Submission ace, Charles Oliveira, takes on fellow mixed martial arts (MMA) wunderkind, Max Holloway, this Sunday (Aug. 23, 2015) at UFC Fight Night 74 inside SaskTel Centre in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, Canada.
Oliveira stormed into UFC at just 20 years old, submitting his opponents in quick and decisive fashion. This brought him to the top of the Lightweight division quickly, where losses sent him down a weight class to Featherweight. Oliveira found mixed results in his new division as well, causing some to write off the talented Brazilian.
However, Oliveira has since stormed back with a vengeance. Now 25 years old, "Do Bronx" has rattled off four straight victories and finished his opponent in three of those wins. Now, he looks to really solidify himself as a title contender.
Let's take a closer look at his game ahead of his first ever main event:
Oliveira is a very dangerous Muay Thai striker. While improved, his defense still isn't the best, but Oliveira's offensive potency cannot be questioned.
A very lengthy fighter, Oliveira has worked hard to become more dangerous at range. In many ways, he's succeeded, as Oliveira is much sharper from the outside and really punishes his opponent with long strikes.
In particular, Oliveira's round kicks have really improved. He throws hard kicks to the legs, body, and head, thoroughly unafraid of having his kicks caught or being taken down. Oliveira really digs into these attacks, wearing away at his opponent.
Furthermore, Oliveira's punches have become much sharper. He throws at a pretty high pace and is fairly accurate. In particular, Oliveira's jab has sharpened up considerably, which is a great tool for such a lengthy fighter.
Despite his improvements at range, Oliveira is still looking to close the distance in most cases. Usually, he's actively pursuing the takedown.
When pushing forward, Oliveira does a nice job moving his opponent into the fence. He stands very upright -- again, he's unafraid of being taken down -- and walks his opponent down, feinting with punches and kicks. While doing this, Oliveira very much likes to use the teep to push his opponent backwards.
Once Oliveira's opponent is within a few steps of the cage, Oliveira will explode forward with a combination. He likes to lead with his right hand, which helps him get into the clinch, but will also follow up with a left uppercut, forcing his opponent to stand up straighter and open up the takedown.
Regardless of whether Oliveira actively looks for it or his opponent forces the position, Oliveira has gotten very nasty in the clinch. He's very quick to fire off a sharp elbow, and the Brazilian's knee strikes now have fight ending potential.
"Do Bronx" does knee strikes right. After locking up a double-collar tie, he drives home the knee at an angle. Oliveira will even jump into the knees he delivers, again showing a complete lack of concern to being put on his back. Recently, Oliveira nearly finished Nik Lentz in the very first round with a sharp knee to the mid-section.
As mentioned, Oliveira is still fairly hittable. He stands extremely straight up, which generally makes it more difficult to react to punches. Plus, it puts his head at the perfect height for an overhand against many of his opponents. Additionally, Oliveira can be reckless as he pushes for the clinch, which has gotten him into trouble before.
Oliveira may not be the most traditional takedown artist, but he's been more than effective. The Brazilian commonly throws his entire body into takedowns, meaning he'll either finish the shot or wind up on the bottom.
And since Oliveira is fine with either scenario, it's difficult to deal with for most fighters.
Generally, Oliveira looks to wrestle against the fence. After pushing his opponent back with punches, Oliveira will drop down with a shot. From there, he'll switch from the single and double as necessary, depending on how his opponent defends.
Regardless of which shot Oliveira looks for, his finish is rarely a technical marvel. Instead, Oliveira will lift or run the pipe and use his entire body to drive through the shot. Again, this is risky -- it's exhausting, and failure will land him in a very bad position -- but it can also be difficult to defend and almost always brings the fight to the mat.
It's also worth mentioning that Oliveira is pretty talented from within the clinch itself. He'll occasionally mix in some outside trips into his offense, and he'll often counter his opponent's underhook with a whizzer and step across, which can land him in top position.
Defensively, Oliveira isn't exactly looking to sprawl out on shots and return to kickboxing. However, he does a very nice job attacking during his opponent's shot. Since he's unconcerned about being put on his back, Oliveira can freely strike with elbows and knees. Additionally, he'll dive onto a limb, which very often allows him to at least reverse position.
