When is the champ not the champ? For the UFC light-weight division: proper about now, really.
And that’s not meant as a slight on Charles Oliveira, who earned the vacant championship with a valiant rally to victory over Michael Chandler throughout Saturday evening’s UFC 262 pay-per-view headliner at Toyota Center in Houston. By all means, he ought to consider he’s the one and solely true champion of 155 kilos. He’s received a shiny, gold, octagon-shaped leather-based strap in his possession to show it.
But even by Chandler’s personal evaluation, the highest light-weight in the world wasn’t even concerned in the Texas motion. Instead, top-ranked Dustin Poirier is 2 months away from his rubber match with Conor McGregor, after (*1*) in January to avenge a 2014 defeat when the 2 had been featherweights.
“There’s no doubt Dustin Poirier is the No. 1 guy in the world as we speak right now,” Chandler advised The Post in the leadup to Saturday’s combat, although he accurately identified that Poirier handed on the chance to combat for the title Khabib Nurmagomedov vacated along with his October retirement in order to enlarge bucks in opposition to the Irishman.
So what we’ve now could be a reputable, elite 155-pounder in Oliveira who holds the title — and who would have made all of the sense in the world as Nurmagomedov’s subsequent challenger if he hadn’t hung up the gloves — but additionally a champion that didn’t beat the final man to put on the crown nor the consensus prime man.
Undisputed champion of the world? If you need to dispute that, be at liberty.
This will not be meant to be a success on Oliveira. By all accounts, he’s an unimaginable human being who has crushed the percentages all through his life, rising from poverty in Brazil to make a reputation for himself — he even did it Saturday, getting back from a difficult first body in which Chandler earned 10-8 scores on two judges’ scorecards.
Oliveira’ a superb expertise, too, one who I had the possibility to see up shut for his UFC debut in San Diego 11 years in the past. I purchased a ticket whereas on trip and witnessed his prodigious submission prowess on show when he tapped out Darren Elkins (who stays on the UFC roster to at the present time as nicely) in 41 seconds. Even then, everybody may image a championship future for him someday. He’s stuffed out his sport with harmful hanging, which straight resulted in the TKO end of Chandler 19 seconds into the second spherical. That gave Oliveira his third end through strikes in his final 5 after securing none such finishes over his first 23 UFC contests.
But that doesn’t change the truth that neither the brand new champ nor his opponent was thought-about one of many two finest lightweights on the planet earlier than strolling to the cage.
Really, wherever you look, you received’t discover many who would have ranked both of Saturday’s combatants as Nos. 1 or 2 at light-weight. Scanning the UFC’s proprietary rankings, the data-driven system at Fight Matrix and people compiled by ESPN on the finish of April, Poirier and Justin Gaethje are the common one-two combo. Oliveira got here into Saturday at No. 3 on all three, whereas Charles was fourth at each ESPN and with the UFC, but all the way in which down at sixth on Fight Matrix. He would possibly even be decrease if the person who beat him for the Bellator light-weight title two years in the past, Patricio Pitbull, was completely ranked at 145 kilos on their website.
So, sure, we’ve a champion, in a lot as a No. 3 vs. No. 4 battle locations one among them at No. 1.
Poirier himself supplied nothing but reward for Oliveira in the aftermath of his massive second, in addition to encouragement for Chandler.
“Congratulations [Oliveira] you earned that the hard way! Head up [Chandler] highest of the highs and lowest of the lows,” Poirier wrote on Twitter.
Realistically, Oliveira wants to beat both Poirier — assuming he dispatches McGregor for the second time in 2021, which isn’t any positive factor — or a minimum of Gaethje, the credible challenger Nurmagomedov dusted in his swan tune in beneath seven minutes, simply to earn the appropriate to be thought-about the true prime canine at 155.
Or, if it doesn’t go Poirier’s approach on July 10, McGregor struts into one other likelihood to reclaim the title he first received almost 5 years in the past at Madison Square Garden. Can’t think about UFC brass would thoughts that situation.
Once Oliveira completes that first title protection — or somebody like Poirier will get the most effective of him — then the goal would actually belong on the champion’s again. Enjoy having 155-pound studs Gaethje, Beneil Dariush (a winner over former interim champ Tony Ferguson on Saturday), Rafael Dos Anjos, and Islam Makhachev gunning for ya.
Chandler advised The Post that “whoever holds the title is the champion,” and naturally he has to suppose that, regardless that it didn’t go his approach this time. But for the remainder of us to consider it, we’d want to wait till Oliveira’s first title protection.