Justin Gaethje (+145) vs Charles Oliveira (-165)
Gaethje: DK: $7.7k | Oliveira: DK:$8.5k
Banger. F**king banger. Grab your Thomas Brothers, your TomTom, or ask Siri, but you won’t find any other way around it. Justin Gaethje vs. Charles Oliveira is an absolute banger. A style matchup of sorts, Gaethje is a savage marauder on the feet, and Oliveira is an evil necromancer on the mat. Like Powerman 5000, worlds will collide at UFC 274.
Justin Gaethje is entering his third title fight after winning the interim belt against Tony Furguson in 2020. They’re still shoveling heaps of shit out the Octagon since Gaethje’s most recent fight against Michael Chandler at UFC 268. It was a straight dogfight, on some Ace and Goose type-ish. What makes Gaethje special is that he doesn’t give a fook. It’s not just a repeated mantra or platitude; he really doesn’t. Only the US government has waged more war than Justin Gaethje. There’s no easy way out against Gaethje; you might beat him, but you will have to strap on your gasoline boots and walk through hell to do it.
An ambidextrous Nolan Ryan, Gaethje throws one hundred mph fastballs with both hands. He ducks his head and no-looks overhands and hooks from every angle, and every one of them has the grim reaper touch of death behind it. The Tony Ferguson fight ushered in a new and improved, more patient Justin Gaethje that refused to get drawn into his patented firefight. Instead, Gaethje displayed highly refined boxing techniques, slipping/countering, rolling off punches, and stepping off at angles. He engaged on his own terms and controlled the fight from the opening bell. That all went out the window against Michael Chandler.
Gaethje busted out the Ouija board, stood in front of the mirror and repeated his name three times, and resurrected the old Justin Gaethje. F all the fancy slips and counters, it was straight bomb-throwing from the jump. Which Gaethje will show up against Oliveira? A combination of both will be needed. He’ll have to pick his moments of recklessness wisely, but those moments of recklessness are what make him the most dangerous.
The disheartening thing about Gaethje’s performance against Khabib was how he completely froze both times the fight hit the mat. The first time was with thirty seconds left in the first round, but it looked like he quit immediately. Khabib took his back with the quickness and would have ended it right then and there if time permitted. In the second round, Khabib took Gaethje down and played eenie meenie miney moe to decide how to submit him. It was almost as if Gaethje broke as soon as he hit the mat.
Charles Oliveira has entered the chat. Oliveira has the best submissions in the UFC. Twenty of his thirty-two career wins have come by turning his opponents into Chong Li and making them say “matte!” Oliveira has the most active guard you will see. “Do Bronx” sets traps like the H.H. Holmes Mansion from his back. He feints one submission while setting up another. You’re constantly tied up with Oliveira’s limbs and defending submissions and never able to mount your own offense.
At all costs, Gaethje has to avoid the cage. He has to dominate the center of the Octagon and make Oliveira score open mat takedowns. Oliveira’s go-to maneuver is shooting a double to gain underhooks and pressing the opponent against the cage. From there, he works his way behind and takes the back. Michael Chandler escaped Oliveira’s back mount, but that was in the open mat, not against the cage.
In his first title defense against Dustin Poirier, Oliveira got pieced-up Willie in the first round. He had success marching down and suffocating Poirier with pressure, but he got battered and beaten up on the feet for the most part. Oliveira’s success on the feet came with standing knees from the clinch and a nonstop barrage of teeps to the body that looked to slow down Poirier by the end of the round. Charles can’t take those kinds of shots from Gaethje. Had it not been for a fluke takedown after holding Poirier’s gloves so he couldn’t disengage, Oliveira may not have survived much more of Poirier’s shots. Oliveira has to stay in Gaethje’s chest and get this fight to the mat.
Oliveira will be a submission threat early. If it goes to the third round and beyond, Oliveira will likely have sustained heavy damage, and his chances to score a finish late will dwindle. Gaethje will be a finishing threat for the full twenty-five minutes. But I think the odds are against a full twenty-five minutes. At the opening, Gaethje is the (+145) dog, and Gaethje at plus money is always Robert De Nero in Heat, straight robbery.
The main event-losing streak now sits at two. To my credit, I would have changed my pick after Rob Font missed weight by almost four pounds. That’s never a good sign. But we take our lumps as they come and fire back Gaethje bombs. Justin Gaethje via TKO, round three. On wax.
Winner: Justin Gaethje | Method: TKO Rd.3