It’s quite difficult to comprehend the fact that Charles ‘Do Bronx’ Oliveira is just 30-years-old. The Brazilian challenger has been a mainstay on our television sets for what seems a lifetime. Approaching his staggering tenth year with the promotion, Oliveira has featured an incredible twenty-five times in the Octagon, whether that be at featherweight or lightweight.
The streaking grappler takes on former interim 155-pound title challenger, Kevin Lee in Brasília this weekend – rewarded with a headline homecoming following six straight stoppages. The São Paulo native holds the record for most submissions in the UFC with an incredible thirteen wins coming via his choke or joint variations. Numbers aside, Oliveira is simply one of the most dangerous competitors on the UFC’s books today, and in my opinion, criminally overlooked by many.
In his previous six outings, Oliveira has managed finishes over Clay Guida, Christos Giagos, a rematch win over Jim Miller, David Teymur, Nik Lentz, and Jared Gordan last November. He’s fast becoming a household name at lightweight, and is already one of the most recognisable figures to emerge from the talent pool that is Brazil. A victory over someone of Lee’s stature improves his claim for a top-five opponent later this year.
Oliveira’s grappling ability speaks for itself, he’s a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt under the storied Jorge Patino, and Ericson Cardoso. He’s competent in both choke and joint variations, and become the first in the UFC to secure victory via a reverse calf slicer, when he faced Eric Wisely back in 2012. One thing that’s become evident in recent outings, is Oliveira’s evolvement in his striking ability. He’s lodged eighteen career wins by submission, but has also notched eight knockouts on the way.
Even in his eight Octagon defeats, the competition that those blemishes came against is high level, and some of them, the elite of the elite. Jim Miller, Ricardo Lamas, Paul Felder, Donald Cerrone, Cub Swanson, all found a way past Oliveira no doubt, but his only other defeats have come against former champions, Max Holloway, due to an oesophagus tear, Anthony Pettis, and Frankie Edgar.
When compared with Kevin Lee – Oliveira, conceivably, is the more accomplished grappler. Lee is certainly a game challenge for Oliveira, but the wrestling aspect of his game used to great success in his early goings with Tony Ferguson – shares a potentially similarly dangerous fate. On the feet, we witnessed one of the knockouts of last year when the Michigan native met Gregor Gillespie at UFC 244. Launching a right hook, Lee then set up a left high-kick, completely folding the then-undefeated wrestler against the Octagon fence. UFC 244 was Lee’s first camp under the renowned Firas Zahabi from Tristar – something I’ll examine in more depth tomorrow.
The fact the Lee has competed at welterweight in the past, gives him a natural size advantage over Oliveira – something which may prove to be a big factor in this clash. Realistically, Oliveira is yet to face serious adversity since his knockout loss to Paul Felder, where he wilted in the second round. If Lee can utilise his wrestling in a clever approach and force Oliveira to question himself – the often noted mental block which hampers the Brazilian may rear it’s unsightly head once more. Lee’s prior experience with high-level grapplers Michael Chiesa, and Francisco Trinaldo should provide massive comfort, given the fact he managed to wrap both them up with rear-naked chokes.