UFC 269: Oliveira and Poirier Battling for Both Supremacy and Greatness

Charles Oliveira and Dustin Poirier, UFC 269
Charles Oliveira and Dustin Poirier, UFC 269 Pre-Fight Press Conference Credit: Gabriel Gonzalez/Cageside Press

Charles Oliveira and Dustin Poirier will compete for not only the lightweight title but also to become one of the highest regarded stars in mixed martial arts at UFC 269.

After winning nine fights in a row and having spent over a decade in the UFC, there is little that Charles Oliveira hasn’t seen.  Once the youngest fighter on the roster, Oliveira rides an incredible win-streak that has seen him best the likes of Kevin Lee, Tony Ferguson, and more recently Michael Chandler to claim UFC gold.  For having once been told he may never be able to walk properly again, and experiencing a run that at times looked like it wasn’t destined to end with a world title, his triumph has been one of the defining examples for all of the fighters in the sport that it is never too late.

So what is left?  As champion, he now looks poised to face a murderer’s row of killers if he wants to keep his hands on the belt.  Justin Gaethje already waits in the wings while Islam Makhachev and Beneil Dariush loom behind him as potential foes in 2021.  Considering his resume leading up to this point, a successful 2022 would likely put Oliveira in the conversation of best talents seen in the lightweight division all-time.  Furthermore, it would likely push “Do Bronx” towards crossover stardom as one of the top attractions in the sport.

Dustin Poirier has everything except the UFC title.  He is one of the most popular fighters on the roster with respectable drawing power on his own.  He is already in the UFC Hall of Fame for his humanitarian work with his charity The Good Fight Foundation that serves his community in Louisiana.  Finally, he has a resume on par with Oliveira’s in the last two years with two victories over Conor McGregor on top of previous victories against Justin Gaethje and Max Holloway.  So great is his star power that a large portion of the fan base felt it was perfectly reasonable when Showtime acknowledged him incorrectly as the UFC lightweight champion on the Jake Paul vs Tyron Woodley broadcast.

A victory on Saturday would be a storybook ending, but the saga feels dangerously as if it could also end in heartache.  Poirier has admitted himself that the thought crosses his mind that it could be his last shot at the world title.  Like Oliveira, dangerous foes await him if he wins.  But even at his current position, the same foes will all be ahead of him if he loses and will push him firmly out of the title picture for the foreseeable future.  The title would be one of his last steps towards true crossover stardom, if he can just execute the right game plan to grasp it.

For Olveira, volume and footwork will be the key to neutralizing Poirier on the feet.  Oliveira’s reach and speed figure to provide the biggest problems for the challenger, but it is dependent on him getting in-and-out and not being there for Poirier’s counters.  Further, while “The Diamond” is a respectable grappler in his own right, Olveira as the holder of the UFC’s all-time submission record figures to hold a vast advantage should he gain top position on the mat.  Poirier’s best route to victory hinges on his ability to slow the champion’s movement with calf kicks.  While the two promise an exciting battle on the feet, it swings heavily in Poirier’s favor should be hamper Oliveira’s mobility early and thus make him a stationary target to be attacked with more powerful strikes.

Justin Gaethje is expected to be the next title challenger for Saturday’s winner, in all likelihood headlining a major event in 2022.  While a collision is expected for the first half of the year, a meeting at the UFC’s tentpole Fourth of July event is also a possibility.  While it is unlikely that there will be a change in those plans, Islam Makhachev or Beneil Dariush could also find themselves in the title fight if one of the participants finds themselves unavailable to compete.