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The Weekly Takedown: Charles Oliveira sees no end to his reign in sight after correcting vision

One of the most dangerous fighters in the lightweight division enters UFC 280 seeking to reclaim his title – and he doesn't plan to look back.

Welcome to The Weekly Takedown, Sports Illustrated's in-depth look at MMA. Every week, this column offers insight and information on the most noteworthy stories in the fight world.

Charles Oliveira's poor eyesight is no longer an issue.

Oliveira (33-8 MMA, 21-8 UFC) underwent surgery to correct his vision, and he enters next week's UFC 280 main event against Islam Makhachev (22-1 MMA, 11-1 UFC) fully aware of what is in front of him.

"I had the surgery, and my eyes are 100 percent perfect," says Oliveira, speaking through a translator. "I can see everything now."

Armed with flawless vision, Oliveira claims he can even see the future.

"I am going to knock Islam out in the first round," Oliveira says. "Then we're going to celebrate."

Oliveira has won 11 fights in a row, so clearly his vision was never too much of a weakness. During the winning streak, only once has Oliveira gone to decision–and that took place in 2020 after he dominated Tony Ferguson for three full rounds. Remarkably, Oliveira still does not receive the credit he deserves, especially after beating top opponents in such dominating fashion.

Following the victory against Ferguson, Oliveira defeated Michael Chandler via a second-round TKO in May of 2021. Then he used his rear-naked choke to submit Dustin Poirier a few months later that December, earning the victory only 62 seconds into the third round, before forcing Justin Gaethje to tap out in the first round this past May.

Next up for Oliveira is Makhachev, who has rattled off 10 victories in a row. The vacant lightweight championship is at stake, a title that Oliveira lost after missing weight prior to his fight against Gaethje.

"I was robbed," Oliveira says. "That's all I can say. I am the real champion. I will prove that again when I step back in the cage."

The bout at 280 represents a significant proving ground for both fighters. Makhachev presents real problems. His striking and grappling place him on an entirely different level, and a win here would instantly become his crowning achievement. Yet he has not always looked as clean or dominant as he should against lesser talent, and he has never encountered the same caliber of opponents that Oliveira has slayed. Makhachev was knocked out in his lone loss, which occurred seven years ago, and Oliveira will be searching to expose holes in his game.

"Makhachev, he's following someone else's way," says Oliveira, addressing whether there is too much hype surrounding Makhachev. "He is following Khabib – he's his successor. Yes, he's been very successful, but who are the top five he has beaten? Again, he is following someone else's way.

"I'm blazing my own trail. I've beat former champions. I beat the whole top five. I knocked them out or submitted them. When will Islam do that?"

Consistently overshadowed by his opponents, Oliveira enters the 280 lightweight title bout as the underdog. Recently, however, he was highlighted by one of the sport's icons, as Randy Couture recently singled out Oliveira as someone who captures the spirit of mixed martial arts – and that praise did not go unnoticed.

"I'm grateful to be recognized by Randy Couture," Oliveira says. "That's given me even more strength to keep progressing. I am very grateful to Randy for believing in me."

Never known as the flashiest trash talker, Oliveira has the opportunity to step back into the cage next week at 280. A victory will reunite him with the belt, one he believes was wrongfully taken from him, as well as finally provide him with a level of respect he has long been seeking.

"To beat Islam, I need to be myself," Oliveira says. "I am going to give my best performance, and I will take my belt back."

ONE expanding global footprint


A fascinating development in MMA is ONE Championship's global expansion.

ONE CEO Chatri Sityodtong spoke at the World Congress of Sport earlier this week, when he announced a 24-country Middle East deal in the Middle East and North Africa. Beginning in 2023, ONE is also running weekly fights in Thailand, and all these moves point to the company's desire to widen its reach around the world.

The 24-country MENA deal is so valuable, as it is lucrative, in terms of money and tapping into the world's fight fans. As witnessed with WWE's deal in KSA and UFC in Abu Dhabi, combat sports in that region of the world are in very high demand with a large fan base and high long-term monetary value. ONE just received an investment from the Qatar Sports Authority, and they have agreed in principle to future events in the region.

There is also a new deal soon to be announced with Globo in Brazil, Sports Illustrated has learned, which would generate a lot of momentum for ONE, especially following the successful Prime Video debut.

The deal with Globo in Brazil is significant. Globo is Brazil's top sports platform, as well as the former home of the UFC in the region. ONE will now be aired on Brazil's largest platform, giving a massive distribution boost in a country filled with smart fight fans, especially relevant now with the national pride of Brazilian jiu-jitsu and ONE's new submission grappling divisions and championships. The timing works in ONE's favor with Kade Ruotolo competing for the second-ever submission grappling title next week at ONE on Prime Video 3.

And starting in January, ONE is airing one show per week on Friday nights from Thailand. That is in addition to their current two-event-per-month model. The weekly Thailand fights are a way for Sityodtong to show his dedication to his home country and the muay Thai community. He wanted to put his mark on the muay Thai world by creating the biggest and best show in the nation and showcasing the incredible muay Thai.

ONE has also committed to paying the largest purses for muay Thai in the country. This is all part of Sityodtong's commitment to MMA and the individual martial arts.

The Pick 'Em Section:

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Last week: 0-0

2022 record: 115-64

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