Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Lightweight finishers Charles Oliveira and Justin Gaethje will clash TONIGHT (Sat., May 7, 2022) at UFC 274 inside Footprint Center in Phoenix, Arizona.
Man, it really sucks that Oliveira missed weight by a half-pound yesterday (details here). This is such a perfect fight — what’s better than two of the most exciting fighters in 155-pound history throwing down for undisputed gold? I won’t say the fight is ruined, but it’s simply unfortunate that Oliveira doesn’t have a shot at defending or winning the belt, and now the Lightweight division may enter a state of chaos. Fortunately, the circumstances inside the cage remain the same. “Do Bronx” and “The Highlight” are killers, incredibly talented and entertaining. When the two are trading blows at a ferocious pace, no one is going to be thinking about the scale until after the action subsides.
Let’s take a closer look at the keys to victory for each man:
Record: 32-8 (1)
Key Wins: Dustin Poirier (UFC 269), Michael Chandler (UFC 262), Tony Ferguson (UFC 256), Kevin Lee (UFC Fight Night 170), David Teymur (UFC Fight Night 144), Myles Jury (UFC on FOX 17), Will Brooks (UFC 210)
Key Losses: Paul Felder (UFC 218), Anthony Pettis (UFC on FOX 21), Frankie Edgar (UFC 162), Cub Swanson (UFC 152), Ricardo Lamas (UFC Fight Night 98)
Keys to Victory: Oliveira just might be the most dangerous finisher on the roster? At the very least, he’s in the running. Give the Brazilian the smallest opening, and he’s slamming home a variety of powerful strikes or jumping on the neck immediately.
Body work is Oliveira’s best friend in this fight, similar to his Poirier performance. It’s well-established that Gaethje’s high guard leaves his torso vulnerable, and to be frank, Gaethje reacts far more to body rips than shots. Oliveira’s teep kick to the gut, his knees from the clinch, even a simple cross to the chest — all great weapons here.
In general, I’d like to see Oliveira moving forward whenever possible. Obviously, he’s going to have to retreat occasionally from Gaethje’s big swings, but “The Highlight” will have a much more difficult time chopping legs while being forced backwards. One potential avenue to convincing Gaethje to back off a bit is reactive takedowns, and Oliveira would be wise to watch tape and recognize that cutting toward the back following a shot is often good strategy versus the wrestler.
Key Wins: Tony Ferguson (UFC 249), Michael Chandler (UFC 268), Edson Barboza (UFC on ESPN 2), Donald Cerrone (UFC Fight Night 158), Michael Johnson (TUF 25 Finale), James Vick (UFC Fight Night 135), Luis Palomino (WSOF 19, 23)
Key Losses: Khabib Nurmagomedov (UFC 254), Dustin Poirier (UFC on FOX 29), Eddie Alvarez (UFC 218)
Keys to Victory: Gaethje ain’t too shabby of a finisher himself. The veteran contender is all about damage, forcing collisions with his opponents and doing gigantic damage at distance, in the pocket, and in the clinch.
This is not the opponent for Justin Gaethje to resort to past tactics. If he tries to simply brawl with Oliveira and ignore what’s coming back his way — a tactic he still occasionally employs — he’s probably going to get hurt. Simply put: Gaethje has to apply his pressure intelligently.
Nowadays, Gaethje does some of his best work on the counter, pulling and firing a right or slipping off the center line and returning with an uppercut. Oliveira’s offense-first mindset leaves him vulnerable to such well-executed boxing counters, and it only takes a couple shots from Gaethje to really throw off his opponent’s rhythm.
The game plan for Gaethje should be initiate (with a low kick or quick lead read), avoid, then immediately fire back — be first and be last. Another key focus for Gaethje should be countering kicks. Any time Oliveira lifts his and fires a teep or low kick, Gaethje should be looking to return fire with his own dig to the lead leg.
A few Gaethje low kicks can quickly be discouraging, or he could look to parry the teep and step forward with combinations. Both are good ideas opposite a fellow strong kicker!
I don’t know what happens if Oliveira wins tonight. For most, he’ll still be seen as the champion, particularly since he made weight were it not a title fight. At the same time, defeating Gaethje without defending the belt would be less significant for his legacy, and it means he still has to win the title next time out.
If the belt is vacant, will Conor McGregor worm his way into the picture? Probably.
The fallout is less severe if Gaethje takes out the (former) champion. Order is restored, and “The Highlight” completes his career turnaround from burning out brawler to ultra violent champion. Gaethje is a fan favorite already, and a title only bolsters his star further, and there are so many intriguing fights available for him at 155 pounds.
At UFC 274, Charles Oliveira and Justin Gaethje will go to war in the main event. Which man will have his hand raised?
Remember that MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC 274 fight card right here, starting with the early ESPN+ “Prelims” matches online, which are scheduled to begin at 6:15 p.m. ET, then 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+ PPV.
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