UFC 269: Dustin Poirier vs. Charles Oliveira: A Head-to-Toe Breakdown
Saturday's UFC 269 event in Las Vegas will be the promotion's final pay-per-view of a very successful 2021, and the event's headliner is befitting of the occasion. The card will be topped by an incredible lightweight title fight between two of the most battle-tested veterans in the division: champion Charles "Do Bronx" Oliveira (31-8) and challenger Dustin "The Diamond" Poirier (28-6).
The 32-year old Oliveira's 39-fight career dates back to 2008. The Brazilian reached the UFC in 2010 and has gone 19-8 across the featherweight and lightweight divisions in the time since, defeating the likes of Hatsu Hioki, Jeremy Stephens, Myles Jury, Clay Guida, Jim Miller, Kevin Lee and Tony Ferguson. His most important win occurred in the main event of UFC 262 this past May, when he knocked out Michael Chandler to capture the vacant lightweight championship.
Poirier, who previously held the interim lightweight title, has been a pro since 2009 and made it the UFC a year after Oliveira, in 2011. The Louisiana native, also 32, has gone 20-5 in the Octagon, defeating a staggering list of former champions and title challengers at featherweight and lightweight, including Eddie Alvarez, Anthony Pettis, Justin Gaethje, Max Holloway, and Conor McGregor, whom he defeated by stoppage twice this year.
It's anyone's guess who will come out on top when these two tireless fighters collide in the Octagon this Saturday, but taking a closer look at their respective game plans reveals some interesting insights.
Keep scrolling to see how they match up on paper.
Oliveira and Poirier are both killers on the feet, and statistically speaking they should be pretty evenly matched in this department.
Oliveira is the slightly more accurate striker, landing 52 percent of his attempts compared to Poirier's 50. Poirier, however, throws more, attempting 4.19 strikes per minute compared to Oliveira's 3.01. When it comes to defense, Oliveira and Poirier are almost dead-even, avoiding 53 and 54 percent of the strikes thrown at them respectively.
Given the way the two fighters match up statistically, determining the superior striker is going to come down to the intangibles: power and durability. And in those areas, Poirier has few equals, and Oliveira certainly isn't one of them.
Poirier has earned 14 of his 28 wins—a staggering 50 percent—by knockout, while Oliveira has only earned nine of his 31 wins in that fashion. Poirier has also proven to be more durable, losing just two of 35 fights by knockout, despite taking on lethal strikers such as Gaethje, Alvarez, Pettis, Holloway and McGregor. Oliveira has lost four of his 39 fights by knockout and hasn't fought nearly as many top strikers as his American opponent.
Again, it's close, but Poirier should have the upper hand while this fight is on the feet.
Neither Oliveira nor Poirier is a wrestler by trade, but both have proved themselves very capable in this area—they wouldn't be fighting for the UFC lightweight title this Saturday if they weren't.
However, just about all of the important stats suggest Oliveira should be the superior wrestler on the night. The Brazilian completes 2.64 takedowns per 15 minutes in the Octagon, while Poirier completes just 1.5. Oliveira also has a better success rate at 44 percent accuracy to Poirier's 36 percent. Poirier has slightly better takedown defense, stopping 61 percent of attempts against him to Oliveira's 57 percent, but in terms of offensive wrestling, Oliveira should have the upper hand.
Just look at the Brazilian's two recent wins over Michael Chandler and Tony Ferguson. Both of those men are better wrestlers than Poirier, and he took them down four times combined.
While Oliveira and Poirier could be pretty evenly matched when it comes to striking and wrestling, that will not be the case when it comes to submissions.
That's Oliveira's world.
The Brazilian holds the record for most submission wins in UFC history with 14. That's partly because he's incredibly good at jiu-jitsu, but also because he's incredibly aggressive, attempting 2.7 submissions per 15 minutes in the Octagon. He's not submitting rookies either: Oliveira has used his jiu jitsu to beat the likes of Hioki, Nik Lentz, Jury, Will Brooks, Guida, Miller and Lee.
While Oliveira has a clear edge in terms of submissions, however, Poirier still has a fighting chance on the mat. For all Oliveira's submission prowess, he's also shown weakness on the ground, tapping or napping in three of eight losses. Poirier, meanwhile, has won a solid seven fights by submission, showing particular affection for the D'arce choke. He's got a shot—but it's definitely a long one.
Oliveira: Prepare for War
Oliveira used to be a good hammer and a bad nail—he was lethal when things were going his way but crumbled when things got bad. He seems to have gotten away from that over the last few years, showing particular toughness and heart in his last fight when he weathered an early scare to knock out Michael Chandler and win the lightweight belt.
Still, there's a good chance Oliveira will experience a completely unfamiliar level of violence against Poirier. The American is not only a destructive puncher but immeasurably gritty. He'll be looking for the finish as long as he's conscious, and Oliveira needs to steel himself for that brutal reality.
Poirier: Be Patient
While Oliveira looks like a much tougher, more battle-ready fighter than he once was, it's difficult to ignore the fact that he's been finished in all but one of his eight losses. If Poirier has given those numbers any thought, he might be tempted to chase the finish in this fight—particularly if he hurts the Brazilian.
That would be unwise. In his recent win over Chandler, Oliveira proved that he's still plenty dangerous when he's hurt. Oliveira has also never fought longer than three rounds, so it makes even more sense for Poirier, who's seen the championship rounds numerous times, to take his time and break the Brazilian down slowly.
It's impossible to confidently predict a winner in this fight—both guys are way too dangerous and far too well-rounded—but, pressed for a pick, we're going with Poirier.
Look for the challenger to hurt Oliveira like Michael Chandler did in May but stay patient and defensive to avoid Chandler's fate. From there, look Poirier to hurt the champ again and again until the referee is forced to intervene.
Prediction: Poirier by TKO, Rd. 4