The crazy case against Charles Oliveira’s UFC title shot

All indications are that Charles Oliveira has secured a rematch with Islam Makhachev. But is that the best route to take?

By: Dayne Fox | 4 months ago
The crazy case against Charles Oliveira’s UFC title shot
IMAGO / Tomaz Jr

Heading into its main event, UFC 289 was chuck full of momentum. The highly anticipated co-main event between Charles Oliveira and Beneil Dariush didn’t disappoint in the least. After Dariush initiated some early control, Oliveira found the mark with a head kick that staggered Dariush. Oliveira didn’t let up, delivering a series of punches that continued even after Dariush hit the mat. When the fight was called, it looked like Oliveira had punched his ticket to face Islam Makhachev once again. 

The more I thought about it, the more I questioned if that’s what was going to happen. Perhaps more importantly – at least from a fan’s perspective – is whether it should happen.

Bloody Elbow colleague Evan Zivin argued for Charles Oliveira’s “obvious” title shot, but I’m not sure I quite agree. Believe me, I didn’t believe I’d be thinking that once we got on the other side of the event. But I assure you, there is some logic to my second guessing. 

The Reasoning

In prize fighting, whether boxing or MMA, the participants need to be more economical with their contests than other athletes in other sports. For instance, even Magic Johnson and Larry Bird were scheduled to face each other at least twice a year in the NBA. Prize fighters rarely make it to three fights against one another. In fact, there’s an obscene amount of fights that never happened for all sorts of reasons. I’m not talking about fantasy fights from across different generations either. 

We never saw Randy Couture vs. Fedor Emelianenko. Dan Henderson vs. Chuck Liddell would have been fun. Perhaps those are examples due to Pride and the UFC being separate organizations at the time, but there are other, more recent examples. Frankie Edgar vs. Conor McGregor would have been a fun contest six or so years ago. Anthony Johnson vs. Jon Jones was intriguing as hell. Other times, we get those fights at the wrong time. For instance, McGregor has a win over Max Holloway, but it was long before either fully came into their own. 

The Proposal

There’s only so much time to squeeze in all the fights we really want to see out of our favorite fighters. And we’ve seen Islam Makhachev vs. Charles Oliveira. That isn’t to say I’m against seeing them fight again. The first fight was fun, competitive. But it also wasn’t such an epic affair that there is a demand from the fans for the UFC to pair them together immediately. What we haven’t seen is Makhachev against either Dustin Poirier or Justin Gaethje

I understand if there is an audible groan coming out of you (the reader) right now. I’m advocating for Poirier and Gaethje to get another shot at the title when both have already come up short twice in their quest for undisputed gold. Both lost to Khabib Nurmagomedov as interim champions and then came up short against Oliveira. Given that, why should I advocate for them to get another title shot, especially with both of them having losses to Oliveira? 

The Case Against Charles Oliveira

I’ve already pointed out why. Charles Oliveira has something neither of them has: a loss to Makhachev. And while I applaud the UFC for having Oliveira fight before giving him another crack at the title – a practice they’ve been getting away from – the winner of Poirier and Gaethje’s contest at UFC 291 will have two wins since their last loss, both against topflight competition. 

If each of these fighters were still in their 20’s, I wouldn’t have to make this case. There would probably be enough time for them to circle around one another. Perhaps even the argument would hold up if they were in their early 30’s. But Poirier and Gaethje are both 34 with a lot of hard miles on their bodies. It’s very plausible – some would even say likely – they are past their prime. If their fight against one another goes down as expected, there’s going to be a lot more hard miles on them. 

Why risk denying Makhachev a quality name to compete against in his career? He’s already got Oliveira. Does anyone think he wouldn’t love an opportunity to clash with one of the OG’s who clashed with his mentor? Say the UFC opts to go with Makhachev and Oliveira, but promise the winner of Poirier and Gaethje an opportunity to clash with the winner of Makhachev and Oliveira. We aren’t guaranteed to see one of them fight Makhachev as Oliveira could very well win. Plus, the longer the fight is delayed, the more likely we see diminished versions of Poirier or Gaethje. 

In my proposal, it leaves Oliveira out in the cold, something I feel bad about given he was willing to fight Dariush when neither Poirier or Gaethje would. But that also leads me to believe Oliveira might be willing to fight someone else on the up and up. Mateusz Gamrot is coming off a win. It’s likely Arman Tsarukyan will be coming off two wins after this upcoming weekend. Pit Oliveira with one of them on the same card as Makhachev and whoever emerges as the BMF, with the promise he gets to step in should something go awry with the title fight. 

The best part about my position is recency bias. Right now, that’s leaning in favor of Oliveira, understandably so. At the end of July, it will be in favor of Poirier and Gaethje as their exploits will be fresh in the minds of fans. And who believes they won’t call out Makhachev should they win? If their fight entertains as expected, I’m sure there will be many changed minds at the conclusion of their contest. Of course, that’s provided Oliveira hasn’t succeeded in getting a rematch with Makhachev booked. I feel confident that won’t happen by then, but there’s a good chance we’ll know by the time you read this.

The Conclusion

Feel free to disagree with me. I understand where you’re coming from because I was there myself. But I’m also tired of countless rematches at the highest levels when there are other fights that could be booked that have yet to have a chapter written. I’ve seen Makhachev and Oliveira do the damn thing. I haven’t seen Makhachev throw down with either Poirier or Gaethje. I’d like to prioritize seeing Makhachev face someone new before getting a sequel. 

What would you rather see? Let me know down in the comments below.

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About the author
Dayne Fox
Dayne Fox

Dayne Fox is a contributing writer and analyst for Bloody Elbow. He has been writing about combat sports since 2013 and a member of Bloody Elbow since 2016. Dayne primarily contributes opinion pieces and event coverage. Dayne’s specialties are putting together the preview articles for all the UFC events and post-fight analysis. Outside of writing on combat sports, Dayne works in the purchasing department of a construction company, formerly working as an analyst. He is also a proud husband and father. In what spare time he can find, he enjoys strategy games and is a movie enthusiast. He is based in Utah.

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