the better part of the past year, especially after they were once scheduled to meet in 2020, but the matchup fell apart just weeks after contracts were issued by the UFC.
Right now, Dariush is targeting a late summer return to action following a foot injury that knocked him out of a fight against Makhachev in February. There’s still no word on who he’ll draw once he’s booked again.