The Film Room: ‘Cowboy’ Oliveira

By Kevin Wilson Sep 21, 2018

Alex Oliveira makes his return to the Octagon and his home country this Saturday when he takes on a young prospect and short-notice replacement, Carlo Pedersoli Jr., in the co-main event of UFC Fight Night 137 in Sao Paulo.

Oliveira has only been with the Ultimate Fighting Championship since 2015 but he has amassed an incredible 8-3-1 record in just three years and quickly became known as one of the most exciting and active fighters in the sport.

A Real Cowboy

If you’re wondering why Oliveira stole Donald Cerrone’s nickname, it’s because he’s actually a real cowboy. Oliveira grew up in a bull riding family and was a professional bull rider before deciding to focus on his martial arts training at 22 years-old. Oliveira turned pro a year into his training and was signed by the UFC just 4 years into his career.

Most of Oliveira’s martial arts experience came from MMA, which is why he doesn't exhibit techniques from any one style or discipline of fighting. He’s a true mixed martial artist and is comfortable wherever the fight takes him, whether it be on the feet, on the ground or in the clinch, although he favors striking with opponents and working on the lead. He keeps his hands very low with a slight bounce in his feet like a karateka, but comes forward with combos like a boxer and has the clinch work of an elite nak muay. He’s known for his aggressive striking but notice how his blitzes are never more than 2-3 strike combos before resetting at a safe distance.

Oliveria is usually the leading attacker but he possesses fantastic countering instincts. Instead of single strike precision counters, he likes to counter with a quick combo while his opponents are off balance. Notice how he will catch an opponent’s kick and counter with a couple of quick hooks to the head and then reset at distance.

Since Oliveira can be an aggressive striker, he finds himself in the clinch or against the cage often. Once in the clinch, he likes to grab a plum grip behind the head and hammer in knees to the body and elbows to the head. The only inadequate aspect of his clinchwork is that he doesn't initiate it enough. Most of his opponents have no answers for his plum, but he routinely breaks the clinch and goes back to striking at distance. It would be nice to see him work on his cage cutting and ability to back opponents down, where he can establish the position more often.

Oliveira is known for his striking, but he is a well-rounded mixed martial artist and can dominate certain opponents on the ground. Against te dangerous striker Will Brooks, Oliveira routinely looked to get the fight to the ground, where he busted him up. Notice how all of his takedowns come from the clinch or a back-body lock. He rarely shoots for double- and single-leg takedowns and would rather work his way into the clinch and drag opponents to the mat.

Once on the ground, Oliveira has vicious attacks that he uses to loosen opponents up for submissions. Instead of fighting for position and attempting to pass guard, he is content with sitting in half or full guard and dropping elbows and punches, waiting for the opponent to open themselves up for a submission. His go-to is the rear-naked choke, and he has a sick back-take from half guard, but he will also look for guillotines and arm triangles from top position.


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