Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) returns to the pay-per-view (PPV) market later tonight (Sat., May 7, 2022) to stage UFC 274 live from inside Footprint Center in Phoenix, Arizona. Headlining the event will be a Lightweight title fight between the now-former champion, Charles Oliveira, battling Justin Gaethje. Only “Highlight” will be able to win the belt due to “Do Bronx” missing weight and subsequently getting stripped of the title.
Drama wreaked havoc all over this event during a weigh in that saw Oliveira miss weight by a half-pound after weighing in a second time. As a result, “Do Bronx” was stripped of the title, leaving it vacant and available for only Gaethje to win it later tonight. It was an unexpected and unfortunate turn of events for Oliveira, who was confused on the scale as to why he missed weight.
That said, should Oliveira defeat Gaethje, he will then have the chance to compete for the vacant belt against the next man up. Still, it’s a heartbreaking way to lose a title without ever stepping foot inside the cage, especially after he had been so patient to get to the top. “Do Bronx” already has one title defense under his belt, turning away Dustin Poirier at UFC 269, extending his impressive winning streak to 10 in the process. Against Gaethje, he will have another stiff challenge because he is one of the most vicious and aggressive strikers in the division, and he has the “Highlight” reel to prove it. Winning five of his last six fights, Gaethje’s lone loss during that span was a submission defeat to Khabib Nurmagomedov in a title fight that proved to be “The Eagle’s” last fight ever.
Gaethje likely has the advantage on the feet given his past track record, but don’t dismiss Oliveira so quickly when it comes to the striking department. He weathered Chandler’s storm and prevailed, and stood toe-to-toe with Poirier before forcing him to tap. The Brazilian bomber is also deceptively long when he throws his punches, and he will have the jiu-jitsu advantage, so it’s safe to say that will be his best path to victory. Granted, Gaethje has only been submitted once before, but if “Do Bronx” wants to walk out of the arena with his title, he will have to take this fight to the ground. If he opts to play a striking game with his hard-hitting counterpart it likely won’t end well. “Highlight” loves to take heaps of punishment to deliver his own. Or as Joe Lauzon eloquently put it, “He’s a guy who will light himself on fire just to burn you a little bit.” And that’s just what Oliveira should expect, punches coming at him non-stop with everything behind them.
Gaethje tried to stir the pot a bit calling Oliveira a “coward,” but he is far from that. He didn’t fold when Chandler had him on wobbly legs, came right back, and won the belt. His track record shows he has the heart of a champion and if Gaethje is somehow dismissing him prior to the showdown, it could be his downfall. In the end, Oliveira needs to be calm, cool and collected — as well as put his scale fail behind him — and not get drawn into a shootout because it will not end well for him. But if he can weather a few early storms, he can control the pace of the fight in the championship rounds.
I love the fight between Donald Cerrone and Joe Lauzon, two longtime veterans who have provided fight fans with memorable highlights throughout their careers, and they have the multitude of post-fight bonuses to prove it. What I don’t appreciate, however, is that Dana White pretty much said that the loser of this bout would be getting cut. Granted, Cerrone has lost five of his last six, while Lauzon is 1-3, though he is coming off a win. I get it, you think they need to “pack it up and ride off into the sunset,” but telling them that before a fight just puts unnecessary pressure on them. And to do it to a couple of fighters who have always put it on the line as they have is a bit disrespectful to me, especially since you have Sam Alvey on your roster, who has lost seven of eight and hasn’t won in four years.
Original Card vs Actual Card:
Glover Teixeira was originally set to defend his light heavyweight crown against Jiri Prochazka at this event before it was moved back to UFC 275 a month later. Also, UFC 275 was the beneficiary of the Michael Johnson vs Alan Patrick fight, as well, after the promotion opted to remove it from this already-stacked event.
Michelle Waterson was forced out of her fight against Amanda Ribas (again) after she suffered an undisclosed injury. “Karate Hottie” revealed that it could put her entire MMA career in danger, but nothing has been heard from her regarding her health since.
Fernando Garcia will make his UFC debut against Journey Newson in a bantamweight scrap. Garcia is currently on a five-fight win streak and is a product of Legacy Fighting Alliance (LFA). Overall he is 10-1 in his seven-year pro MMA career. As for Newson, he has yet to pick up a win so far inside the Octagon, going 0-2 (1 NC).
After making an impression on the Contender Series, Kleydson Rodrigues will get the chance to shine on the big stage as he takes on C.J. Vergara, who came up short in his own debut at UFC 268, losing to Ode Osbourne after 15 minutes of hard-fought action. Rodrigues is an exciting Flyweight prospect who could add some excitement to the division if he can rack up some wins in a hurry.
Cameron VanCamp will put his four-fight win streak on the line against Andre Fialho in his first official fight for the promotion. With nine submission wins on his resume, VanCamp is a legit threat when it comes to the Brazilian jiu-jitsu part of the fight game, which will definitely be tested by Fialho, though not as much as his striking technique will.
How The ‘Prelims’ Look:
Khaos Williams will return to action in an attempt to pick up his third straight win — as well as another highlight-reel knockout — when he battles Randy Brown, who has very quietly won four of his last five fights in the crowded welterweight division. This fight has “Performance of the Night” winner written all over for either fighter.
Norma Dumont will put her three-fight win streak up against Macy Chiasson — loser of her last fight — in a rare women’s featherweight fight. For Dumont, a title fight could be up for grabs given how shallow the division still is.
In the flyweight division, Brandon Royval and Matt Schnell will collide in a battle of Top 10 contenders looking for a possible surge into the Top 5. Royval stopped the bleeding of his two-fight skid by defeating Rogerio Bonterin, while Schnell is looking to make things right after his loss to Bonterin was overturned to a “No Contest” after Bonterin tested positive for hydrochlorothiazide.
