Charles Oliveira looks to regain lightweight crown at UFC 280

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

A pair of title matches top Saturday’s loaded UFC 280 card.

In the main event at Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, Charles Oliveira (33-8) will tangle with Islam Makhachev (22-1) to fill the vacant UFC lightweight title. The co-feature sees Aljamain Sterling (21-3) defend his bantamweight crown against T.J. Dillashaw (18-4).

Brazil’s Oliveira was set to make his first defense of the lightweight title at UFC 274 in May. However, he became the first fighter in UFC history to be stripped of a belt for missing weight when he came in a half-pound overweight for his bout with Justin Gaethje. Several fighters complained about the accuracy of the scale used by Arizona’s athletic commission.

The fight went on, and Oliveira submitted Gaethje in the first round, extending his UFC-record total of submissions to 16 while logging his 11th straight win. The victory meant the title stayed vacant. (Gaethje would have become champion with a victory.)

Makhachev, meanwhile, has gone on a tear. The Dagestan native is the top protege of UFC Hall of Famer Khabib Nurmagomedov and competes in a similar style. He has used dogged grappling to set up ruthless ground strikes en route to compiling a 10-fight win streak.

The bantamweight title bout will see Dillashaw attempt to become just the second fighter ever to hold the same UFC weight-class title thrice, after former heavyweight champion Randy Couture. The Denver resident twice held the 135-pound title. He also sat out a two-year suspension after testing positive for EPO in 2019.

Dillashaw returned in July 2021 and earned a split decision over top contender Cory Sandhagen, but he hasn’t fought since.

Sterling, from Massapequa, N.Y., is looking to assert himself as champion. After being handed the title via disqualification against Petr Yan at UFC 259 in March 2021, he barely quieted his critics in eking out a split-decision win over Yan in the rematch at UFC 273 in April 2022. Still, he takes a seven-fight win streak, dating back to 2018, into the bout and can boost his credentials with a win over the former two-time champ.

–Field Level Media

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