Following the UFC 262: Oliveira vs. Chandler event which culminated in the UFC’s lightweight division crowning a new champion in Houston, Texas, we finally got some much-needed clarity in that star-studded, action-packed weight class.
The same division which Khabib Nurmagomedov (29-0) retired undefeated from, recently vacating the belt after the organization could not entice him to break the promise he made to his mother. The pride of Russia said he would not continue fighting without his father in his corner and after his Dad died, he fulfilled his obligation to unify titles with then Interim UFC champion, Justin Gaethje, and shortly thereafter hung up his 4-ounce gloves.
This past Saturday inside the sold-out Toyota Center Brazil’s, Charles Oliveira, and former Bellator 155lbs champion, Michael Chandler, went to war with Oliveira getting his hand raised after two rounds taking home the strap via TKO due to strikes. Now, Oliveira has the daunting task of picking up where “The Eagle” Nurmagomedov left off, aiming to make his own MMA career soar to new heights.
Historically, Brazil has only had one other champion in the UFC’s lightweight division; Rafael dos Anjos won the strap from Wisconsin’s, Anthony Pettis, coincidentally in Texas at UFC 185 in 2015. Therefore, Oliveira could potentially lose it in his first defense, and he has already been immortalized in mixed martial arts history thanks to his accomplishment. This is where it gets real interesting as we play matchmaker…
We know Oliveira can surpass dos Anjos if he simply defends it more than once. Rafael defended over “Cowboy” Cerrone then lost to Eddie Alvarez in the main event of a UFC Fight Night. The biggest Top 10 names; # 1 Dustin Poirier and #5 Conor McGregor are tied up in a trilogy this July , so there goes that. UFC 262 winner and # 3 Beneil Dariush just won and could be a name down the road but doesn’t have the star power to warrant a PPV slot. We have # 4 Michael Chandler who just lost by TKO, and # 9 Paul Felder has been inactive since his decision defeat.
After sorting through those warriors we land on two very recognizable names in order to match-up Oliveira for his first defense: give him # 2 Justin Gaethje or # 7 Rafael Dos Anjos. Former UFC Interim lightweight champ Gaethje taking on Charles would make for guaranteed fireworks. It’s a shame the Brazilian champion suffered a nasty cut on his right eye over the weekend, if not that could have been added to the July PPV alongside Dustin and Conor. Oliveira vs. dos Anjos is simply poetic. Two highly skilled Brazilians colliding plus with the history that the bout would represent it would make an already intriguing match that much more symbolic.
A fun curveball would be to have former 145lbs king, Max Hollloway, move back up to 155lbs and challenge Charles in what would be a bloodbath or technical striking masterpiece. Who would you match the newly minted UFC lightweight ruler against? Does Charles Oliveira have an uphill battle in MMA or what?
No matter who it is, you know we’ll be watching with our eyes glued to the TV, laptop or whatever device you good people are using nowadays.