Charles Oliveira vs Islam Makhachev – One of the Most Compelling Fights of the Year 

Opponents Charles Oliveira and Islam Makhachev face off before their UFC 280 press conference. (Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC)

This weekend sees Lightweight Champion Charles Oliveira defend his title against Islam Makhachev, in what is one of the most compelling fights in mixed martial arts this year. The main event between two of the best in one of the sport’s toughest divisions, there is plenty of excitement surrounding this fight and for good reason.

Styles make fights. 

There’s an old saying in mixed martial arts, that “styles make fights”, meaning that a compelling contest is likely when two athletes with complimentary skillsets face one another. 

For example, when Israel Adensaya (current Middleweight champion) fought Paulo Costa, MMA fans were champing at the bit. Adesanya is a counter-striker who reads his opponents, makes them miss, and then hurts them while they’re out of position. Whereas Paulo Costa is an aggressive, high-volume power-puncher who never takes a step back. It was a bull (Costa) vs. a matador (Adesanya), both fighters’ skill sets were opposing, yet complimentary,  so we knew it would be a fight to remember.

Oliveira vs Makhachev has a similar storyline. 

On one hand, we have Oliveira – a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu specialist, boasting the most submissions in UFC history. Whilst standing, Oliveira uses an upright Muay Thai style, pressuring constantly. He’s a better striker than Makhachev, so will be looking to capitalise on this advantage.

However, an upright Muay Thai stance has a drawback – you are more susceptible to being taken down. Islam Makhachev is a takedown specialist. He is from Dagestan, a region of Russia notorious for creating some of the best wrestlers on the planet. Islam’s game plan for every fight is to take his opponent down and hold him there while landing strikes and searching for submissions. If he doesn’t finish his opponent, he wins via decision. 

Will Islam Makhachev be able to hold Oliveira down, avoid being submitted, and win the title with his Dagestani wrestling? Will Charles Oliveira be able to get back to his feet and strike with Islam, where he has the advantage? Or, will Charles Oliveira be the first man ever to submit Islam Makhachev? 

These men are both incredible martial artists. Whoever is able to impose their style on the other will win this fight. 

The Depth of the Division 

The Lightweight division (155lbs/70kgs) in the UFC is widely regarded to be the best of them all. 

So, both of these men have had to fight their way through incredibly tough opposition to be at the pinnacle of the Lightweight division. 

Some argue that Makhachev hasn’t had a particularly challenging run to the title, but he’s on a 10-fight win streak in the hardest division in all of mixed martial arts. 

Oliveira has beaten Poirier, Gathje, Chandler, Ferguson and Kevin Lee in his last 5 fights – an impressive roster.

The Lightweight title may be the hardest to win in MMA, so when it’s on the line, there’s an added level of anticipation. 

Tony vs Khabib – The Fight that never was.

One of the most highly anticipated fights which never happened in MMA was Tony Ferguson vs Khabib Nurmagomedov. The fight was scheduled five times, yet for a number of reasons, cancelled. It never came to be, and it never will. Khabib has since retired, leaving us all wondering what would have happened. 

That was until it was announced Charles Oliveira would fight Islam Makhachev.

Islam Makhachev just happens to be Khabib Numagomedov’s younger cousin and fights with almost exactly the same style (Dagestani wrestling) as Khabib used to win 29 fights in a row and walk away from the sport undefeated. 

Charles Oliveira fights with almost exactly the same style as Tony Ferguson – dangerous Muay Thai combined with high-level Jiu-Jitsu. 

So in a strange, unlikely turn of events, we will see who would have won the most anticipated fight that never happened, kind of. 

Charles Oliveira vs Islam Makhachev promises to be a historic event. Two athletes at the very top of the MMA pyramid will battle it out in Abu Dhabi. Will Oliveira catch Makhachev with one of his patented submissions? Will Makhachev hold Oliveira down and grind out a decision win? We’ll find out on Saturday evening. 

Main Card starts at 7 pm UK time and is available on BT Sport. 

*Here’s a great technique breakdown by Dan Hardy if you want more insight into the fight:

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