UFC Fight Camp - Jose Aldo retiresSep 22
UFC 274: Oliveira vs Gaethje – Four reasons you can’t afford to miss it
It looks set to be another memorable night inside the Octagon on Saturday night with two title fights coming your way at UFC 274, exclusively live on BT Sport. Here’s why you can’t miss it.
Lightweight champion Charles Oliveira returns to action this weekend as he defends his 155lb title against fan favourite Justin Gaethje at UFC 274 in a pulsating encounter coming your way exclusively live on BT Sport.
Strawweight queen Rose Namajunas also makes her first Octagon walk since November when she defends her world championship in a rematch against her former conqueror, Carla Esparza.
Here’s four reasons you can’t afford to miss the action on Saturday night.
Charles in charge
There have been few UFC career revivals as impressive as Charles Oliveira’s steady takeover of the lightweight division over the past few years.
The Brazilian king had only ever pieced together a four-fight win streak before beginning an irrepressible assault on the throne back in 2018, now chasing down his 11th straight win having broken a handful of seriously impressive records.
His third-round submission win over Dustin Poirier last time out in what was his first defence of the belt helped cement Oliveira’s status as the UFC’s all-time leader for finishes with 18 – two more than the next man, Donald “Cowboy Cerrone.
The 32-year-old also stands alone with the most submission wins in UFC history with 15, four more than jiu-jitsu standout Demian Maia in second place.
Where once Oliveira’s presence on a fight card may have barely registered with fans, now the Sao Paulo man has become appointment viewing, pocketing three bonuses in his last four fights while taking the scalps of some huge names in the division.
But his recent winning form has not been without a few momentary scares along the way; Oliviera has been dropped in the opening round of each of his last two fights, showing championship heart to battle back from the brink on both occasions.
Against a man renowned for throwing offense with reckless abandon, it’s not unlikely that Oliveira may have to climb off the canvas once again on Saturday night.
But should he triumph in his second lightweight title defence, there can be little doubt we’re being treated to the best days of a truly remarkable champion.
There’s not much else that needs to be said about Justin Gaethje at this point, is there?
The 33-year-old never fails to put on a show, living up to his moniker ‘The Highlight’ every time he steps foot inside the famous Octagon.
Since joining the promotion back in 2017, Gaethje has fought nine times, pocketing a performance bonus after eight of those fights.
His last trip saw him share 15 minutes of carnage with Michael Chandler at UFC 268 in November, narrowly defeating the former Bellator champion to book an immediate return to championship contention after Khabib Nurmagomedov’s retirement.
I’m going to put a hole right in his face and it’s going to be glorious
- Justin Gaethje
Outclassed on his maiden attempt at the undisputed belt by the inimitable Russian, Gaethje will hope to prove he belongs at the summit of the UFC’s most talent-rich division by snatching the belt at the second time of asking.
Speaking to reporters earlier this week, Gaethje was asked about comments he had previously made calling Oliveira’s heart into question.
“He’s  years old, he’s a man now, with confidence. A man with confidence is a dangerous man and he’s not the same man that I was referencing,” Gaethje said.
“But, again, deep down, once it happened once it will happen again, and I’m the perfect guy to show it to him. And I will show it to him May 7. I’ve got to stay out of grappling positions obviously, but I’m going to put a hole right in his face and it’s going to be glorious.”
All or nothing
It’s not often there will be such clamour for a fight in which the two combatants come in on a combined run of five straight defeats.
But this isn’t any old fight.
Michael Chandler’s lightweight showdown against Tony Ferguson may well steal the show on the main card on Saturday night with both men in desperate need of a win to reverse their ailing fortunes.
Since joining the UFC from Bellator in the summer of 2020, Chandler has fought three times, spectacularly knocking out Dan Hooker on debut, taking champion Oliveira close at UFC 262 and then producing a fight of the year candidate against Justin Gaethje at UFC 268 last time out.
Despite losing two of those three, Chandler’s stock has not been seriously damaged by defeats thus far thanks to his all-action displays.
But the 36-year-old knows he must make a habit of winning as well as entertaining the fans if he is to achieve his dream of conquering the UFC’s 155lb division.
Ferguson finds himself in a similar place these days having once loomed over the lightweight division as the self-styled bogey man at 155lb.
Almost six years undefeated and on a 12-fight win streak before he came across Justin Gaethje at UFC 249, Ferguson endeared himself in the hearts and minds of the UFC faithful over the last decade with his unique style of unorthodox violence.
But now having dropped to defeats against Gaethje, Charles Oliveira and Beneil Dariush consecutively, Ferguson finds himself in unfamiliar territory fighting to remain relevant atop a talent-rich division.
Can he rediscover the El Cucuy of old – or will Chandler send Ferguson one step closer to retirement?
The last ride?
The exhibition of legendary fighters at UFC 274 would not be complete without the appearance of Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone.
Now 39, Cerrone enters the 55th fight of his professional MMA career looking to pick up a victory that would help pave the way to retire from the sport on a high following a difficult run of form in recent times.
The popular Denver man has gone six winless since defeating Al Iaquinta in a Fight of the Night affair back in May 2019 and in the twilight of his career, many hope Cerrone is winding down before staying in the sport too long.
If and when he does decide to call it a day, there’s no question Cerrone will join the list of greats inside the UFC Hall of Fame.
No fighter has more UFC wins in company history (23), no fighter has scored more knockdowns (20) and no fighter has more fight night bonuses (18) than Cerrone.
Saturday night sees Cerrone face fellow veteran Joe Lauzon in a perfect piece of matchmaking with Lauzon also approaching the tail end of a commendable UFC career.
Inactive for the last two-and-a-half years, Lauzon will look to pick up where he left off in victory over Jonathan Pearce in October 2019 knowing victory would see him move just one win behind Cerrone in the all-time UFC lightweight wins list.
Will Cowboy sign off his legendary career with a dream victory - or can Lauzon turn back time and spoil Cerrone's party?