Post by Slapper on May 7, 2022 10:16:00 GMT -5
MAIN EVENT PREVIEW | UFC 274: OLIVEIRA VS GAETHJE
Oliveira pushed his winning streak to 10 with stoppage victories over Michael Chandler and Dustin Poirier in 2021, becoming the 11th undisputed lightweight champion in UFC history. The 32-year-old Brazilian has collected finishes in nine of those 10 outings and all but two of his 20 career wins inside the Octagon.
Gaethje returned to action in November, kicking off the UFC 268 main card at Madison Square Garden with a gripping brawl with Chandler that collected Fight of the Night honors. It was the first time in his UFC tenure that the Safford, Arizona native went the distance, so you can be sure he’ll be hunting for a finish as he looks to make good on his second attempt to secure championship gold in the UFC lightweight division.
Oliveira’s rise to the top of the division has been equal parts unexpected and impressive, as he’s converted the majority of his critics into believers, exhibiting greater resiliency to go along with his always insane finishing abilities and instincts. Gaethje, on the other hand, remains one of the most feared men in the weight class, although his last outing was the first time in his UFC tenure where the judges were called upon.
Was that because it was only a three-round fight and the Trevor Wittman trainee is used to having a little more time to work or have all the battles he’s been a part of taken a little something off his fastball after all these years?
No matter how this one shakes out, it should be a thrilling way to the close out the evening, and set a fresh course for the lightweight division heading into the summer.
CARLA ESPARZA VS ROSE NAMAJUNAS 1
Namajunas reclaimed the top spot in the 115-pound weight class last April, capturing the title for a second time with a first-round knockout win over Zhang Weili at UFC 261. The popular champion cemented her place atop the division with a split decision win over Zhang in the rematch a little over six months later.
After beating Namajunas in the finals of the strawweight tournament on Season 20 of The Ultimate Fighter to etch her name in the history books, the 32-year-old Esparza has taken a circuitous route back to contention. She lost the title in her first defense and dropped four of her next seven fights after winning the title, but since then, the streaking veteran has put together a five-fight winning streak, capped by an emphatic second-round stoppage win over Yan Xiaonan last May.
This is a compelling clash on a couple different layers, beyond just the simple fact that it’s a rematch.
Namajunas is unbeaten against familiar opposition, having avenged previous losses to Tecia Torres and Jessica Andrade, as well as posting twin victories over Zhang and Joanna Jedrzejczyk. As for Esparza, she’s been continually making her case for a championship opportunity for a couple years now, and her win over Yan very much felt like a declaration that she wasn’t interested in waiting any longer.
Both women have improved since their first encounter, so it should be interesting to see how this one unfolds all these years later.
CHANDLER VS FERGUSON
Chandler’s time in the UFC started off so well, as he knocked out Dan Hooker in his January debut to earn a championship opportunity, and he opened that bout with Oliveira well. But after failing to get “Do Bronx” out of there in the first, the Brazilian stopped the University of Missouri alum in the second before Chandler landed on the wrong side of the decision in an all-out war with Gaethje at Madison Square Garden in November.
After going seven years and a dozen fights without a loss, Ferguson enters Saturday’s contest on a three-fight skid, searching for his first victory since the summer of 2019. The 38-year-old’s slide started in an interim title fight opposite Gaethje at UFC 249, continued through a meeting with Oliveira seven months later at UFC 256, and was extended to three last May when he was out-grappled by Beneil Dariush at UFC 262.
Something has got to give here — either Chandler gets back in the win column and hands Ferguson another defeat, or “El Cucuy” has a return to form and sends Chandler home on a three-fight slide of his own.
Expect both men to come out guns blazing in this one and neither to stop until the referee intervenes or the final horn sounds, whichever comes first.