When Charles “Do Bronx” Oliveira threw a fight-changing illegal knee to a downed Nik Lentz during their lightweight fight at UFC on Versus 4 back in June of 2011, the crowd at the Consol Energy Center in Pittsburgh came unglued, and not in a good way. Referee Chip Snider may have been indifferent to the foul, but the viewing audience knew right away what had occurred.
Oliveira’s win was changed to a “no-contest” by the Pennsylvania Athletic Commission, and both men have since moved down to 145 pounds. They are set to rematch at UFC Fight Night 50 on September 5, and this fight is Oliveira’s chance to break into the top echelon of the division.
All six of Oliveira’s UFC wins have come by way of submission. He’s choked out two Ultimate Fighter winners in Efrain Escudero and Jonathan Brookins, armbarred Darren Elkins and became the first person to finish Hatsu Hioki last month when he made him tap with a second-round anaconda choke.
Now 11 fights into his UFC career, and having come up short against the division’s elite, the 24-year-old is looking for his third straight win when he takes on “The Carny” at Foxwoods.
Both men have earned three victories since moving down in weight, and both have gone to battle with the very best the featherweight division has to offer. Oliveira suffered back-to-back losses to Cub Swanson and Frankie Edgar, but the fight with Frankie was an instant Fight of the Year candidate in 2013.
Lentz went the distance with the current No. 1 contender Chad Mendes, who had emphatically finished his previous four opponents.
In their first fight, Oliveira was taking Lentz to the woodshed with a constant barrage of knees, front kicks and punches and kicks to the body. Had he timed that ill-fated knee strike a little better, he could have had added another legitimate submission win to his pro record.
At times he’s shown the greenness of most young fighters, but also the determination and finishing instinct of a polished, high-level mixed martial artist.
The rematch with Lentz is the next step up the ladder for Do Bronx, and this fight is pivotal for the featherweight division. The title fight between Jose Aldo and Chad Mendes is penciled in for this fall, and Cub Swanson has rightfully earned the next crack at the winner. Frankie Edgar is waiting in the wings for a big fight, as is Dustin Poirier.
With the return of “The Notorious” Conor McGregor against Diego Brandao, and “The Korean Zombie” gearing up for a rebound, there are a lot of high-level fights on the horizon for Oliveira should he have a similar performance this time around against Lentz.
Oliveira proved against Hioki that he is can finish even the most durable fighters, and against Lentz he’s got an opportunity to stake his claim as one of the division’s best fighters.