Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Lightweight veterans Will Brooks and Charles Oliveira will duel this Saturday (April 8, 2017) at UFC 210 inside KeyBank Center in Buffalo, New York.
Entering into the Octagon as a fairly dominant champion from Bellator, things have not gone according to plan for “Ill Will.” His debut wasn’t particularly remarkable, but at least it was a win. However, his most recent opponent — admittedly aided by a big weight advantage — managed to overwhelm Brooks. Oliveira has faced his own issues with weight limits, but they’re usually his fault. The Brazilian proved himself a Top 10 contender at 145 pounds, but he also came in heavy four separate times, forcing him back to Lightweight.
Let’s take a look at these two talented fighters before they try to bounce back:
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), Alex Oliveira (UFC Fight Night 96)
Keys to Victory: Brooks built his mixed martial arts (MMA) game off a strong wrestling background and great athleticism, but he has developed into a smart and well-rounded athlete. Brooks is very crafty in the cage, a true veteran who knows how to win rounds and fights.
In his last fight, Brooks basically fought a Welterweight. In this one, he faces a 12-fight — well, eight if you don’t count the scale fails — Featherweight veteran. In all likelihood, that will translate into a strength and wrestling advantage, something Oliveira hasn’t deal with in some time. When on top, Oliveira is nasty, but he’s far less dangerous when his shots are stuffed and Oliveira is pulling guard.
By denying some early takedowns, Brooks creates opportunities for himself to control the flow of the fight. Whether he takes top position and slows his foe or jams him into the fence, Brooks physicality should be a major factor. If at any point Oliveira begins to break from that style of grinding fight, Brooks could potentially secure his first UFC finish as well.
Record: 20-7 (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: Anthony Pettis (UFC on FOX 21), Frankie Edgar (UFC 162), Cub Swanson (UFC 152), Ricardo Lamas (UFC Fight Night 98)
Keys to Victory: Oliveira is certainly competent in all areas, but he’s still a specialist. “Do Bronx” is one of the most volatile submission artists in the sport, as his effective Muay Thai and wrestling serve primarily to get him to a position where he can twist his opponent into submission.
In his last two bouts, however, Oliveira’s recklessness on the mat has led him into tapping first.
This is an interesting match up, as both men have clear paths to victory. As illustrated above, Brooks could definitely control and out-work his opponent to a likely decision win. However, Oliveira is a far more volatile finisher, whereas seven of Brooks’ last eight wins went the distance. To take advantage, Oliveira must force his opponent to make mistakes. On the feet, he should pressure and push a pace, as he’s no longer limited by an extreme weight cut. If he can land some good shots, it may set up his own takedown. Even if that doesn’t work out, it could lead to Brooks taking a poor shot.
If Brooks makes a mistake like that, the potential for Oliveira to land his fourteenth submission win may present itself.
Bottom Line: Both fighters are in serious need of a win.
Brooks entered UFC with plans to fight for the title quickly. Neither of his two prior performances have indicated that he’s ready for such an opportunity, and he needs to buck that trend here.
If Brooks can win impressively, he’s at least back in the Top 15. If nothing else, it’s a start to a potential title run. However, a second consecutive loss would be a major setback and cast his immediate future into question.
As for Oliveira, moving to Lightweight is the right move, even if it wasn’t his decision. If his body holds up better and he’s able to fight hard without slowing, he could be a contender here as well. Opposite a decorated fighter like Brooks, a win would bounce Oliveira back into the mix.
That said, another loss would make it three straight and four of his last five. Oliveira may be a long-time UFC vet who puts on exciting fights, but it seems UFC is looking to trim the roster quite a bit, so now is truly not the time to hit a hard skid.
At UFC 210, Will Brooks and Charles Oliveira will open the main card. Which man will have his hand raised?