HOUSTON (AP) — Charles Oliveira claimed the UFC lightweight title Saturday night, stopping Michael Chandler with a barrage of punches early in the second round at UFC 262.
Oliveira (31-8) earned his ninth consecutive victory in dramatic fashion, finishing Chandler (22-6) with a series of precise strikes to claim the belt vacated by Khabib Nurmagomedov’s retirement.
After both fighters traded big shots in a back-and-forth opening round, Oliveira abruptly dropped Chandler with a left hook in the opening seconds of the second round. The Brazilian veteran pursued Chandler around the perimeter of the cage before dropping Chandler again with a left hook and finishing with punches on the ground.
Oliveira appeared to be in serious trouble in the first round from Chandler’s relentless attacks, but he recovered and then finished in spectacular fashion. Oliveira, who has stopped eight of his nine opponents during his winning streak, ran across the mat and hurdled the cage to celebrate his first title belt after 11 years in the UFC and his record 17th UFC finish.
Oliveira is the UFC’s first new undisputed lightweight champion in over three years. Nurmagomedov held the belt from April 2018 until this year, when UFC President Dana White finally accepted the unbeaten Russian star’s decision to retire in the prime of his career.
A mid-career renaissance led Oliveira to a title fight, while Chandler got his shot only eight months after signing with the UFC following a decade in Bellator, where he won the 155-pound title three times. Chandler’s UFC debut was an impressive stoppage of Dan Hooker in January, and the promotion fast-tracked him to a title shot.
But Oliveira showed off his ever-improving striking game alongside his already formidable jiu-jitsu skills in a career-capping performance.
The UFC packed the Toyota Center for its second pay-per-view event in front of a full crowd since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic.
In the penultimate bout at UFC 262, former interim lightweight champ Tony Ferguson took his third straight defeat, losing every round on every scorecard to Beneil Dariush.
Ferguson (25-5) had an eight-year, 12-fight winning streak that ended last May. He couldn’t figure out a strategy on the ground or on his feet against Dariush (21-4-1), who has won seven straight bouts.
Dariush nearly finished Ferguson with a heel hook in the second round, but Ferguson kicked his way out of it. Dariush still controlled the bout until the final bell.
On the undercard, André Muniz finished fellow Brazilian veteran Ronaldo “Jacaré” Souza in the first round, and he appeared to break Souza’s arm in the submission hold when Souza refused to tap out. Muniz’s victory was his fifth straight since joining the UFC, while the 41-year-old Souza has lost four straight.
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