Charles Oliveira vs. Justin Gaethje is much more than a grappler vs striker matchup.
Major news broke on Wednesday as ESPN reported that Charles Oliveira will take on Justin Gaethje and was confirmed by UFC president Dana White. According to Brett Okamoto, the fight is scheduled for UFC 274 on May 7 at a location to be named.
Oliveira is coming off a big title defense at UFC 269 where he submitted Dustin Poirier in the third round of their main event affair. This was his tenth victory in a row where he’s picked up wins over the likes of Michael Chandler, Tony Ferguson, Kevin Lee, and others.
Gaethje is looking to build momentum, as he will step back into the cage after his last win; a victory over Chandler at UFC 268. This will be his second shot at the belt, as he dropped a 2020 fight against Khabib Nurmagomedov via submission.
Who will win? Charles Oliveira or Justin Gaethje?
Oliveira vs. Gaethje is a tough matchup to predict. It’s lazy to call this a simple grappler vs. striker contest because both men are so much more. Yes, Oliveira is a dangerous submission artist that can lock on something quickly, while Gaethje is a dynamic striker that throws every strike with the intention to incapacitate. But this fight doesn’t end there.
With Oliveira, he’s an individual whose striking has continued to grow rapidly. He’s found a way to mix in crisp technique that puts the pressure on his opponents while getting them in a position where he can grasp hold onto their body. But while doing that, he’s landing with enough power to hurt and threaten them. Three of his nine finishes in this run are via strikes, but even the six submissions were created by opportunities birthed from striking.
Then there’s Gaethje. He’s known for bringing the violence straight forward at a frenetic pace. The same pace he’s used to stop five of his six wins in the UFC. And the three losses he’s taken? The winners of those fights didn’t leave the cage without picking up their own battle scars along the way.
When these two men face off, what to watch for is the pace of the battle. Expect both men to push forward from the onset. Gaethje’s best bet is to utilize strong leg kicks to break up Oliveira’s rhythm, hopefully opening a shot to the head or the body that can set up a finishing sequence. Oliveira will be looking to control the early range while backing Gaethje up outside the black lines in the Octagon. If he can connect his body to Gaethje to tie him up, look for a finishing sequence to come quickly. Gaethje is a strong wrestler, and while he doesn’t always show it, he’s shown some weakness to opponents who can quickly progress through submission positions as Oliveira can.
As mentioned, Oliveira’s striking has improved during his run in the UFC. But he’s still shown that he can be hurt on the feet, with both Chandler and Poirier rattling him with shots to the head. What stopped them from capitalizing on those moments is that Oliveira was able to immediately get a hold of them and implement his BJJ to get to a better position. Watch for Gaethje to attempt to follow that gameplan but not make the mistake of opening himself up to Oliveira’s submission stylings.
Fans should expect a very fast-paced, and violent battle between these two men that will not go the full 25 minutes. Look for Gaethje to land some heavy shots but be unable to stop Oliveira from getting his hands on him, locking up the rear-naked choke for the win, and to remain UFC Lightweight Champion.
Prediction: Charles Oliveira via submission.