(All stats according to UFC’s Record Book and Fight Metric as of May 4, 2022, and only include active athletes in their respective division unless noted otherwise)
Main Event: Charles Oliveira vs Justin Gaethje
Key Stats: 18 finishes (1st all-time), 15 submission wins (1st all-time), 54.1% significant strike accuracy (6th all-time among LW)
What It Means: UFC’s all-time submissions leader has somehow become even more lethal while on his 10-fight winning streak. His striking is sharp and technical, making the most of his rangy limbs. His punches are tight and straight as an arrow, and when he throws hooks or uppercuts, there’s very little wasted movement. At distance, he throws a variety of kicks, but he is particularly lethal in the clinch. Because of the threat of his jiu jitsu, he utilizes his opponent’s desperate reactions to disengage to set up knees and elbows. If a grappling scramble is initiated, “Do Bronx” has a unique knack for snatching up a submission before an opponent can really defend.
Key Stats: 60.1% significant strike accuracy (1st all-time among LW), 7.5 strikes landed per minute (1st all-time among LW), 73% takedown defense
What It Means: “The Highlight” is as all-action as it gets, but his technical prowess is probably a little overshadowed by his pure love for violence and fighting. That said, his striking is incredibly measured and technical, all while keeping it seemingly simple. Gaethje’s low kicks are debilitating, and he throws them from distance as well as in close, especially when his opponent is resetting themselves. His left hook, right uppercut and right cross are devastating, and the way he goes about setting those attacks up is intricate. He utilizes a lot of parries and feints, especially with his rear hand to set up angles for his attacks. In grappling exchanges, he is particularly slippery and is willing to take big risks to sweep or create a big action that facilitates distance.
What to Look For in the Fight: It’s hard to not look at Oliveira’s previous two title fights against Michael Chandler and Dustin Poirier and draw some assumptions and comparisons to his matchup with Gaethje. Those three fighters are distinct, yes, but they present similar problems in terms of punching power, toughness and explosiveness. Gaethje is probably the most technically sharp of the three. Oliveira has shown a remarkable toughness and ability to rally after getting rocked, so Gaethje should know good and well that this fight won’t end quick even if he stuns the champion. Gaethje is going to open with leg kicks early to nullify Oliveira’s quickness, which could help Gaethje manage distance and prevent takedown attempts, but if Oliveira can get a hold of Gaethje, either in the clinch or shooting on a takedown, Gaethje needs to sell out and separate. In a pure striking battle, Oliveira has the physical tools to keep Gaethje at bay and prevent him from getting his best weapons off, but Gaethje also has the kind of one-shot power to flip a fight on its head immediately.
Co-Main Event: Rose Namajunas vs Carla Esparza 2
Key Stats: 5 finishes (tied 1st all-time among WSW), 8.2% bottom position percentage, 51% takedown defense
What It Means: Namajunas is as smooth and slick of a mixed martial artist as they come. On the feet, her footwork and setups are beautiful to watch as she moves laterally and lines up her angles for a variety of kicks and quick punching combinations. Her left hand is particularly tricky, coming in like a loopy straight punch around an opponent’s guard, and her rangy build lets her pick and poke her opponent from distance. “Thug” Rose has a tricky submission game, as well as solid wrestling when she needs it.
Key Stats: 32.8% control time percentage (3rd all-time among WSW), 30.8% top position percentage (2nd all-time among WSW), 42 takedowns landed (1st all-time among WSW)
What It Means: “Cookie Monster” is a wrestler first and a wrestler last, and she brings that grinding attitude to every aspect of a fight. She sets up her takedowns well, blitzing with strikes to close the distance and get in on her opponent’s legs. Often, she’ll wait for her opponent to commit to a strike before diving in on a leg. Once she gets control, she has a good sense of leverage and opportunity, balancing ground-and-pound and submission threats with maintained top pressure.
