Charles Oliveira can bask in championship glory until July 10 rolls around… he will face the winner of Conor McGregor’s trilogy against Dustin Poirier, but who would the Brazilian rather face and how do they match up?
- Charles Oliveira won the vacant UFC lightweight belt in spectacular fashion
- Brazilian secured TKO win over Michael Chandler in second round of their fight
- He will face the winner of Dustin Poirier vs Conor McGregor, who fight on July 10
- So how does he match up with both fighters, and which one would he prefer?
How long will Charles Oliveira bask in the warm glow of UFC championship gold before turning his mind to July 10?
The Brazilian secured the vacant belt with a sensational TKO win over Michael Chandler in the second round of their UFC 262 main event at the weekend.
He celebrated like a man possessed, hugging everyone in sight and wearing the smile of a man who had achieved a life-long dream.
Charles Oliveira overcame a barrage of attacks in the first round to defeat Michael Chandler
Next up for the champion is Poirier or McGregor, who will fight on July 10 in their trilogy
It was a brilliant moment and no doubt he will spend the next few weeks parading the belt around his homeland, inspiring the youngsters who are growing up in the same Guaruja favela he did.
But MMA moves rapidly and there is a division of killers champing at the bit to get a shot at the new champion. Of those, Oliveira’s first defence will come against either Dustin Poirier or Conor McGregor.
Poirier was at the front of the queue to compete for the vacant belt but turned that opportunity down to have a lucrative third fight with McGregor, having beaten him in their January rematch on Fight Island.
He opted for cash over legacy and you can hardly blame him, knowing that another chance for UFC glory was still a win away.
Poirier dismissed Saturday’s main event as one for ‘fool’s gold’, declaring himself the true No 1 in the division now that Khabib Nurmagomedov has sailed off into the sunset.
But Oliveira has now won nine fights in succession and looked phenomenal in overcoming early adversity to stop Chandler, a man who demolished Dan Hooker in a round on his UFC debut.
He’ll be fascinated to see how July 10 plays out at UFC 264 and find out which man will be next for him.
In terms of a payday, there remains no greater opponent than McGregor. He may have won just once in the octagon since 2016 but the Irishman remains the biggest pay-per-view star in the sport.
The top five most-watched events in the organisation’s history have all had McGregor headlining and he will be desperate to climb his way back to the top.
In terms of finances, Oliveira may be hoping that McGregor wins the July 10 fight
Championship reigns in the UFC can be short-lived so securing money fights while at the summit is vitally important.
Oliveira will be all too aware of the attention, cash and opportunities a fight with McGregor can bring. And the ‘Notorious’ responded to the new champion’s win by writing: ‘Congrats to Oliveira on becoming the 11th UFC lightweight champion. Wonder who Twelve is…’
The Brazilian hit back in his post-fight press conference: ‘Conor, since you’re so tough: First of all, you beat Dustin, and then you come over to Brazil and I’m going to put you on your ass.
‘First he’s got to get past Dustin. He’s one of these guys that just talks a lot. He’s got to beat Dustin first.’
Stylistically, it would be a fascinating match-up. Oliveira, the man with more submission wins (14) than anyone else in UFC history, against McGregor, who was branded ‘McTapper’ by rivals having been submitted four times so far in his career.
On the feet, Oliveira has improved tremendously and has a style right out of the textbook. Few gave him a chance of knocking out Chandler, one of the most powerful strikers in the weight class.
But the first round showed that he can be hit too. McGregor almost always finds a home for that famous left hand and would back himself to have the edge on the feet.
If Oliveira could take the fight to the ground, it would not be a foregone conclusion but McGregor has been outgrappled by fighters far inferior to the Brazilian.
But John Kavanagh, the Irishman’s head coach, is a jiu-jitsu supremo and would no doubt have his man thoroughly prepared.
McGregor traded words with Charles Oliveira following the Brazilian’s title victory
On paper and in terms of the bank balance, Oliveira would not mind facing McGregor at all, so what about Poirier?
Already the trash talk has started between Oliveira and McGregor while ‘Diamond’ offered a classy touch, saying: ‘Congratulations Oliveira, you earned that the hard way! Head up Michael, highest of the highs and lowest of the lows.’
He made McGregor look incredibly fallible in their rematch and showed just how far he’s come as a fighter in terms of technique and mentality since their first meeting in 2014.
With the scores as one apiece, the bookies currently have the trilogy as an even money contest.
The way Poirier bounced back from his defeat by Khabib by beating Hooker and then stopping McGregor with punches for the first time was hugely impressive.
It was the leg kicks that paid dividends, destabilising the Dubliner’s base. Those would come in handy against Oliveira to keep the clinch and takedown attempts at bay.
Poirier is not known for his one punch KO power and the cumulative effect of his strikes is what helps earn him finishes.
This would help the champion, knowing he can take a few more risks on entry, understanding that he can eat a shot to gain position if necessary.
Poirier has no obvious weaknesses, however, and might be more difficult to prepare for. The Louisiana native is extremely well rounded and even came within a few seconds of submitting Khabib with a guillotine back in 2019.
Oliveira was overcome with emotion when he achieved his dream and became champion
He’s not one for trading verbal barbs, so the build-up to a fight with Oliveira, who requires a translator to speak English, would not be as compelling as McGregor.
Poirier may carry the mental baggage from losing his fight for the title, whereas McGregor knows he’s already been a two-weight champion.
In truth, all three fighters know how it feels to feel the joy of victory and despair of defeat on the biggest stage.
The winner of McGregor vs Poirier will unquestionably deserve their shot at the new champion and while both would be his greatest challenge yet, he matches up well with them and should hold no fear.
For now, he can lap up the acclaim from his people and drink in the magnitude of the achievement before July 10 comes racing around.
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