UFC 274: Charles Oliveira vs. Justin Gaethje staff predictions, odds, picks 1

This weekend’s UFC 274 main event is a very exciting clash between two top lightweights, Charles Oliveira and Justin Gaethje.

Oliveira, the champion, claimed the vacant title in May last year when he defeated Michael Chandler by second-round knockout. He’s since defended his title against Dustin Poirier at UFC 269 in December to maintain his spot at the top of the 155-pound division.

Gaethje earned his title shot by beating Michael Chandler in November last year by unanimous decision. It was Gaethje’s return to form after he had previously been defeated by former champion Khabib Nurmagomedov at UFC 254 in October 2020.

Now, Oliveira and Gaethje will go head-to-head in the main event of UFC 274. The event takes place this Saturday night in Phoenix, Arizona, and will air live only on ESPN+ in the United States. Fight fans can order the UFC 274 PPV here to watch every fight live this Saturday night.

Read on for the latest Oliveira vs. Gaethje betting odds and our detailed fight predictions, preview, and analysis before UFC 274.

Betting Odds

The latest Charles Oliveira vs. Justin Gaethje betting odds have Oliveira as a moderate betting favorite at odds of -170 against Gaethje at +140.

  • Oliveira: -170
  • Gaethje: +140

Staff Predictions

Braeden Arbour

This fight is massive, Charles Oliveira even as champion has been constantly criticized by his competition and analysts alike as a fighter who breaks. If he can get past Justin Gaethje, the man who breaks almost everyone, that narrative gets completely flipped on its head. For Justin Gaethje this is about capturing the title he’s felt he has deserved a shot at for the past two years, and a challenge from a man who has the most similar style to the Khabib Nurmagomedov in the division, the last person to beat Justin Gaethje. Justin Gaethje has always been a powerhouse who guarantees fireworks regardless of outcome, however, the biggest change in his style over his past three fights is that he now offers selective chaos. Set up with footwork and feints, Gaethje chooses when he releases his combinations and puts himself in the fire. He has wicked boxing, very powerful including accurate hooks and uppercuts in combination. His 6-3, or rear uppercut to lead hook is particularly devastating. He accentuates his power because most of his boxing combinations force his opponent into his powerside or in line for his final shot, he will throw straight so as to post on the shoulder and drive his opponent’s head into his uppercut.

However, the most devastating part of his game is his leg kicks, where Gaethje has an unprecedented ability to land at close range. However, it is important to note that unlike Dustin Poirier, Michael Chandler, or Nurmagomedov, Oliveira has a far more traditional Thai stance, which because light on the lead leg, makes it much easier to check kicks.

Gaethje’s stance changes slightly depending on the opponent, but what we’ve seen more recently and likely to continue into the Oliveira match up is a lower hinge at the hip approach. This is due to the grappling threat as of late. The reason for this is it allows Gaethje to slip and roll shots low but more importantly, allows him to start with his hips very far back should his opponents shoot on him. By comparison, Oliveira stands very upright, and he is very crisp with his strikes. Outside of leg kicks he is more diverse with his tools, throwing kicks to all levels via a variety of techniques, but his boxing combinations are not as long or chained together as Gaethje. However, Oliveira does excel in the clinch and one of his go to’s is throwing the left hook, framing off with it on his opponent’s opposite shoulder and using it to land the left knee to the body.

However, the biggest question to be answered in this fight is surrounding grappling. Justin Gaethje has tremendous wrestling but for the most part this is attributed to his wrestling scrambles and maybe the best sprawl in the UFC. Especially starting with his hips back, it’s very rare any fighter can get deep enough to power through the double and complete the takedown. However, the counter to this defense is chain wrestling, in order to get Gaethje to the mat, Oliveira needs to be ready to attack singles and doubles with the intent of cutting a secondary angle or slipping onto the back. This will be his biggest challenge as I believe that the biggest gap in skill is afterwards, once the groundwork actually begins. Justin Gaethje arguably has neglected his jiu jitsu game due to his ability to almost always defend the takedown and scramble, however in his first title fight some holes were exposed. Given the opportunity, Gaethje will wrestle up without even thinking of trying to regard, which means if Oliveira maintains a higher position, he will likely pass the legs with ease. Furthermore, Gaethje tends to escape through the back door given the opportunity, against Chandler this was effective as he also operates under a wrestling mindset, and Chandler went to turtle. The position becomes exponentially more dangerous, as in the same situation, Oliviera is more likely to cling onto the arm, and it is these kinds of positions where Gaethje may have been safe against different styles of opponents. The best aspect of Charles Oliveira is that on the mat he always offers his opponents two roots, typically Gaethje will always take the risk to get back up and this is where Oliveira is most dangerous.

Prediction: Charles Oliveira to win via submission

Michael Pounders

The lightweight champion, Charles “do Bronx” Oliveira began his career with a salty record in the featherweight division. Then, after struggling in the octagon and on the scale, in 2017, Oliveira moved up to 155. He started 1-1 in the lightweight division, then rattled off 10 straight wins capped off with a title win and defense. The ultimate underdog is a personification of heart and toughness in the octagon. Regularly, Oliveira is clipped and even dropped in his fights and then rallies back for an emphatic finish. He is likely the most lethal grappler and submission artist in the UFC. In the matter of a moment, Oliveira can go from being rocked to tying up a limb or finding the neck of his opponent. Once he locks his hands, the fight is over. Oliveira truly has special jiu-jitsu. On the feet, the champ is growing. He has a slightly positive strike differential and lands above 50%. Due to his sheer athleticism and complete comfort in a counter wrestling attack, Oliveira can crack. He is able to throw massive strikes without fear of being taken down. On the feet, his goal is to close distance safely so he can grab ahold of his opponent where Oliveira has strong wrestling and is able to get the fight to the mat. However, his BJJ is so elite, he doesn’t always need an official takedown to end the fight.