What to Look For in the Fight: Namajunas is going to have the clear-cut advantage on the feet, and she has said as much that the fight is about her range and distance management. Esparza is likely going to wait for Namajunas to throw something that puts her off-balance before shooting. Granted, Namajunas has a tricky and active guard when given space, so Esparza will have to stack and manage that danger as she tries to get her own ground-and-pound off. With five rounds to work, Esparza could grind Namajunas down, but Namajunas only needs a small window to turn the momentum with a flurry of attacks and get Esparza out of there early.
Other Fights to Watch (Michael Chandler vs Tony Ferguson, Randy Brown vs Khaos Williams)
Key Stats: 5.17 strikes landed per minute, 4.98 strikes absorbed per minute, 1.73 takedowns per 15 minutes
What It Means: “Iron” Michael Chandler is a piece of granite with extreme explosiveness upon which he leans on to dart in and out of range on the feet. He uses a wide stance and hops in with heavy punches or low kicks. He also likes to use front kicks from range to his opponent’s body. When he needs to change the tempo, he relies on his collegiate wrestling background and hustles in those exchanges. Chandler has real one-punch, fight-changing power in either hand and good finishing instincts once his opponent is hurt.
Key Stats: +1.36 striking differential (8th), 6 submission wins (tied 5th all-time among LW), 5.15 strikes landed per minute
What It Means: There’s nobody quite like Tony Ferguson. “El Cucuy” is orthodox in every aspect of his game to the most effective degree. His striking is unpredictable, and he leans on his cardio to set a high pace, stay in his opponent’s face and wear them down. If he’s in range, his elbows are lethal. When opponents shoot on him, he loves flipping into a D’Arce choke, and he has an intricate guard.
What to Look For in the Fight: All indications shape this one up to be an all-action, madhouse banger of a fight. Ferguson has struggled as of late against wrestling-heavy, control-minded attacks, and although Chandler is a strong wrestler, he has much more of a penchant for crowd-pleasing fights. Ferguson is going to press forward from the start, which might leave him prone to Chandler’s low kicks. How Chandler weathers that onslaught of pressure is crucial, and whether he tries to shoot for an early takedown to stem the tide is something to watch. Ferguson is better equipped to win striking battles up close with his variety of knees, elbows and spinning attacks, but he might have to walk through some heavy artillery in order to get there.
Key Stats: 3 submission wins (tied 4th), 4.21 strikes landed per minute, 52% striking defense
What It Means: “Rudeboy” is a diverse, entertaining striker who uses all of his rangy weapons in an off-beat, off-rhythm way that can puzzle his foe when he is on rhythm. He can pick his shots from distance because of his length, and so he throws a variety of kicks – front, side, high, body – and strings his punches together off that as well. Brown also has a surprising submission game that he can lean on if necessary.
Key Stats: 1.07 knockdowns per 15 minutes (5th all-time among WW), +1.62 striking differential (3rd), 50% takedown defense
What It Means: Williams is a knockout artist of the measured variety. He understands the power he can generate without needing to wing wild punches, and so he is patient in his attack. He throws low kicks and body kicks from range, and once he enters the pocket, he’ll unleash a good flurry of punches. He has a long, 77-inch reach, and his jab and cross are his best punches. He’ll sometimes feint the jab before loading up on a right cross that splits his opponent’s guard. He also has a good check hook that can stun opponents inside the pocket as well.
What to Look For in the Fight: This fight should be a fun standup battle with distinct styles clashing against one another. Brown operates best when he has room to get off all his different kicks and long punches, which allows him to control tempo from range. Williams is likely going to play a patient game and stalk Brown along the fence. He’ll throw kicks, but not with as much commitment as he’ll throw his punches once he hops into the pocket. Watch for Brown’s counter shots and spinning attacks when Williams does come in with menace.
UFC 274: Oliveira vs Gaethje took place on Saturday, May 7, 2022, live from a sold out Footprint Center in Phoenix, Arizona. See the Final Results, Official Scorecards and Who Won Bonuses — and relive the action on UFC Fight Pass!