A jiu-jitsu black belt, Oliveira's submission game is incredible. He's one of the most active and effective grapplers in UFC, and "Do Bronx" is equally dangerous from top position, guard and scrambles.
Oliveira is an excellent top player. He's very quick to cut through his opponent's guard and is always working toward the back mount, which is one of his best positions.
Once Oliveira moves onto the back, he immediately locks in the body triangle, which is a very difficult position to break away from thanks to his long legs. After securing the hold, Oliveira will begin smacking his opponent's ribs and face with punches and elbows, looking to raise the chin just long enough to slip in a rear-naked choke.
If Oliveira can't find the rear naked choke, he won't wait long before looking for an armbar. Using either inside wrist control or a figure four grip, Oliveira will control one arm before releasing the body triangle. From there, he'll rotate his hips and throw one leg over the face, ideally landing in the armbar position.
When Oliveira pulls guard or is taken down, he's very quick to begin climbing his legs up high on his opponent's shoulders. The Brazilian primarily attacks with armbars and triangles from his back, and he's very slick with both submissions and chains the two together well.
To land the armbar, Oliveira's set up is simple. Once he overhooks an arm, Oliveira will rotate his hips and try to throw the near leg over the head. Thanks to his flexibility, Oliveira doesn't need that much space to move and can create a tight clamp on the arm without getting much of an angle, which is usually the difficult part of locking in the submission.
Another of Oliveira's favorite setups is the anaconda choke from guard. It's fairly unique to him, and he's very aggressive in chasing this submission. He'll look for it from the clinch while his opponent is on his feet, but Oliveira is most dangerous with the choke while working from the turtle.
As Oliveira's opponent looks to stand up from the turtle -- or if he just sits there for some reason -- Oliveira will immediately thread his inside arm around the neck and shoulder. With his long arms, it's not difficult for him to thread his arm deep enough to lock arms with a rear naked choke grip.
Once Oliveira has that grip locked, he'll stand up and jump full guard. From this position, Oliveira is able to squeeze with his upper body and extend his opponent with his legs, which makes it an extremely tight choke. If Oliveira has the hold right, his opponent has nowhere to go and no choice but to submit.
While Oliveira has a pretty diverse arsenal of submissions and I mostly covered his main attacks, I also have to take a look at his incredible calf slicer victory of Eric Wisely.
When Oliveira sat back for a heel hook from top position, Wisely attempted to rolled away from Oliveira. The Brazilian adjusted by attacking with a kneebar, but he was unable to lock in the submission. However, Oliveira continued to transition and attack, sliding his shin behind Wisely's kneecap. From there, he sat up and trapped his opponent's foot between his own and his groin.
In this position, Wisely is thoroughly stuck but not yet in pain. Oliveira quickly changed that, finishing the calf slicer by sitting up and grabbing his opponent's waist. From there, he pulled Wisely on top of him and hipped in, using Wisely's weight to fold his knee back, except that Oliveira's shin prevented it from doing so.
Basically, it really, really hurt and would've torn apart Wisely's kneecap if not for his frantic taps.
Best Chance For Success
It's imperative that Oliveira gets this fight to the mat. While he's not entirely outmatched on the feet, Holloway is undoubtedly the sharper and more durable striker. Plus, Hollaway is the superior-conditioned fighter and routinely works the body, so things could quickly get ugly for Oliveira on his feet.
To get Holloway down, Oliveira will need to force him into the fence. Luckily, his improved kicking ability will really help with that, as Oliveira can herd his opponent into the cage with round kicks and teeps. Holloway likely won't look to kick very much in fear of the takedown, so Oliveira should really look to press that advantage.
Once Oliveira has his hands on Holloway, he needs to get this fight to the mat however possible. Obviously, a takedown would be ideal, but Oliveira should certainly look to pull guard before allowing Holloway to break away and return to the center of the cage.
Will Charles Oliveira continues his winning ways or will Max Holloway announce himself as a true title contender?