On October 21st, UFC lightweight champion Islam Makhachev will defend his title against former champion Charles Oliveira in a highly anticipated rematch. UFC 294 represents a pivotal moment for the 155-pound division as its two dominant forces clash again with legacy on the line.
Few fighters have risen as quickly or emphatically as Islam Makhachev. A training partner of Khabib Nurmagomedov, Makhachev has absorbed “The Eagle’s” philosophical and strategic teachings. Like his mentor, Islam utilizes smothering Dagestani wrestling and submission skills to overwhelm opponents.
After years of being considered Khabib 2.0, Makhachev has crafted his own identity lately by blending vicious ground-and-pound with improved standup. His mauling of Bobby Green showcased a fluid striker dissecting opponents with technique and IQ.
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Oliveira took on all challengers with a warrior’s mentality, toppling Dustin Poirier and Justin Gaethje. His BJJ brilliance matched with formidable Muay Thai skills made Oliveira look unbeatable.
At UFC 280, his feel-good title reign crashed down against Makhachev’s smothering style. Like so many previous grapplers, Oliveira was neutralized by a Dagestani maestro.
Losing the belt without being defeated fuels Oliveira entering the rematch. His recent dominance and late-career emergence make him confident Makhachev simply had his number temporarily.
Now these lethal lightweights will dance once more with divisional control at stake. Their contrasting styles and backgrounds make Oliveira vs. Makhachev a compelling stylistic matchup.
Makhachev should look to close distance and engage in the Brazilian’s guard immediately. His top pressure and control time neutralized Oliveira previously and remain the path to victory. The champion must avoid striking exchanges where Oliveira’s power presents real danger.
Makhachev pairs a stoic demeanor with clinical fight IQ. Emotions never overcome strategy inside the octagon. At 31 years old, his prime years have aligned with a new champion’s poise and conviction.
Against a depleted lightweight division, Makhachev ripped off 10 straight wins before facing Oliveira for the vacant title at UFC 280. He conquered “Do Bronx” via second-round submission, realizing his destiny under Khabib’s tutelage.
Charles Oliveira’s road to UFC gold was far rockier. For years, he struggled to put together consistency inside the cage. Though clearly talented, Oliveira’s focus and fight IQ were lacking.
But after one final career crossroads against Nik Lentz in 2019, something clicked for “Do Bronx.” He found discipline to pair with raw aggression. An 11-fight win streak followed, capped by claiming the lightweight belt vacated by Khabib in 2021.
Oliveira will surely attempt to keep the fight standing and on his terms. Dynamic kicks can disrupt Makhachev’s forward pressure and set up Oliveira’s punishing Muay Thai flurries. Remaining upright for five rounds is the former champion’s only realistic chance.
While Oliveira has a clear avenue to use his striking, fully avoiding Makhachev’s grappling seems unlikely. Perhaps threatening submissions off his back can keep Makhachev defensive rather than offensive. Offensively hunting triangles and armbars at the first opportunity could briefly swing momentum.
At the highest level, the smallest openings often prove decisive. Both men must remain fully focused to capitalize whenever chances arise. Remaining composed under grappling exchanges or striking attacks could determine who controls the rematch.
Regardless of the outcome, the brilliance of Makhachev versus Oliveira raises the stakes for the lightweight division. Their world-class skills make every touch of action gripping. With the title at stake again, expect another epic tactical showdown at UFC 294.