Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Featherweight finishers Anthony Pettis and Charles Oliveira will collide this Saturday (Aug. 27, 2016) at UFC on FOX 21 inside Rogers Arena in Vancouver, British Colombia, Canada. In a match up of kickboxer and Brazilian jiu-jitsu ace, what adjustments must be made for either man to claim victory? Let's break it down.
There’s no doubt that Pettis is on the roughest slide of his entire mixed martial arts (MMA) career. After winning and defending the Lightweight title in dominant fashion, the flashy kickboxer lost the belt and dropped his next two bouts as well, forcing him to flee from the 155-pound division.
Oliveira made that same division switch years ago, and it really has paid off for him, even if he does struggle with the weight cut. Outside of a really strange fluke injury opposite Max Holloway, Oliveira has looked pretty stellar lately, beating up and largely finishing some tough foes.
Let’s take a look at the keys to victory for both athletes:
Key Wins: Benson Henderson (UFC 164, WEC 53), Gilbert Melendez (UFC 181), Donald Cerrone (UFC on FOX 6)
Key Losses: Rafael dos Anjos (UFC 185), Eddie Alvarez (UFC Fight Night 81), Edson Barboza (UFC 197)
Keys to Victory: Pettis is a dynamic kickboxer with a dangerous jiu-jitsu game, which has resulted in 15 victories via finishes. While he has lost his last three fights, it is worth mentioning that all three defeats came to Top 5-ranked opposition.
He's really not making much of a step down in competition here, either.
All in all, this is a dangerous and fairly unprecedented match up for Pettis. Pettis has faced wrestlers looking to take and hold him down, sure, but he's never faced a jiu-jitsu wizard who's very capable of tapping him — or anyone else — out.
With that in mind, Pettis needs to stay smart and maintain his distance. He needs to really focus on denying the initial takedown rather than playing any sort of scramble or jiu-jitsu game.
"Do Bronx" is that dangerous.
If Pettis is able to get some distance, he should be able to play his game perfectly. Oliveira is certainly a competent striker, but he's definitely hittable. On the other hand, Pettis excels at finding small openings and capitalizing on them viciously.
Record: 20-5 (1)
Key Wins: Nik Lentz (UFC Fight Night 67), Jeremy Stephens (TUF 20 Finale), Myles Jury (UFC on FOX 17), Hatsu Hioki (UFC Fight Night 43)
Key Losses: Frankie Edgar (UFC 162), Cub Swanson (UFC 152), Max Holloway (UFC Fight Night 74)
Keys to Victory: Oliveira is a terrifyingly dangerous grappler. His Muay Thai may be dangerous, but there's a reason that Oliveira has submitted 13 of his past opponents, including some jiu-jitsu black belts.
While there's every chance Oliveira's defensive problems end his night early, there is a definite path to victory for the Brazilian. If he fights with some smarts and performs, there's no doubt he can trouble Pettis.
At 155 pounds, Pettis' main problem was that his foes would pressure him and wrestle him into the fence, as he's far less effective on his back foot. He's hoping to gain a size advantage with this move, but Oliveira is a former Lightweight as well and likely will be the bigger man.
Therefore, Oliveira needs to follow the usual blueprint to take out Pettis and pressure him immediately. At the first opportunity, Oliveira needs to change levels and try to force the takedown.
There's a definite chance for a submission if Oliveira drags his foe down. Pettis is an aggressive grappler, but he doesn't have the technical mastery of "Do Bronx." In such match ups, Pettis' own aggressiveness creates opportunities for Oliveira, much like the Brazilian found out early in his career back when he fought Jim Miller at 20 years of age.
Bottom Line: This is a hugely important bout for both men.
It’s an absolute must-win for Pettis. His losses are to incredibly tough competition, but this is supposed to be a new start for him. If he loses his fourth straight, it’s really difficult to see how Pettis rebounds moving forward. On the other hand, a victory catapults Pettis to the Top 10 of a new division. If he’s able to score a couple more wins, he could easily find himself in a title fight against an exciting striker like Conor McGregor or Jose Aldo.
Meanwhile, Oliveira has the chance to score the biggest victory of his entire career. Pettis may be on a slide, but it’s still a short and elite list of fighters that hold a win over him. If Oliveira can take out the kickboxer, he’ll suddenly be in the title mix.
On the other hand, this could be disastrous for Oliveira. He’s missed weight three times since dropping down, and a fourth could send him back to 155 pounds. Besides that, Oliveira hasn’t fought much recently and would lose any momentum he’s built up with a loss on his return.
At UFC on FOX 21, Anthony Pettis and Charles Oliveira will face off in the co-main event. Which fighter will have his hand raised?