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,.
Men's pound-for-pound rankings
| 1. Kamaru Usman||Welterweight champion||18-1||--|
|"The Nigerian Nightmare" has become just that to the competition at 170 pounds, extending his winning streak to 14. His spectacular knockout of Jorge Masvidal in their UFC 261 rematch proved Usman could fill the void left by the retired Khabib Nurmagomedov as the UFC's dominant champion of the moment. |
|2. Jon Jones||Heavyweight||26-1 (1 NC)||--|
|It wouldn't be wrong to consider the former light heavyweight champion as MMA's G.O.A.T. That doesn't mean his hold on the P4P throne isn't slipping. The competition has slowly caught up to Jones, which makes his move up to heavyweight at age 33 an interesting one. As is his ongoing debate with UFC brass over money. |
|3. Israel Adesanya||Middleweight champion||20-1||--|
|Still the best 185-pound fighter in the world, Adesanya's stock was brought back down to earth just a bit in a somewhat humanizing light heavyweight title loss to Jan Blachowicz. Up next is a middleweight title defense (and rematch) against red-hot Marvin Vettori on June 12. |
|4. Francis Ngannou||Heavyweight champion||16-3||--|
|How do you properly frame just how scary and dangerous "The Predator" really is? If his knockout streak hasn't fully convinced you, the evolution shown in his game during his rematch with Stipe Miocic to capture the heavyweight title should be enough. At 34 and still somewhat new to the sport, Ngannou is improving at a terrifying rate.|
|5. Deiveson Figueiredo||Flyweight champion||20-1-1||--|
|Despite being fresh off of an all-action draw against Brandon Moreno, the reigning 125-pound champion capped off a breakout 2020 by winning Fighter of the Year honors. This force of nature also injected much-needed life into the 125-pound division following the exits of Demetrious Johnson and Henry Cejudo. Up next is a rematch with Moreno at UFC 263. |
|6. Dustin Poirier||Lightweight||27-6 (1 NC)||--|
|UFC president Dana White wasn't willing to crown Poirier as the new lightweight king following his TKO of Conor McGregor in their January rematch, and Poirier ultimately chose a July trilogy above a title shot. Still, there isn't a better active 155-pound fighter at the moment.|
|7. Charles Oliveira||Lightweight champion||31-8 (1 NC)|
|Nine straight victories in the sport's toughest division culminated with the Brazilian stopping Michael Chandler to capture the vacant 155-pound title at UFC 262. Oliveira is the most prolific finisher in UFC history and should have no shortage of even tougher matchups available to him as champion. |
|8. Alexander Volkanovski||Featherweight champion||22-1|
|Volkanovski was expected to return in March only to see his scheduled title defense against Brian Ortega postponed due to a positive COVID-19 test. The native Australian is riding a 19-bout win streak following his first title defense when he edged Max Holloway by split decision and will coach opposite Ortega for filming of "The Ultimate Fighter."|
|9. Max Holloway||Featherweight||22-6|
|A shutout of Calvin Kattar in January might just be the most dynamic performance of the future Hall of Famer's career. Holloway set countless records for attempts and strikes landed over the five rounds. He also likely secured a shot at the winner of Volkanovski-Ortega.|
|10. Robert Whittaker||Middleweight||23-5||--|
|A three-fight win streak following his knockout title loss to Israel Adesanya in 2019 has "The Reaper" likely entering a shot to regain his crown later this year. At 30, Whittaker appears even more calculated than his initial championship rise and is among the most well-rounded fighters in the game.|
Dropped out: Jan Blachowicz
Just missed: Blachowicz, Petr Yan, Justin Gaethje, Brian Ortega, Aljamain Sterling
Women's pound-for-pound rankings
|1. Amanda Nunes||Bantamweight/Featherweight champion||20-4||--|
First-time parenthood did nothing to slow "The Lioness" in her dominant finish of Megan Anderson in March to defend her 145-pound title. Unless a trilogy against flyweight champion Valentina Shevchenko can be made, Nunes will continue to be an overwhelming favorite against any fighter across two divisions.
|2. Valentina Shevchenko||Flyweight champion||21-3||--|
|Despite holding a pair of close decision defeats to Nunes, all Shevchenko has done since moving down to her natural weight of 125 pounds is make a case for inclusion alongside Nunes atop the P4P rankings. Her demolition of an always dangerous Jessica Andrade in April only echoed her greatness. |
|3. Rose Namajunas||Strawweight champion||10-4|
|Meet the new boss of the 115-pound division; it's the same as the old boss. "Thug" Rose cemented her comeback with authority by finishing Weili Zhang at UFC 261 via head-kick knockout in the opening round. True to form, when Namajunas is at her very best, few in history can compare. |
|4. Weili Zhang||Strawweight||21-2|
|Despite her complaints regarding an early stoppage, Zhang's return from a 13-month layoff and five-round war against Joanna Jedrzejczyk turned out to be disastrous as Namajunas regained her title. Luckily for Zhang, UFC president Dana White seemed to favor an immediate rematch.|
|5. Joanna Jedrzejczyk||Strawweight||16-4||--|
|The former 115-pound champion, more than a year removed from co-authoring the greatest fight in women's MMA history against Zhang, announced her intentions in March for a summer return and is hoping to draw Namajunas into a trilogy.|
Dropped out: None
Just missed: Germain de Randamie, Holly Holm, Aspen Ladd, Yan Xiaonan, Jessica Andrade