The Long Road to Championship Royalty: A Look at Charles Oliveira
Every so often a fighter earns a belt and fans can’t help but smile because their road to championship glory seems like it was right out of a movie. Michael Bisping wins the belt 10 years after his UFC debut with one eye, after being labeled a gatekeeper. Jan Blachowicz goes from 2-4 in his first six UFC fights only to win the belt a hard nine fights later. Dustin Poirier coming from the mean streets of Louisiana, makes his way to the UFC always falling short on the cusp of a title fight finally touches interim gold after eight years in the promotion.
Earlier this year we may have seen the best story yet, Charles Oliveira, a sickly boy born into a poor Favela in Brazil, becomes UFC champion after one of the longest careers in the promotion. From 2010 to 2017, Oliveira cultivated a role within the UFC of inconsistency. Many people saw the talent in the fighter, but it seems he was unable to execute it in the biggest moments. He would win a couple of fights in a row by devastating finish, and then lose a few fights by equally devastating finish. He strings together an impressive four-fight win streak, earning a main event spot, only to crumble on the biggest stage of his career. He would then go on to flip flop wins and losses against a handful of the highest level competition.
However in 2018, following a massive TKO loss to Paul Felder, it seems a switch flipped in ‘Do Bronx’ a nickname pointing to his humble upbringing in the favelas. He would go on a 9 fight win streak finishing off with a bid for the vacant UFC title left ownerless in the wake of Khabib Nurmagomedov’s retirement.
Within this win streak, Do Bronx challenged the idea that had arisen around him, the idea that as skilled as he was he would mentally break under pressure. Against Michael Chandler for the title, Oliveira proved his ability to be rocked and battle back from adversity, ultimately knocking out his foe in the following round. However, the style that has made Oliveira the record holder for most finishes and submissions in UFC history, as well as the current champion is much more intricate.
Charles Oliveira first made his name as a dangerous grappler amongst the UFC roster. His ability to use submission attempts to advance position and comfortably stay two steps ahead of his opponents, even high level grapplers in their own right is his greatest strength. Often what you will see from ‘Do Bronx’ is when he shoots for a takedown two possibilities are present, either he completes the entry and finishes in dominant position, often side control, or he fails but mid reversal he snatches onto a neck or leg and uses it to either submit, or tie up his opponent and end up advancing position from what seemed like a situation where he was in danger. He often uses the threat of kimuras or omoplatas to reverse top pressure fighters.
However, while his great chaining together of submissions and sweeps help him play easily in dangerous situations on the ground, a similar concept can be said of his broader MMA game. His lack of fear in any ground position, greatly enhances what he gets away with on the feet. Where most grapplers turned MMA fighters uphold the heavy, low stances of wrestling and jiu jitsu, Oliveira works tall and long, utilizing his reach especially via his straight and jumping kicks without fear of being put off balance. His best weapon in this case comes by way of his hopping front kick and his straight thrust kicks, which he uses to maintain range and punish his opponent’s mid-sections. Once the range is breached past his kicking arsenal, Oliveira has shown extremely sharp boxing, he uses crisp hooks and uppercuts which cut in at a very fine arc, and he also has a good straight right. However while his technical skill has come a long way and his technique is very clean, it does come in very textbook 1 to 3 or four punch combinations, as opposed to the long fluid varieties seen by more experienced boxing-based fighters around him.
Regardless, the danger he has built in his stand-up game is what often forces his opponents to shoot on him. By pushing people back with his rangy kicks and crisp hands, those backed against the fence more than often shoot into his guillotines and D’arce attempts. While this has been the primary strategy used in Oliveira’s fights, recently against fighters like Tony Ferguson, the matured and experienced Oliveira of today has also adopted the wrestle heavy safe top pressure tactic if it’s the cleanest route to victory.
What’s Next for Do Bronx
Charles Oliveira is set to face Dustin “The Diamond” Poirier at UFC 269 on December 11th, 2021. Although Oliveira won the vacant strap against Michael Chandler earlier this year, most believed that Poirier was the true number one contender at the time, being sidetracked by the more lucrative Conor Mcgregor fight. In many fans’ eyes, a win over Poirier is what Oliveira needs to solidify his position as the undisputed champ, and Oliveira puts his hard-earned career-high win streak on the line as he sets out to accomplish this.
Braeden Arbour is an aspiring journalist out of Ontario, Canada. He is a recent graduate of Trent University, with a black belt in Karate and a blue belt in Judo. He has also been an avid fan of MMA for the last decade.