Gaethje is a highly accredited wrestler but tends to ignore his background in favor of fighting, punch for punch in a phone booth. In only five years in the UFC, Gaethje has three-fight of the year contending fights. He will walk forward, snapping one of the best leg kicks in the division, and pump his jab relentlessly. His goal is to corner his opponent and damage their leg so badly that their movement is compromised. Then, like an apex predator who has injured his prey, Gaethje will tee off on his immobile opponent until he finds the finish. Once criticized for his all-offense approach, Gaethje has turned a corner since joining Team Elevation and Trevor Whitman. Whiteman has been able to focus Gaethje’s unbelievable athleticism and power enough so the lightweight challenger can more effectively knock off the heads of his opponents. Gaethje not only has the best power in the division; but, especially when he throws his overhand right, has some of the best pound-for-pound power in the UFC. Further, “The Highlight” has elite cardio and can continue his high volume and all power attack for an entire fight.

The question in this fight is whether or not Gaethje can drop Oliveira early enough and find the finish safely enough. Oliveira has been clipped in several fights so the opportunity should be available for Gaethje; however, if Gaethje can knock Oliveira down, the fight is not over. Unless he gets a standing knockout, very rare, Gaethje will have to follow Oliveira to the mat to find the finish. That is a dangerous game to play with Oliveira. Oliveira, meanwhile, will need to withstand the early storm and find a way to walk through the fire that is Gaethje’s striking to get the fight to the mat. This fight is unlikely to see the judges; and, while I recognize Oliveira can find the finish, even while stunned, I like Gaethje to be the first fighter since 2017 to crack the code and the chin of Oliveira.

Prediction: Gaethje by KO/TKO

Joe Pounders

Charles Oliveira is perhaps the most underrated champion in the UFC. This is due to a variety of factors, notably, his early struggle in the promotion many years ago along with several fighters within his division being touted as near-future champions – insinuating Oliveira’s reign over the division will be short-lived. This narrative of being overlooked has seemingly fueled the dangerous Brazilian, as he is 10-0 since 2018. This impressive record is further remarkable when analyzed against the highly touted opponents he has faced over this span, and, the fact that he has finished 9 of his last 10 fights, the result is him being an extremely dangerous champion who deserves the utmost respect moving forward.

The ability to finish fights at an impressive clip is largely due to his greatest attribute as a fighter – elite submissions. Although there are a variety of submission artists in the UFC that deserve consideration for being the most dangerous, Oliveira has seemingly separated from the pack and put himself in a lone position to be considered the best and most dangerous submission artist currently in the promotion.

Beyond having elite submissions, Oliveira has learned how to be dangerous elsewhere in the octagon, which, in turn, has only elevated his ground game. Notably, he does a good job on the feet using his natural athleticism to stay at range and utilize distance strikes to keep his opponent at bay. If his opponent has success with cutting down the distance and landing damaging blows with dirty boxing, Oliveira has shown the ability to have an impressive chin and battle back from adversity, typically via a takedown and submission attack. This combination of athletic striking, an impressive chin, and a truly elite ground game makes him a legitimate champion who has the ability to keep the belt in a division that has extremely high-end challengers.

Perhaps one of the most exciting challenges in the lightweight division is Justin Gaethje. His fan-friendly style of walking down his opponent to land extremely damaging blows, while ignoring any counterstrikes as if they lack any significant impact on himself, makes him a fighter many people cannot wait to watch when in the octagon.

Cutting angles and maintaining a pressure-heavy style benefits Gaethje beyond making fans excited for him to fight, as this style allows him to land his best strike with high efficiency – the low calf kick. Throwing the outside calf kick mitigates the movement of his opponent, and this has a causal effect on Gaethje landing impressive boxing combinations as the fight ensues given the opponent has trouble circling away once Gaethje elects to go in for the kill. Often, Gaethje’s plan, which is employed in almost all of his fights, is quite effective, as indicated by him finishing 19 of his 23 wins by TKO/KO and by the fact that Khabib Nurmagomedov has stated that nobody hits as hard as Justin Gaethje.

The question, for Gaethje, does not stem from his ability to successfully integrate his calf strike to heavy punch game plan in the octagon, rather, if he can keep the fight standing. This question is always present for him when he enters the octagon, and to his credit, he has had success in using his collegiate wrestling experience to keep the fight standing in most of his bouts; but, when facing an elite grappler in Khabib, Gaethje’s grappling defense proved to be nonexistent. So, when facing another but differing in the style of elite grappler in Oliveira, Gaethje will need to do a better job keeping the fight off the mat to best increase his chance of winning the belt.

Although Oliveira has underrated striking and has shown the ability to battle back against powerful strikers, I believe if the fight stays on the feet, Gaethje will win quite comfortably. If, however, Oliveira is able to secure a takedown, his elite submission game will likely end the fight given Gaethje has struggled in the past when in a defensive ground position. Because the disparity in skills is anticipated to be significantly different depending on where the fight takes place, I am electing to back the plus-money challenger in Gaethje. This is largely due to me trusting Gaethje’s natural wrestling skills will be more successful combating the takedowns of Oliveira than it was against Khabib. If indeed successful, I fully anticipate Gaethje damaging Oliveira when on the feet.

Bet: Gaethje to win

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