Fresh from his title defence against Dustin Poirier at UFC 270, Charles “Do Bronx” Oliveria has cemented himself as the best UFC Lightweight in the world. But how would he have fared versus one of the greatest MMA fighters of all time?. Khabib “The Eagle” Nurmagomedov officially retired from the sport earlier this year, allowing a new challenger to rise to the top, and after eight consecutive wins, “Charlie Olives” stepped up to the plate and claimed gold against Michael Chandler at UFC 262. So, in a perfect world where Khabib returns to the competition he previously dominated at 29-0, and Oliveria, winner of 10 straight, with the most submissions in UFC history and one of the most confident men walking planet Earth right now, how does that fight go and most importantly…who would win?
The Tale of the Tape
The profile traits suggest a very even and compelling matchup between the two with similar height, stance and age. However, Khabib’s record and overall reputation would lean him as the early favourite, but considering when you breakdown Oliveria’s record as of late, perhaps you require more information to make your pick. Let’s look at the statistics to further analyse how each would combat the other.
The champion Oliveria for his career lands significant strikes at a 53% clip whereas Nurmagomedov is slightly less at 48%. Many would believe Oliveria would have the overall striking advantage, but it’s actually the former champ who lands more significant strikes per minute (4.1) to Oliveria’s (3.4). Khabib’s striking defence efficiency is also better at 65% to Charles’ 52%. So overall, again subjective, Nurmagomedov holds better striking statistics overall but perhaps loses out on the most important one with significant strike landing percentage. Moving onto wrestling, as if it’s a surprise, the “Eagle” holds the advantage in all three main categories in Takedown average (5.3), accuracy (48%) and Takedown defence (84%). The current champion Oliveria is under half of Khabib’s average takedowns per fight (2.5) with also a 7% decrease in Takedown accuracy and substantially less success at stopping takedowns (57%). The final of the three main disciplines to consider for this bout is grappling, now it’s hard to pick against Khabib when that term is used due his recognition of strength and hand position from previous opponents. However, with 13 submissions (the most in UFC history) it seems the gap shrinks dramatically, and suggests Oliveria, is the more dangerous man on the ground. The interesting fact is the submission average between the two is not close, with one who sits at 0.8 per fight in comparison to the victor with a terrifying 2.8 submission average. When you hold the record, it shouldn’t be a surprise and it isn’t, Charles Oliveria triples the rate of Khabib Nurmagomedov for submissions. To conclude, overall, however you’d like to score it (hopefully better than some judges we’ve seen this year), it’s clear to see the comparisons in skill set, fighting ability and most recently in Charles case a change in confidence and will to win, the likes of which we saw throughout Khabib’s reign as champ.
From 2015-17, Charles Oliveria went 3-4 in the UFC whilst Khabib Nurmagomedov predictably, went 3-0. In this time, many labelled Oliveria a “quitter” and a fighter completely written off from ever being elite in the 155lb division. Fast-forward four years later, he’s gone 10-0 and ends the year as the UFC Lightweight Champion of the World. Not bad for someone told by doctors at age 7, that he may never walk again due to a bone rheumatism in his ankles, whilst living in some of the poorest conditions imaginable in Sao Paulo, Brazil. Charles being written off in a potential dream bout against a man who’s faced personal struggles himself in Khabib, would be nothing new in the life story and career of “Do Bronx” but has that ever stopped him?… So why would it now?