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Alex Oliveira can perhaps best be described as predictably unpredictable.
The mercurial Brazilian “Cowboy” will bring his potent physical tools to the table once again when he meets the undefeated Ramazan Kuramagomedov on the UFC Fight Night 186 undercard this Saturday at the UFC Apex in Las Vegas. Oliveira sports an 11-7 record under the Ultimate Fighting Championship banner but has thus far lacked the consistency necessary to become a key player in the promotion. The 33-year-old Andre Tadeu protégé last competed in October, when he submitted to a first-round guillotine choke from Shavkat Rakhmonov at UFC 254.
As Oliveira approaches his pairing with Kuramagomedov, a look at some of the rivalries that have shaped his career to this point:
Burns submitted Oliveira with an armbar in the third round of their UFC Fight Night 62 lightweight showcase, authoring a dramatic come-from-behind victory on March 21, 2015 at Maracanazinho Gymnasium in Rio de Janeiro. A replacement for the injured Josh Thomson, Oliveira conceded defeat 4:14 into Round 1 of his impressive but ultimately unsuccessful Octagon debut. The heavily favored Burns had trouble navigating the Tata Fight Team export’s length and reach throughout their entertaining confrontation. Oliveira ripped into him with crisp punching combinations, leaving the four-time Brazilian jiu-jitsu world champion with significant damage to his left eye. Seemingly down two rounds to none and needing a finish, Burns secured a takedown and climbed immediately to mount less than 20 seconds into the third frame. From there, he rolled to an omoplata and set off a series of scrambles and submission attempts that led to the fight-ending armbar.
Cerrone did not mess around with a notoriously explosive adversary, as he put away Oliveira with a triangle choke in the first round of their UFC Fight Night 83 main event on Feb. 21, 2016 at the Consol Energy Center in Pittsburgh. Oliveira, who entered the cage on a three-fight winning streak, bowed out 2:33 into Round 1. Cerrone dealt successfully with the dangerous Brazilian’s combination of aggression and physicality. He ducked in for a takedown two minutes into the first round, secured his position and sliced through Oliveira’s open guard to advance to mount. From there, Cerrone framed a mounted triangle choke, rolled to his back and drew out the quick tap. It remains Oliveira’s only turn as a UFC headliner.
Oliveira disposed of the former Bellator MMA champion with ground-and-pound in the third round of their UFC Fight Night 96 co-feature on Oct. 1, 2016 at the Moda Center in Portland, Oregon. Brooks succumbed to punches 3:30 into Round 3, his nine-fight winning streak snapped. Oliveira—who missed weight for the match by 5.5 pounds—engaged the American Top Team rep in the clinch, as he won the underhook battle and bullied him in close quarters. Brooks appeared to suffer a rib injury sometime in the first round, and though he rallied by twice taking the Brazilian’s back in the second, it became clear he was compromised. Oliveira took advantage of the situation. He knocked down an off-balance Brooks with a straight right hand in Round 3 and later executed a takedown, his opponent wincing in obvious pain. Oliveira trapped the Chicago native along the base of the cage and unleashed a series of unabated left hands, prompting referee Herb Dean to act. Afterward, Oliveira made an obscene gesture in his fallen opponent’s direction, with Brooks responding by firing his mouthpiece at the Tata Fight Team standout.
Redemption was all the motivation Oliveira needed, as he turned away the former King of the Cage champion with a rear-naked choke in the second round of their UFC Fight Night 106 welterweight attraction on March 11, 2017 at the Northeast Olympic Training Center in Fortaleza, Brazil. Means tapped 2:38 into Round 2. Oliveira neutralized the Albuquerque, New Mexico, native in the clinch and frustrated him with a series of takedowns in the first round. Means took top position with roughly 90 seconds remaining in the frame but failed to alter the direction of the fight with meaningful damage. Oliveira went back to take takedown well in the middle stanza, climbed to the back and threaded his hooks. Soon after, the choke was in place and the outcome sealed. It provided a definitive conclusion to their rematch. Their first encounter had ended in a no-contest a little more than two months earlier when Means connected with an accidental illegal knee that rendered Oliveira unable to continue and necessitated an early stoppage.