UFC Fight Night Goiania takes place this Saturday and many fight fans are stoked about the main event which sees Carlos Condit take on Thiago Alves in a battle of former title contenders. Right before these two men take centre stage, an intriguing featherweight rematch takes place - one that isn’t getting much buzz.
Besides the main event, the co-main event that pits Charles Oliveira against "the Carny" Nik Lentz is the only fight on the card that peaks my interest. Since both are top 10 fighters (numbers 8 and 9 respectively), the winner of this fight could see himself in a contender matchup with someone like Max Holloway in their subsequent matchup. Further, the first time these two met they won fight of the night. Could we see a repeat exciting performance? Let’s hope so.
Who are the fighters?
"do Bronx" debuted in 2010, 2 months before his 21st birthday and only 2 years after starting his professional career in which he had already amassed a 12-0 record on the regional circuit (11 of these 12 wins were by stoppage). In his debut fight, Oliveira faced a future top featherweight, Darren Elkins (who is currently ranked 13th in the division). The bout only lasted 41 seconds as Elkins managed a takedown but was quickly caught in a triangle that Oliveira beautifully changed to an armbar to elicit the tap from his opponent. This quick finish from the youngster appeared to be the beginning of a promising career in the lightweight division.
Just a month later, Oliveira was back in the octagon on short notice to take on TUF 8 winner, Efrain Escudero. Building on his quick debut, Oliveira showcased many flashes of brilliance including bouncing Escudero off of the cage for a takedown as well as the finishing sequence where he took Escudero’s back standing, trapped an arm with one of his hooks and proceeded to win the fight with a rear naked choke in the 3rd round.
The brakes on the prospect label were quickly pulled in Oliveira’s subsequent bouts which included stoppage losses to Jim Miller and Donald Cerrone (by submission and TKO respectively) which sandwiched his first meeting with Nik Lentz, a no contest (we’ll delve into that fight a little later).
Boasting only a .500 record in the UFC’s lightweight division, Oliveira made the choice to move down to the featherweight division. His first two fights at featherweight brought back his label as prospect as he finished Eric Wisely and TUF 12 winner, Jonathan Brookins, with submissions that UFC fans had never seen before (a calf slicer and an anaconda/guillotine variation respectively). A step up in competition yielded the same results at featherweight as it did at lightweight. Oliveira dropped his next two contests to top contenders Cub Swanson and Frankie Edgar (by knockout and hard fought decision respectively).
Although his rapid ascension of the featherweight ranks was abruptly halted, Oliveira has since rebound and now sports his longest UFC winning streak - 3. In 2014, he picked up submission victories of Andy Ogle and Hatsu Hioki (by triangle and that modified anaconda/guillotine respectively). He also won a tightly contested decision over Jeremy Stephens where Oliveira came very close to catching Stephens in armbars on three occasions, but also gassed out in the final round - opting to pull guard and get pummelled by the ground and pound of "Lil Heathen". Oliveira now looks to continue his winning streak against a familiar opponent.
I’m sure many of you reading will find it surprising that when Nik Lentz made his UFC debut, he had 14 stoppage wins in his 16 professional victories. Conversely, in his UFC career, he has amassed only 2 finishes in 9 victories.
With that in mind, it is no surprise that Lentz’s first 4 octagon appearances weren’t that memorable. In those 4 fights, Lentz took decision victories over Rafaello Oliveira, Robert Emerson, and Andre Winner while having a draw with Thiago Tavares. The only thing I remember from any of these fights is the groin shot that Tavares was deducted a point for in Lentz’s sophomore appearance. The groin shot was so hard that after the fight Lentz told media that Tavares’s kick had broken his cup… damn.
Lentz’s next 3 fights would result in such odd fashion that I was convinced for a while that fate just wouldn’t allow him to lose. First, he fought Tyson Griffin and in the eyes of many lost all 3 rounds. Yet, he was still gifted a decision. Second, he fought Waylon Lowe who took down and beat on Lentz for the first 2 rounds before succumbing to a miracle guillotine choke submission about halfway through the 3rd round. Finally, Lentz took on Charles Oliveira (his opponent tomorrow) and put on an entertaining performance before suffering his first octagon defeat. Except, he didn’t lose that fight. Because of an illegal knee strike before the finishing submission, the loss was overturned into a no contest. Lentz was now 5-0-1-1 in the UFC. Wow.
Lentz’s run up the lightweight ladder would be halted in his next two bouts as he dropped a wrestle heavy unanimous decision to Mark Bocek and a TKO loss to Evan Dunham when cuts prevented him from continuing into the 3rd round. Following this halt up the ladder, Lentz made the same decision as Charles - move to the featherweight division.
Lentz’s featherweight debut came against Eiji Mitsuoka at UFC 150. Lentz made a good impression in the new weight class ending the fight with a TKO due to ground and pound in the first round. He parlayed this win with unanimous decision victories over Diego Nunes and Hacran Dias (who were top fighters in the division at the time).
Finally, in his 13th UFC appearance, Lentz was given a fight on a main card squaring off against top featherweight contender Chad Mendes. While Lentz would ultimately lose the fight on the scorecards, he impressed with his durability, actually halting a 4 fight knockout streak for Chad Mendes. Since then, Lentz has picked up a victory over TUF 5 runner-up Manny Gamburyan and now looks to create a new winning streak in his rematch with Oliveira (his 2nd time on a main card).
Charles Oliveira has shown flashes of brilliance. His ability to innovate moves on the ground, especially in his submission game, is brilliant. However, Oliveira does have some things working against him. Firstly, unlike the first match, this bout will be held at featherweight - a weight class that Oliveira has shown consistency struggling to make (actually missing weight by 5 pounds when their rematch was initially to take place before pulling out due to illness). Secondly, his cardio seems to be zapped by the 3rd round. When facing Andy Ogle and Jeremy Stephens, he seemed completely gassed by the time the 3rd round came along (mind you, he did win both those fights).
Officially, Lentz has only lost once by submission all the way back in 2006, so defending submissions while he isn’t rocked seems like a high possibility. Further, Lentz appears to make the cut to 145 rather easily compared to Oliveira and has consistently shown the ability to fight for three rounds (though the 3rd round in the Hacran Dias fight was a bad one for him).
This fight will ultimately come down to how much effort Lentz can make Oliveira exert early and how durable he is to win rounds 2 and 3 after a quick start from the Brazilian, where he may ultimately catch Lentz in a submission. It’s a tough call when all factors are considered, but I see Oliveria taking a rather close decision (possibly helped by being in Brazil). His youth, innovation, and reach should be enough to take the opening two rounds before he gets pounded in the third by a gritty Lentz.