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Can Charles Oliveira really beat Khabib Nurmagomedov?

Charles Oliveira has been on a remarkable 11 fight win streak, and his demolition of Justin Gaethje has sparked the idea of a fantasy matchup between him and Khabib Nurmagomedov

Charles Oliveira is the true embodiment of what a switch in mindset can do to your career. With 16 submission and 19 finishes, Oliveira has the record for being the most dangerous finisher inside the octagon, but ‘Do Bronx’ wasn’t always this threatening.

charles Oliveira
Charles Oliveira after defending his title against Dustin Poirier (Credits: MMA Junkie)

Even former UFC double champion Daniel Cormier took notice of his career revival, and asked President Dana White as to what happened to Charles? It is safe to say that Charles is operating entirely different then he was, and there’s a change is his demeanor, his personality, his mindset, and approach to the actual fight itself. He is one of the few complete fighters in the UFC roaster today.

Many have voiced that two or three more victories would cement Charles Oliveira as the true lightweight ‘GOAT’, by dethroning Khabib Nurmagomedov. Both fighters have a humdinger and unprecedented legacy, but it is noteworthy to mention that Charles Oliveira has beaten Khabib’s opponents quicker and faster than him. This sparks the biggest debate that whether Charles could actually beat the undefeated Khabib Nurmagomedov.

What are the chances that Charles Oliveira beats Khabib Nurmagomedov?

Khabib’s infamous t-shirt at an old weigh-in show that read, ‘If sambo was easy it would be called jiu-jitsu’ serves as the perfect narrative for the storyline, if the pair ever end up facing each other. Khabib is a world sambo champion and a longtime practitioner of the martial arts form. One thing missing from Khabib’s arsenal during his initial fights in the UFC was his submission game, which he obviously improved substantially over the end of his career.

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Khabib’s mentality is what separated him from the rest. The reason behind his phlegmatic comportment was his self-possessed, poised and cool-headed approach. He was determined in his mind that he is the best, and would walk down opponents with confidence. The famed Khabib pressure has broken the grit of the very best in the division, and as soon as he got a grip of them, the fight started to slip away.

His ground and pound was second to none, and if that wasn’t enough, he was a true master of weight distribution, posture and control. He would use every part of his body to maintain top control and tie up his opponents limbs masterfully. Take the Edson Barboza fight for example, Khabib walked him down, showing absolutely no respect to his striking, and when he took him down, he had his legs tied up, hips postured up that sat Edson down, allowing him no space to pull guard. He controlled Edson’s waist and lead hand on ground with his weaker left hand, while he beat the pulp out of him for fifteen minutes.

The reason why people fancied the Khabib vs Tony match-up was because the Dagestani never faced an elite jiu-jitsu practitioner. And Charles Oliveira is beyond elite. A third degree black belt in jiu-jitsu, Oliveira is like a boa constrictor, who wraps the neck, at a even the slightest opportunity that presents itself. Charles has a significant striking advantage over Khabib, and his finishing rate is higher than the Dagestani. He has adopted and honed Khabib’s approach of walking down opponents, except that he’s capable of inflicting some serious punishment on feet. He does get hurt and dropped, which has never been the case with Khabib, but to his credit fighters are afraid to pass his guard.

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Take the Gaethje finish for example, as soon as he dropped the American, Charles realized that there is no point in wasting time with striking, and took his back immediately, like a knife through butter. He went from an armbar attempt, to half-twister, to a triangle choke, and eventually ended the fight with rear naked choke, all within 15-20 seconds. This mastery and facile control takes years and years of spending time on the mats.

So how would the fight between the two end up? Predicting the outcome of this fight would be like getting blood from a stone. While its obvious that you need your limbs free to execute transitions in jiu-jitsu, Khabib is the master of wrapping limbs and leaving opponents helpless gasping for air. But Oliveira has a significant advantage on the feet, and would not mind engaging in grappling exchanges. One of the most underrated weapon in the Brazilian’s arsenal is his wrestling, while with Khabib, its his ability to not get hit. And both of this will come in handy if they ever face each other. As fans of the sport, all we can do is hope and pray that Khabib decides to return one day to face Oliveira.

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