Is Charles Oliveira Hitting His Prime Now… Nine Years Into His UFC Career?

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What do you do when you’re already the UFC’s all-time leader in submissions? Start knocking guys out, I guess.

At least that’s been UFC lightweight Charles “Do Bronx” Oliveira’s plan.

The finest submission artist the UFC has ever seen, Oliveira claimed one of the most coveted records in all of mixed martial arts last December. However, since recording his thirteenth career UFC submission earlier this year, “Do Bronx” has added a few new wrinkles to his MMA game, as evidenced this past weekend, when he knocked out Jared Gordon in under two minutes at UFC Sao Paulo.

Just 30 years old, Oliveira has been fighting inside the Octagon since he was 21, amassing an impressive, perhaps even Hall of Fame worthy, resume. And during his nine years with the UFC, he’s proven that redemption can come at any time in a fighter’s career, and that losses inside the cage are not necessarily detrimental to growth and improvement. Oilveira’s done it all while snatching necks and cashing checks all over the world, and the scary part is that he may just be hitting his stride and athletic prime now, 25 fights into his UFC career.

Currently in the midst of a six fight win streak, all of which have come by way of stoppage, Oliveira, the UFC’s thirteenth-ranked lightweight, has never looked better.

Adding a new layer to his striking game to compliment those nasty, nasty submission skills, Oliveira has ironically won his last two fights by knockout. And while it’s easy to point out that “Do Bronx” isn’t necessarily facing elite competition these days, he’s already fought legends and former champions like Frankie Edgar, Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone, Anthony Pettis, and Max Holloway, so what else is anyone going to throw at him that he hasn’t already seen? And who is the fighter who can solve the increasingly complex and difficult riddle of Oliveira’s game?

If you ask Oliveira, he’ll tell you it may be Conor McGregor, although that’s likely just his way of courting a big fight and payday with the former champ champ, who is rumored to be returning to the Octagon on January 18, 2020.

Putting Oliveira’s current run in perspective is both interesting and incredible, especially considering that just three years ago, many believed that his career was on the downslide.

What is important to realize, is that he was really just a major casualty of bad weight cutting practices, years after his initial ascent to the top of the division, when he was rushed into bouts against over-matched veterans like Cerrone and Jim Miller, who handed “Do Bronx” the first two losses of his pro MMA career.

Rather than taking the time to rebuild his career slowly, however, Oliveira rushed down to featherweight. The drop in weight classes greatly and adversely affected his career arc.

Missing weight on four occasions at 145 pounds, Oliveira became a meme, taking major flack from fans for a photo of him sitting at a McDonald’s, despite a few fantastic performances sprinkled in between. Going 7-5 at featherweight, “Do Bronx” was eventually forced to move back up to lightweight in 2017, and ever since he’s gone 7-1 (the only losses coming against sixth-ranked Paul Felder), earning six fight night bonuses.

Watching Oliveira perform this past weekend it has become clear that “Do Bronx” was always on his way to being an elite fighter with a unique and imposing skill set. He just needed to find his way after the disaster of his featherweight run.

And with his career finally trending in the right direction, it’s time to see what he can do against a proper ranked opponent, someone like Dan Hooker, Kevin Lee, or Edson Barboza. At this point, nine years into his UFC run, with a 16-8 (1 NC) record, Oliveira is finally ready for the shine. He’s ready to face the toughest of foes and celebrate the phenomenal achievements of his record-setting career.

Most Submissions in UFC History
Charles Oliveira – 13
Demian Maia – 11
Royce Gracie – 10
Nate Diaz – 8
Jim Miller – 8
Frank Mir – 8