Vinicius Oliveira Flying Knee Finish of Benardo Sopaj at UFC Vegas 87 a KO of the Year Contender

Vinicius Oliveira and Benardo Sopaj, UFC Vegas 87
LAS VEGAS, NEVADA - MARCH 02: (L-R) Vinicius Oliveira of Brazil kicks Benardo Sopaj of Albania in a bantamweight bout during the UFC Fight Night event at UFC APEX on March 02, 2024 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images)

AllStars Training Center standout Benardo Sopaj made his UFC debut on Saturday, with the promising bantamweight stepping up to take on Vinicius Oliveira on short notice at UFC Vegas 87.

At just 23-years old, Sopaj was already a bright prospect and seeking to prove he was UFC-ready. Oliveira, like Sopaj, was making his promotional debut, in his case by way of the Contender Series.

Both fighters were feeling each other out throwing back and forth trying to find their rhythm early on in Saturday’s contest. Sopaj was the first one to land clean with an inside leg kick. Oliveira returned with some leg kicks of his own landing hard. Sopaj was also catching the kicks of Oliveira and eventually used it to take him down. Nothing came out of the takedown as the fight was right back up. Sopaj landed a big head kick that was blocked but still had an impact. Sopaj landed an outside leg kick into a nicely secured takedown. He was in mount for a second but ended the round in the guard landing some late ground and pound.

Into round two Sopaj was in on a takedown. As Oliveira defended initially Sopaj adjusted and got the fight down. Oliveira worked to his knees fast but let Sopaj take the back with hooks in. Sopaj was letting go with punches as Oliveira was moving trying to survive. The jiu-jitsu of Sopaj was on point following Oliveira. Oliveria did eventually work to his feet and reversed Sopaj. Oliveira, knowing he was behind, went off with ground and pound taking over the round. Sopaj got back up but Oliveira threw him right back down. Oliveira was standing over Sopaj landing heavy ground strikes. Sopaj got back up but Oliveira went after him with punches and kicks landing a head kick and uppercut. If their were a few more seconds left Oliveira may have finished the fight right there.

Likely tied up going into round three both men needed a huge round. Sopaj started off landing a straight left snapping the head back of Oliveira. Oliveira stunned Sopaj with a right hand and would just chase Sopaj with punches. He settled down and started to attack with the outside kicks. Oliveira was mixing in the kicks and punches putting everything into what he was throwing.

Sopaj looked defeated as Oliveira was all over him. Right hands, leg kicks, body kicks were all landing from Oliveira. Then it was a left hand from Oliveira that  backed up Sopaj, much as he’d been moving all round. Oliveira attempted a takedown and when he didn’t get it he landed a combination. An outside leg kick had Sopaj climbing backward and Oliveira chased him down and landed a brutal flying knee. That put Sopaj out cold face first. A KO of the Year contender from the Contender Series product. As for Sopaj, he was helped out of the octagon favoring a leg.

Official Result: Vinicius Oliveira def. Benardo Sopaj by knockout (flying knee), Round 3, 4:41