Charles Oliveira won the lightweight championship on Saturday in one of the wildest, most unlikely turnarounds in a title fight in the promotion’s history on Saturday in the main event of UFC 262 at the Toyota Center in Houston.
Oliveira was dropped by a left hook with just under two minutes left in the first round and was pummeled by Michael Chandler for most of the rest of the round. Referee Dan Miragliotta was leaning forward, paying close attention to Oliveira and seemed to be on the verge of stopping it.
Chandler had vowed his pressure would break Oliveira and when Round 1 ended, it seemed only a matter of time until his prediction came true.
But it was a 180-degree turnaround when Round 2 began. Oliveira caught Chandler with a clean left hook on the chin to badly hurt the former Bellator lightweight champion. Chandler staggered back to the cage and tried to find an escape.
Oliveira is one of the great finishers in the UFC’s history, but it’s usually with his submissions. This time, though, he finished it with his hands. As Chandler looked for room, Oliveira went on the attack. He caught Chandler with another crushing left that sent him down and that was it.
The end came at 19 seconds of a wild second round, capping a remarkable crazy fight.
“I told you I was going to knock him out and I knocked him out,” Oliveira said. “I proved to everybody I’m the lion of lions.”
The win was his ninth in a row, but none have had higher stakes or been wilder. Before Chandler hurt him in the first, Oliveira had Chandler down and in a rear naked choke. That’s almost a guarantee of a finish, but Chandler found a way out.
Chandler then turned the fight in his favor by attacking and firing punches that were rocking Oliveira.
The crowd was roaring and chanting “U-S-A!” as Chandler went for the finish. But the sudden change in fortunes at the beginning of Round 2 guarantee this will be one of the UFC’s most talked-about fights.
“I think we saw one of the toughest kids on the planet come back from adversity,” Chandler said. “Charles Oliveira is the real deal.”