UFC 274 on Saturday night in Phoenix boasts a pair of intriguing title fights at the top of the bill — one that promises fireworks and one a rematch more than seven years in the making.
The evening’s main event is a lightweight title fight between champion Charles Oliveira (32-8) of Brazil and Arizona’s own Justin Gaethje (23-3).
This bout quite simply features two of the most exciting fighters in the sport.
Oliveira owns the UFC records for most finishes (18) and most submission victories (15), and he rides a 10-fight winning streak into the bout.
Gaethje’s reputation is underscored by the fact he has earned 10 of UFC’s “Fight of the Night” and “Performance of the Night” bonuses in his first nine UFC fights. He’s the winner of five out of his last six.
For his part, Oliveira says he knows Gaethje can bring it, and he’s ready to fight fire with fire.
“Listen, he is a truck,” Oliveira said at Wednesday’s media day. “He only moves forward; I only move forward. So, there’s definitely gonna be collisions, definitely gonna be a clash. I’m not a jiu-jitsu fighter anymore. I’m a complete MMA fighter. I want everyone to know.”
The evening’s co-feature is a killer rematch for the UFC strawweight title between champion Rose Namajunas (11-4) and former titleholder Carla Esparza (18-6).
In December 2014, Esparza defeated Namajunas in the finals of a tournament to crown the UFC’s first 115-pound champion. That was Namajunas’ fourth career pro fight, underscoring her potential.
She has since lived up to that hype by becoming the division’s first two-time titleholder, using a well-rounded offense and underrated toughness to impose her will.
Esparza, meanwhile, dropped the title in 2015 and for a while was considered an afterthought in the division. But the wrestling-heavy Esparza has vastly improved her stand-up game and has won five consecutive fights over the past three years to earn her way back to another title shot.
–Field Level Media