For the past two-plus years, Charles Oliveira has quietly been one of the hottest fighters in all of MMA. That continued on Saturday.
Oliveira (29-8, 1 NC) waged a memorable duel with Kevin Lee in the main event of UFC Fight Night 170 in Brasilia, Brazil and walked out with his hand raised in victory. “Do Bronx” withstood all of Lee’s attacks, remained calm and eventually put an end to the American’s bid to win back-to back fights for the first time in more than two years.
Lee (18-6) landed hard kicks and punches early and often – as did Oliveira – and the fight was heating up to be a thriller for five rounds. However, Oliveira engaged with his opponent in a brief exchange early in the third, and when “The Motown Phenom” dropped his head too close on the inside during a takedown, Oliveira snatched it. The Chute Boxe Diego Lima product locked on a guillotine, dropped down to full guard and forced Lee to tap out, ending the battle just 28 seconds into the third.
The win was the 14th submission inside the UFC’s Octagon for Oliveira, padding his record, which is now three ahead of second-place Demian Maia. But “Do Bronx” said after his win that his place in the record books never entered his mind before or during his scrap with Lee.
“My team never let it go up in my head that I am a record holder,” he said. “This is just one more. I always enter to put on a show. I don't come with the goal of submitting, knocking out or getting bonuses. I come to do my job, to show that a humble guy can chase what he wants. I'm very happy.”
According to the Brazilian, he was not certain whether he’d be able to fight on Saturday. Oliveira said he wasn’t at full strength in camp, and he came into fight week heavier than he would’ve liked. Lee wound up missing weight on Friday, but Oliveira made the lightweight limit by the skin of his teeth.
“I had not known for 20 days whether I would be able to fight or not,” he admitted. “I had hurt my shoulder, but my team is different and said that I could get here and win. I never arrived as heavy as I arrived for this week, it was all a bit troubled. When I didn't make weight [three years ago], people said I was not a professional. People also said that about Kevin Lee this week, but I think he was a professional. We spent the whole week not knowing if this was going to happen or not.”
The fight did happen, but it was the first time in the promotion’s history where a major UFC event was held without any fans in attendance. The novel coronavirus pandemic has virtually every sports league on hiatus, but the UFC soldiered on, though without anybody from the public inside the arena as a measure to help curtail the spread of the highly contagious virus.
“I came to make history again, this time without anyone cheering,” he said. “But as my team likes to say, it was written. We came to get what is ours. Of course, I wanted everyone to be there, but I'm sure that an audience that didn't know me yet had the opportunity to meet me today.”