In the heavyweight division, Blagoy Ivanov and Marco Rogerio de Lima will collide in a fight that has two heavy hitters going the opposite direction. Ivanov has lost his last two fights — both via split decision — while de Lima has won two straight. Ivanov needs a win in order to avoid this list.
In women’s flyweight action, Tracy Cortez will continue her push into trying to get a bit more love and spotlight from the promotion. She is an impressive 9-1 so far in her career and is undefeated at 3-0 under the UFC banner. She will attempt to extend her win streak to 10 when she battles Melissa Gatto, winner of three straight. With a win, Cortez could be eying a spot in the Top 15, while Gatto won’t be too far off herself should she come out on top.
Lupita Godinez will return for her fifth fight inside the Octagon in one year to battle Ariane Carnelossi. Godinez has quickly become somewhat of a fan favorite for her willingness for quick turnarounds and her push-the-pace style of fighting. She is hoping to secure her first back-to-back wins inside the Octagon while Carnelossi is eying her third win in a row.
Who Needs A Win Badly:
We have already established that Lauzon and Cerrone need a win if they want to hang on to their UFC roster spot, but Tony Ferguson needs a win, as well. While White did say “El Cucuy” would be safe from getting the ax should he lose to Michael Chandler, suffering a fourth-straight defeat could be a perfect excuse to break that promise. And when you couple the fact that Ferguson has been very critical of the promotion post-Dana’s comments, the outspoken head honcho has all the ammunition to let him go, as well.
As for the fight itself, Ferguson will have to be perfect to win this fight because Chandler is desperate for a win, too. He is currently on a two-fight losing streak and is just 1-2 since making the jump over to UFC. That said, Chandler has not been tossed any softballs, facing Dan Hooker, Justin Gaethje, and Charles Oliveira in his first three fights. Still, this is where the “big boys play” and Chandler is used to top-level competition. A win over Ferguson gives him some much-needed breathing room and confidence. It’s an early favorite to win “Fight of the Night” given both men’s history.
Interest Level: 9/10
This is one of the most stacked cards of 2022 so far that features one of the most-anticipated title fights between Oliveira vs Garthje and a great 155-pound scrap between Chandler and Ferguson.
The co-main event should also be a thrilling affair as women's strawweight champion Rose Namajunas defends her title against Carla Esparza. Interestingly enough, the two ladies first competed for the inaugural 115-pound title way back in 2014 which saw “Cookie Monster” submit “Thug Rose” to win the strap. Fast forward eight years later and Namajunas is sitting at the top while Esparza has the chance to do what she did so long ago one more time. But just like Esparza has improved, so has Namajunas, and she has been battle-tested all of these years. If Namajunas can defeat Esparza, it’s time to start putting her in the Amanda Nunes and Valentina Shevchenko conversation as one of the best female fighters of all time.
Also, longtime veteran and fan-favorite Mauricio Rua will return after 1.5 years away from action to rematch Ovince Saint Preux. The two initially fought eight years ago, which saw “OSP” knockout the former PRIDE FC and UFC light heavyweight champion early in Round 1. Saint Preux is just 1-3 in his last four fights so he needs to get some rhythm going in a hurry. He does have the added confidence of knowing he starched “Shogun” in 34 seconds, but he still needs to be aware of the dangers that the longtime veteran brings.
At 40 years of age, Rua is still chugging along and, believe it or not, actually has a pretty good record since 2015, going 5-2-1. While some people may wonder to themselves why Rua is still competing, the fact of the matter is that he is still winning at a high level. Sure, he isn’t the same explosive “Shogun” of the early days, but there is no reason for anyone to count him out of any fight because he has a lot to offer the fight game. And if you don’t think he isn’t taking any motivation from the fact that Glover Teixeira is wearing the belt at 42 years of age, you’re kidding yourself.
Enjoy the fights!
UFC 274 PPV Main Event on ESPN+:
155 lbs.: Charles Oliveira vs. Justin Gaethje
UFC 274 PPV Main Card on ESPN+ (10 p.m. ET):
115 lbs.: UFC women’s strawweight champion Rose Namajunas vs. Carla Esparza
155 lbs.: Michael Chandler vs. Tony Ferguson
205 lbs.: Mauricio Rua vs. Ovince Saint Preux
155 lbs.: Donald Cerrone vs. Joe Lauzon— Canceled (details here)
UFC 274 PPV Prelims Card On ESPN/ESPN+ (8 p.m. ET):
170 lbs.: Randy Brown vs. Khaos Williams
170 lbs.: Danny Roberts vs. Francisco Trinaldo
145 lbs.: Macy Chiasson vs. Norma Dumont
125 lbs.: Brandon Royval vs. Matt Schnell
UFC 274 PPV Early Prelims Card On ESPN+ (5:30 p.m. ET):
265 lbs.: Blagoy Ivanov vs. Marcos Rogerio de Lima
170 lbs.: Andre Fialho vs. Cameron VanCamp
125 lbs.: Tracy Cortez vs. Melissa Gatto
125 lbs.: Kleydson Rodrigues vs. C.J. Vergara
115 lbs.: Ariane Carnelossi vs. Loopy Godinez
135 lbs.: Journey Newson vs. Fernie Garcia
MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC 274 fight card on fight night, starting with the ESPN+ “Prelims” matches at 5:30 p.m. ET, followed by the remaining undercard balance on ESPN/ESPN+ at 8 p.m. ET, before the PPV main card start time at 10 p.m. ET on ESPN+.
For more news and notes on UFC 274 be sure to visit our comprehensive event archive right here. For the updated, revised, and finalized “Oliveira vs. Gaethje” fight card and ESPN+ PPV line up click here.