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UFC 274, The Morning After: Is Charles Oliveira the best finisher ever?

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UFC 274: Oliveira v Gaethje Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC

Chucky Olives did it again.

Back in 2018 when his current win streak began, nobody expected much from the Brazilian, back at Lightweight after a disastrous Featherweight run. Even Oliveira himself didn’t seem to have high expectations, as there was a period where he kept begging for a return to 145 pounds — all the more ironic given last Friday’s weigh-in debacle.

Charles Oliveira’s current run has become extraordinary, finishing opponents left and right en route to the title. UFC was reluctant to give him ranked opponents, but when Oliveira did finally get a step up versus Kevin Lee, the result was the same. Oliveira confounded his opponent with brutal attacks from all angles, and his foe didn’t make it to the final bell.

In Oliveira’s current 11-fight win streak, he’s finished 10 opponents, and he basically broke Tony Ferguson’s arm in his sole decision win. Throughout his entire career, Oliveira has stopped 30 of his 33 wins. That’s roughly 91 percent, and most of those victories came inside the Octagon against stiff competition.

In short, Oliveira has built a tremendous resume as the sport’s most dangerous finisher. When he wounds an opponent, he finishes him with a unique combination of instinct, experience and overwhelming skill.

Of course, there are a handful of other great finishers with similar statistics (like Jiri Prochazka or prime Carlos Condit), and you could make an argument for them as the all-time best. Rather than actually dive into that debate, however, let’s talk about how Oliveira’s ability to finish is responsible for all three of his title wins.

Michael Chandler, Dustin Poirier, Justin Gaethje. All three are excellent finishers in their own right, and all three know how to survive tough spots. Yet, in each of their fights versus Oliveira, it became increasingly clear that Oliveira was far more deadly and perhaps also more comfortable acting as the nail.

Chandler came the closest to knocking out Oliveira. He’s lightning fast, and he actually followed Oliveira to the ground in aggressive pursuit of the finish. Raw athleticism nearly surmounted Oliveira’s gifts, but the Brazilian managed to survive anyway. Then, when he returned the favor and sent Chandler to the deck, Oliveira followed up with accurate ground strikes from good body positioning to earn the belt.

We didn’t know it at the time, but a pattern was established that night in its most dramatic form.

Poirier also hurt Oliveira with punches, but when Oliveira fell, he was still aware. For Oliveira, the guard is true to its name, a failsafe that enables him to take chances on the feet. Oliveira can protect himself from his back and scare opponents off to boot, buying time to recover in the inevitable event that he gets cracked in pursuit of the finish.

Those seconds are pivotal. When the finish didn’t materialize for Poirier, he started eating hard knees to the gut and lost a bit of spark. Oliveira pummeled him with some elbows, capitalized on a small moment of wrestling to jump the back, and strangled him with ease once there.

Gaethje came darn close to beheading Oliveira, too. He literally leapt into the air when landing a huge uppercut, and his counter hook couldn’t have been cleaner. Both times, Oliveira’s eyes were wobbly when he hit the canvas. Still, Gaethje wouldn’t follow him down. Oliveira was allowed to recover, but he offered Gaethje no similar favors when he dropped the wrestler. Immediately, Oliveira was attacking the neck, a difficult thing to defend even while fully conscious.

Oliveira has been knocked down four times in his last three fights. He’s only scored two knockdowns of his own, yet Oliveira is 3-0 with three finishes against absolutely elite Lightweights.

Champion or not, title defense or not, Charles Oliveira has forever made his mark.

For complete UFC 274: “Oliveira vs. Gaethje” results and play-by-play, click HERE.

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