As we get closer to this weekend, as UFC 256 awaits us, this could very well be one of the best cards of the year. The main card is full of fights that all have the potential to be fights of the night bonus winners. The main event is Flyweight Champion Deiveson Figueiredo defending his title against a tough, hard hitting Mexican fighter Brandon Moreno. Both men agreeing to fight after their explosive wins at UFC 255, just three weeks prior to this weekend. Legends like Junior Dos Santos and “Jacare” Souza look to prove they are still legitimate threats to the upcoming generation of fighters as JDS takes on hard hitting kick boxer Cyril Gane, and “Jacare” looks to slow down the hot streak of super skilled trash talker Kevin Holland. But the fight that’s got my attention is the co main event, as #3 ranked Tony Ferguson looks to get back in the win column against #7 ranked Charles “Do Bronx ” Oliveira.
As this fight gets closer and closer, and if I’m going to be honest, I have to say that for a number of reasons this fight does not favor “El Cucuy” and its a must win for him to stay within title contention. I understand that Tony wanted to fight before the new year, but in my eyes, Oliveira has everything to gain in this fight and I’m not sure why Tony wouldn’t hold out for a bigger fight, as Tony has everything to lose. But here we are just days away as Tony tries to get a victory and get back into title contention and Oliveira tries to elevate himself into the upper echelon of the lightweight division by making a statement and beating one of the best in the division.
Oliveira started his MMA career in 2007, fighting all over Brazil, but when signed to the UFC his very first win got him submission of the night with an arm bar against unknown Darren Elkins. The point being, this man is a submission expert as he is a third degree black belt under Jorge “Macaco” Patino. His total record in MMA is 29–8 and eight of those victories are submissions. Now Oliveira’s last loss was against Paul Felder where he was beaten in the second round with Felder getting into Charles’ guard and pounding him with elbow strikes. After that fight Oliveira has since been on a seven fight win streak which has moved him up the ranking all the way to the number seven spot. But the level of competition that he was facing is also on another level, beating the likes of Clay Guida and Christos Giagos with quick submissions and the Giagos submission put him above Royce Gracie with most submission wins. Also a rematch against Jim Miller (he lost the first fight) in which he won via rear naked choke. Also I would be remiss if I didn’t mention one fighter that both men have common victories against and that’s the incomparable Kevin Lee, in which both men “found holes” in poor Kevin’s ground game and they both choked him out.
Oliveira choked Lee out March 14th 2020 in the first round with a guillotine choke and Tony tapped him out with a triangle choke in the third round on October 7th 2017 at UFC 216. So its a given that this fight could go either way with their ground games and advanced BJJ but I honestly would give the edge to Oliveira. Also this is a three round fight, which doesn’t favor Tony only because he’s known to be somewhat of a slow starter as he showed against fighters like Anthony Pettis and “Cowboy” Cerrone, even though he did come out strong in the second in both fights and eventually got TKO victories against both. Side note – both Anthony Pettis and Cerrone both hold victories over Oliveira, but that was also early in Oliveira’s career.
You could somewhat compare this fight for Ferguson with his fight with Edson Barboza, that’s the kind of fight he’s going to have to bring against Oliveira, and I saw that because he started very slow in that fight but turned it up and got the D’Arce Choke finish in the second round. He cannot get complacent like he did against Gaitjhe, after the second round was over Tony was all but out of the fight. But also Tony was cutting weight twice in one month as well and I think that affected him greatly in that fight. He looked lethargic and slow and took the most punishment most of us have ever seen him take before. Which brings me to my next point, the Gaitjhe fight.
The referee had to step in and stop the fight, Tony would not quit even though we all knew he was out of the fight. HE didn’t and the man kept coming like a terminator. But how much did all that damage really affect Tony? Most fighters would have been stretchered out of the octagon after taking the headshots he took, and if they do happen to come back for another fight, they’re never the same. Tony has been in some wars: Barboza, Rafeal Dos Santos, and Lando Vannata was an absolute war in which Tony actually got rocked and took some pretty heavy damage. Both Tony and Charles have unique and dynamic striking, but as I stated Tony’s chin has been battle tested, and Tony has only been stopped once early in his career by strikes, unless you count the Gaitjhe fight, where the referee had to physically stop Tony from coming forward. Oliveira has been KO’d four times, not to say he’s not battle tested because he’s had some wars, I just don’t think he has ever fought a fighter with Ferguson’s pressure and how is Oliveira going to deal with someone coming at him with similar strikes that he is used to inflicting onto opponents?
So my final analysis is this, Ferguson is the older of the two, more experienced in the big fight atmosphere, and bottom line Tony knows he has to come back strong and get one in the win column if he is to have any shot at that title belt. More than likely this very well “could” be a title eliminator and his last opportunity to grab the gold. Three rounds bothered me because one of Tony’s best weapons is his gas tank and relentless pressure, and Oliveira’s gas tank has been in question a time or two, as has his commitment to training. He’s missed weight twice in his career and Tony has already stated that if he comes in heavy the fight’s off. If Oliveira does lose, he’s young and still has plenty of time to bounce back, as I said he really has little to lose compared to Ferguson. With his back in against the wall, I think Tony will thrive and come back better than ever even though the chips are stacked against him.