UFC Sao Paulo is not an event that will be remembered for much. There were a couple decent, back-and-forth scraps, and really, there were four finishes that deserve to be talked about. Each of those fighters were awarded an additional 50,000 dollars for their efforts in keeping us all awake throughout the event.
Much love to them all, but it’s time we talk about Charles Oliveira specifically.
Oliveira never should have been walked to the cage against Jared Gordon, a very tough gamer who was thoroughly outmatched from pretty much the first bell. He definitely should not have fought Nik Lentz a third time, a man whom he basically has kicked all over the cage on the three separate occasions. That rubber match was particularly offensive matchmaking — Lentz was getting a touch older and less athletic, whereas Oliveira was hitting his stride and had won the most recent fight.
Did anyone expect different in either fight?
There are certainly reasons to be wary of getting too excited about Oliveira’s future. It’s bitten many of us fans in the past. Dating all the way back to his 2010 kneebar loss to Jim Miller — whom Oliveira pointlessly rematched in less than 12 months ago! — a pattern has been established. Oliveira would beat up a few opponents and look amazing, only to falter when the competition rose.
There were various reasons why Oliveira has tasted defeat in these big fights. Early on, he just wasn’t comfortable in a scrap, which lead to veterans like Donald Cerrone and Cub Swanson getting the better of him. He spent too long trying to force himself to 145 lbs., which resulted in weird submission losses to Ricardo Lamas and Anthony Pettis, fights Oliveira looked uncomfortable in even while winning exchanges. Other times, he simply faced great fighters, like Max Holloway and Frankie Edgar to name a few.
Luckily, those defeats are in the past, and it seems like they’ve made Oliveira a better fight. Oliveira is no longer a 20-year-old jiu-jitsu wunderkind overconfident in his jiu-jitsu, nor is he a 25-year-old struggling to find his place among the best. At 30 years of age — what most would consider the start of his physical prime — Oliveira now appears to have all the tools.
There are two separate prongs to Oliveira’s improvement, equally important and quite relevant to one another. First and foremost, Muay Thai! “Do Bronx” kickboxing skill has grown considerably. He’s committed to chopping the leg, has plenty of creative offense up his sleeve, and as his knockout victory showed last night, can slip and throw a mean right hand.
Bolstering that improved striking is confidence. Oliveira doesn’t seem to panic anymore. He’s open to succeeding anywhere, no longer to desperate to grapple. If he’s doing well on his feet, he’ll keep building up damage. Should a submission opportunity arise, best believe he’ll jump on it like a dog to a bone.
The result is a dangerous fighter at his correct weight class, ready to challenge the best.
I am not saying Oliveira is the man to defeat Khabib Nurmagomedov. However, he does have the offense to threaten every single fighter at 155 lbs., and he’s more than earned another shot at the sport’s best.
For complete UFC Fight Night 164: “Souza vs. Blachowicz” results and play-by-play, click HERE!