UFC Pound-for-Pound Fighter Rankings: Charles Oliveira enters the fray with title win and another finish

If the early returns of the post-Khabib Nurmagomedov lightweight era have taught us anything, the future at 155 pounds inside the Octagon should be nothing short of wild. 

Following Nurmagomedov’s retirement and Dustin Poirier’s decision to extend his rivalry with Conor McGregor to a third fight, the seas parted ever so perfectly for Charles Oliveira last Saturday to extend his win streak to nine by finishing Michael Chandler in their vacant title bout at UFC 262

It’s not as if the result for Oliveira (31-8, 1 NC) is a huge surprise, especially given he’s the UFC record holder for most finishes and submission wins. Yet the fight proved to be violent theater from start to finish with multiple swings of momentum and it served as a huge validation for just how elite the Brazilian has become in the four years since returning to the division. 

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Oliveira ended his featherweight run with three defeats in his final four fights yet consistently grew from the experience gathered by regularly facing top names. But ever since a 2017 TKO loss to Paul Felder, he has been lights out. 

The current nine-fight win streak for Oliveira features eight wins by stoppage, including five via submission. And throughout the journey, which featured big wins over Kevin Lee and Tony Ferguson to earn the title shot, Oliveira saw is confidence begin to swell each time he stepped up in class. 

The improvement of Oliveira’s striking game, which he used to stop Chandler in Round 2, has certainly been a huge story given how sublime “Do Bronx” has long been from the standpoint of being able to finish a fight at any given time in dramatic fashion with his submission game. But it’s hard to not double back on the importance of his mental growth along with it. 

Oliveira not only escaped an early guillotine from Chandler that was deep, he recovered from a flurry of punches in the opening round that floored him and gave the impression he was close to being finished. Being able to operate so swiftly amid chaos by making adjustments without panicking is an elite intangible that doesn’t often get mentioned as being so integral for a fighter with championship pedigree and Oliveira proved he has it in spades. 

The question now becomes whether Oliveira can keep his title and turn so a momentous victory into a reign. He should expect it will get no easier from here given the incumbent killers who remain (Poirier, Justin Gaethje, Rafael dos Anjos) and a new group of hungry risers right behind (Beneil Dariush, Islam Makhachev). 

But as for right now, Oliveira deserves recognition among the very best in the sport given how prolific he has become at stopping whomever stands in front of him. 

For CBS Sports’ updated divisional rankings, click here.

Men’s pound-for-pound rankings

Dropped out: Jan Blachowicz

Just missed: Blachowicz, Petr Yan, Justin Gaethje, Brian Ortega, Aljamain Sterling

Women’s pound-for-pound rankings

Dropped out: None

Just missed: Germain de Randamie, Holly Holm, Aspen Ladd, Yan Xiaonan, Jessica Andrade

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