Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Lightweight athletes Will Brooks and Alex Oliveira will collide this Saturday (Oct. 1, 2016) at UFC Fight Night 96 inside Moda Center in Portland, Oregon.
Like current kingpin Eddie Alvarez, Brooks was a dominant champion in Bellator MMA’s Lightweight division. Unlike the champion, Brooks has received match ups in the middle of the division and is being forced to work his way up. "Ill Will" needs to impress in this bout if he’s to rise through the ranks quickly. On the other hand, this is Oliveira’s big opportunity to move from action fighter to potential contender. The Brazilian has won four of his last five bouts in impressive fashion, and a win here will really help his momentum.
Let’s take a look at the keys to victory for each fighter:
Key Wins: Michael Chandler (Bellator 131, 120), Marcin Held (Bellator 145), Alexander Sarnavsky (Bellator 109), Ross Pearson (TUF 23 Finale)
Key Losses: Saad Awad (Bellator 91)
Keys to Victory: Brooks is a well-rounded and incredibly athletic fighter. Brooks does an excellent job of forcing opponents to fight his game on the feet before suddenly surprising them with a slick takedown.
This will be an interesting challenge for Brooks, as Oliveira is one of very few men who can match up to Brooks athletically. Plus, both men began their professional careers in in 2011, so Brooks isn't really much more experienced. Luckily, Brooks is the smarter grappler. Oliveira tends to get wild in scrambles, taking unnecessary risks and leaving openings for more conservative and/or better grapplers.
With that in mind, Brooks should do his best to maintain range and avoid the brawl. When Oliveira lunges in, Brooks' ability to level change into a powerful shot is more than proven.
Once on top, Brooks really needs to open up and hunt for the finish if he wants a position in the rankings.
Record: 15-3-1 (1)
Key Wins: Piotr Hallmann (UFC Fight Night 77), James Moontasri (UFC on FOX 20), KJ Noons (UFC Fight Night 67)
Key Losses: Donald Cerrone (UFC Fight Night 83), Gilbert Burns (UFC Fight Night 62)
Keys to Victory: Oliveira is one of the most powerful raw athletes in the division. There are some definite weaknesses to his game, but Oliveira has nonetheless been able to overwhelm a majority of his opponents.
In this match up, Oliveira definitely has a tough task ahead of him. Brooks does a nice job of nullifying his opponent's game, and that's easier to do against a fighter who forces his techniques.
To defeat Brooks, Oliveira has to keep this bout on the feet. He's used offensive wrestling in the past to some success, but that's not likely to work opposite the more credentialed wrestler. Since "Cowboy" often overextends while punching, he needs to do something to deter the takedown. For example, following up combinations with a knee or elbow would definitely make Brooks a bit more hesitant to shoot.
Additionally, Oliveira shouldn't be afraid to work from the clinch. He's strong and dangerous in that position, meaning he may be able to control the bout and do damage without giving away top position.
Bottom Line: This is another important test for Will Brooks.
Brooks has some major wins on his record and is very likely a contender at Lightweight. However, there are a ton of fighters who could be contenders, and Brooks needs to separate himself from the pack a bit here.
A win will go a long way in accomplishing that goal.
Unfortunately, all that competition means there’s little room for error. If Brooks comes up short here, it will take a few wins to move him near the rankings again. Oliveira is more of an unknown. He’s shown moments of greatness and inexperience — often in just one fight! — but at some point a fight will really determine whether or not he has the potential to be a contender.
This could be that bout.
If Oliveira wins this, it’s far and away the best win of his career. Brooks is a seriously skilled fighter, so a victory over him shows that Oliveira is ready for that level of competition. Alternatively, a loss leaves Oliveira in his current position, somewhere in the middle trying to take a step forward.
At UFC Fight Night 96, Will Brooks and Alex Oliveira will go to war in the co-main event. Who will leave the Octagon with a victory?