The Film Room: Charles Oliveira

By Kevin Wilson May 17, 2019
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Charles Oliveira will march into the Octagon for the second time in 2019 when he collides with Nik Lentz in a UFC Fight Night 152 lightweight feature on Saturday at Blue Cross Arena in Rochester, New York. “Do Bronx” already holds the Ultimate Fighting Championship record for career submissions and finds himself on the cusp of cracking the Top 10 at 155 pounds.

Ahead of his trilogy bout with Lentz, Oliveira provides the material for this installment of The Film Room.

Oliveira already ranks as one of the greatest submission specialists in UFC history, even though he does not turn 30 until October. The difference between Oliveira and other submission specialists -- i.e. Demian Maia and Brian Ortega -- is that he has the wrestling skills necessary to get the fight to the ground. Maia and Ortega can finish anybody in the world if the fight hits the canvas, but their biggest problem has always been actually getting opponents where they want them. Oliveira came into the UFC at just 20 years of age as a linear submission specialist, but after nine years of high-level MMA experience, he has become a well-rounded fighter who realized early on that he must work on his wrestling to set up his jiu-jitsu skills. He mostly goes for counter takedowns, as he ducks under opponents’ strikes and uses their momentum against them, but he will occasionally shoot for standard double- and single-legs from the middle of the cage.

While Oliveira favors counter takedowns, he can land trips and throws from the clinch and use the cage to secure double-legs.

Once the fight hits the ground, Oliveira quickly looks to pass guard and take the back, often choosing to forego ground-and-pound. Feinting remains one of the most important aspects of combat sports, but talk usually centers on striking feints, not those associated with grappling and submissions. Oliveira will use false submission attempts to pass guard, take back control and set up other submissions. Grapplers at the highest levels know how to chain together these submission attempts and guard passes to eventually achieve their preferred position. For example: While the opponent focuses on defending an anaconda choke, Oliveira appears to be two steps ahead and uses the choke to take the back. Once you understand more about the importance chaining, Oliveira becomes far more interesting to watch.

When Oliveira takes the back or fully commits to a submission, the fight is all but over. The variety of Oliveira’s submissions also makes them more impressive. In his 13 UFC submissions, he has four via rear-naked choke, three by guillotine, three by anaconda choke, one by armbar, one by triangle choke and one by calf slicer. To put that variety in perspective, Maia has nine UFC submission victories, with seven of them being rear-naked chokes. Being known for a wide variety of submissions makes Oliveira much harder to prepare for and read during the fight. Taking nothing away from Maia, but he is rather predictable on the ground and will continue looking for the same techniques no matter how the fight is going. Oliveira, on the other hand, is constantly switching up his looks and sequences on the ground, so opponents never really know his intention.

Oliveira’s striking is nothing about which to write home, but he has become proficient enough to hold his own during his near-decade-long run in the UFC. He is generally patient and relies on the standard one-two down the middle, but lately, he has been mixing in wild flying knees and spinning back kicks to move opponents to the cage and set up grappling exchanges.

Oliveira does his best work in the clinch, where he can fire off knees and elbows before pushing opponents to the cage to set up takedowns. He can also use the threat of his grappling to land strikes in the clinch. Since opponents know the takedown is coming eventually, they are focused on defending and breaking the clinch, which leaves them open for knees up the middle. However, at the end of the day, Oliveira wants the fight on the ground. Being able to beat up opponents in the clinch to distract them from takedowns -- and vice versa -- just adds to his grappling mastery. Advertisement


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