Charles Oliveira has one more mission to accomplish.
The Chute Boxe representative will meets former Bellator MMA titleholder Michael Chandler for the vacant Ultimate Fighting Championship lightweight crown in the UFC 262 headliner on Saturday at the Toyota Center in Houston. Oliveira enters the cage on eight-fight winning streak that includes seven finishes. The 31-year-old Brazilian last appeared at UFC 256 in December, when he took a three-round unanimous decision from “The Ultimate Fighter 13” winner Tony Ferguson and cemented himself as the No. 1 contender at 155 pounds.
As Oliveira approaches his career-defining showdown with Chandler, a look at five of the moments that have come to define him:
1. Out on a Limb
Oliveira made his Octagon debut as a hyped prospect with a perfect 12-0 record when he faced Darren Elkins on the UFC Live 2 undercard on Aug. 1, 2010 at the San Diego Sports Arena in San Diego. He could not have scripted a more impressive outcome. Elkins backed up the Brazilian with punches, initiated a clinch and executed a takedown inside the first minute. He immediately wandered into danger. Oliveira flashed the submission skills for which he has become known, locked up a triangle choke from the bottom and transitioned to an armbar. His limb on the verge of being extended beyond its bounds, Elkins had no choice but to tap. So began the promotional career of the most prolific submission artist in Ultimate Fighting Championship history.
2. No Margin for Error
Jim Miller continued a quiet but rapid ascent on the 155-pound ladder, as he submitted the previously unbeaten Oliveira with a first-round kneebar in a UFC 124 lightweight showcase on Dec. 11, 2010 at the Bell Centre in Montreal. The end came 1:59 into Round 1. Miller walked through three early head kicks, took the fight to the ground and defended a variety of submission attempts from the Brazilian prospect. The two lightweights went for dueling leg locks, but Miller cranked the kneebar in a blink and solicited a quick tapout from Oliveira, who winced in visible pain as his leg was torqued in the wrong direction. Just 21 years of age at the time, “Do Bronx” was finally forced to confront his mortality in the cage.
3. Stretchered Out
Max Holloway learned how victory can sometimes be more bitter than sweet. The Hawaiian defeated Oliveira in the UFC Fight Night 74 headliner on Aug. 23, 2015 at the SaskTel Centre in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, albeit in anticlimactic fashion. It was over just 99 seconds after it began, with an injured Oliveira clutching at an area between his left shoulder and his neck. The Brazilian was stretchered out of the cage with an esophagus injury, the stunned crowd silenced. Holloway punched beautifully to the body and head, and his superiority on the feet seemed to force Oliveira’s hand. “Do Bronx” abandoned the standup and shot in for a double-leg takedown, but he wound up on his back at the base of the cage. Holloway disengaged, electing not to tempt fate inside his counterpart’s venomous guard. Somewhere during the exchange, Oliveira injured himself. When he rose to his feet, the pain set in and he motioned for assistance from referee Herb Dean. It marked the first time since UFC 168 in December 2013 that an Ultimate Fighting Championship main event ended because of an injury.
4. Front of the Line
Oliveira usurped an icon when he submitted Christos Giagos with a rear-naked choke in the second round of their featured UFC Fight Night 137 prelim on Sept. 22, 2018 at Geraldo Jose de Almeida Gymnasium in Sao Paulo, Brazil. Giagos bowed out 3:22 into Round 2 and in doing so became an unwitting participant in history. After a somewhat-tepid first round, Oliveira seized control. He pressured Giagos with a series of spinning attacks and front kicks to the body, changed levels and secured a takedown. The former Resurrection Fighting Alliance and Tachi Palace Fights champion surrendered his back in his haste to stand and became hopelessly entangled in the Oliveira choke. Soon after, Giagos capitulated. The submission victory, Oliveira’s 11th inside the Octagon, moved “Do Bronx” past Royce Gracie for first place on the UFC’s all-time list in the category.
5. Contention Ascension
Effortless takedowns, sublime topside grappling and a near-submission spurred Oliveira to a one-sided unanimous decision over Ferguson in the UFC 256 co-main event on Dec. 12, 2020 at the UFC Apex in Las Vegas. Oliveira swept the scorecards with 30-26 marks from the judges, his stock at an all-time high. Outside of a defensive elbow strike that resulted in a cut on the Brazilian’s left eyebrow, Ferguson was a non-factor. Oliveira set the tone with an overwhelming first round, where he took down “El Cucuy,” advanced to full mount and hyperextended the Californian’s left elbow with an armbar in the waning moments. Anyone other than the notoriously tough Ferguson might have tapped. Oliveira kept his foot on the gas, executed takedowns in the second and third rounds, stymied the former interim champion and never once allowed him to sniff an opportunity to turn the tide.