Charles Oliveira won’t be underestimated anymore…
The 32-year-old Brazilian professional mixed martial artist weathered an early storm and then finished Dustin Poirier via submission (rear-naked choke) at 1 minute, 2 seconds of the third round Saturday night in the main event of UFC 269 at T-Mobile Arena.
With the victory, Oliveira retained the UFC lightweight title.
“I’m the world champion,” Oliveira said in his postfight interview through an interpreter. “I’m the man. They talk. I do it.”
After back-to-back stoppage wins over Conor McGregor, many thought Poirier becoming UFC lightweight champion was a foregone conclusion.
Instead, Oliveira, the greatest submission artist in UFC history, cashed as a +115 underdog, according to Caesars Sportsbook.
He won the belt with a second-round TKO win over Michael Chandler at UFC 262 in May. That was Oliveira’s 28th UFC fight, the longest journey for any fighter to a UFC title in history. Yet, he remained unheralded with more popular names like Poirier near the top of the division. It’ll be hard to doubt “Do Bronx” any longer.
Coming in, ESPN had Poirier ranked No. 5 and Oliveira ranked No. 6 in the world on its pound-for-pound MMA list. At lightweight, ESPN had Poirier at No. 1 and Oliveira at No. 2.
On Saturday, Poirier rocked Oliveira several times in the first round, dropping him once with a wicked left hook. But Oliveira survived the barrage and gained momentum late in the round with a big left hook.
“They can hit me a lot,” Oliveira said. “I’m gonna walk forward.”
Oliveira took Poirier down early in the second round and remained in top position, landing hard elbows, for most of the round. In the third, Oliveira swooped into a clinch against the cage and immediately took Poirier’s back with Poirier standing up. Oliveira, who has one of the most dangerous back games in MMA, looked for the choke and found it despite Poirier trying to fight his hands.
“I don’t let opportunities get away,” Oliveira said in the postfight news conference. “I always say I have opportunistic jiu-jitsu. When I saw it, I couldn’t pass it up and I had to do it.”
Oliveira (32-8, 1 NC), 32, has won 10 in a row, tied for the second-longest active streak in the UFC behind Kamaru Usman‘s 15 straight. He took home the vacant title with the victory over Chandler following former champion Khabib Nurmagomedov‘s retirement and vacating of the title last year.
A native of Brazil, Oliveira has the most finishes (18) and most submission wins (15) in UFC history. He has a 20-8 (1 NC) record in the UFC going back to his debut in 2010 and is one of only nine fighters in history to win 20 UFC fights.
Poirier (28-7, 1 NC), a former UFC interim lightweight champ, beat McGregor twice this year, the latter a doctor’s stoppage TKO of McGregor at UFC 264 in July when McGregor broke his leg. Poirier, a Louisiana native fighting out of Florida, had won three straight coming in and had just one loss in his past 10 fights, to Nurmagomedov in a title fight at UFC 242 in September 2019. Poirier, 32, has the most KO/TKO victories in UFC lightweight history (8).
“I landed some good, clean shots on him,” Poirier said. “I thought I was gonna get him away in the first round. He’s a champ, man. The game plan was to take my time. I brawled again.”
Poirier said in the postfight news conference that he knows he can work his way back to another title fight, but he’s not sure if that’s what he wants to do yet.
UFC president Dana White said former interim champion Justin Gaethje “makes sense” as Oliveira’s next challenger. Gaethje beat Chandler last month at UFC 268.
Gaethje has made some disparaging remarks about Oliveira, questioning his heart. Oliveira brushed that off Saturday night.
“Look at what they’ve been saying about me,” Oliveira said. “They’re saying I can’t take hits — look at what I’ve been doing. They say I quit — look at what I’ve been doing. I’m just going to keep doing what I do.”
Oliveira also took aim at Nurmagomedov, the legendary former champ who said he was rooting for Poirier in this fight but tweeted his congratulations to Oliveira late Saturday.
Oliveira said this was his era of the lightweight division.
“History and legacy have a new name,” he said, “and that’s Charles Oliveira.”