HOUSTON — It took more than 10 years, a failed drop in weight class and more than his fair share of ups and downs, but Charles Oliveira is finally a UFC champion.
Oliveira finished Michael Chandler via TKO at 19 seconds of the second round Saturday night in the main event of UFC 262 at Toyota Center. With the victory, Oliveira captured the vacant UFC lightweight title.
“I told you I was going to knock him out, and I came and knocked him out,” Oliveira said in his postfight interview through an interpreter. “I proved to everybody I’m the lion of lions.”
In the opening seconds of the second round, Oliveira dropped Chandler with a left hook and then poured it on with strikes on the ground with Chandler trying his best to get away. He could not. Oliveira landed until referee Dan Miragliotta pulled him off, ruling it a TKO.
Khabib Nurmagomedov, considered the greatest lightweight fighter in UFC history, retired undefeated following a win over Justin Gaethje at UFC 254 last October. He relinquished the lightweight title earlier this year when the retirement was made official. Nurmagomedov had been UFC lightweight champion since April 2018.
Oliveira has been in the UFC for more than 10 years, since he was 20 years old. This was his first title shot. Chandler, meanwhile, has been in the UFC for only eight months, a star from Bellator who signed as a free agent last year.
Coming in, ESPN had Oliveira ranked No. 3 in the world at lightweight and Chandler at No. 4.
Oliveira (31-8, 1 NC) has won nine in a row and is acclaimed as one of the best submission artists in MMA history. The Brazil native has the most submission victories ever in the UFC (14) and the most performance bonuses in promotion history (10). He now has the most finishes in UFC history (16). He is 10-1 since coming back to lightweight after a disastrous stint at featherweight.
Oliveira, 31, is nicknamed “do Bronx” — essentially meaning “from the ghetto” in Portuguese — and he is proud he didn’t need to leave his home in Guarujá to achieve MMA excellence. Now he has a gold belt to take home with him.
“Michael, you’re a great champion,” Oliveira said. “But today was my day. Favela, it is ours.”
Chandler (22-6) had won three straight coming in, including an emphatic, first-round TKO win over Dan Hooker in his UFC debut at UFC 257 in January. That finish proved he was more than for real, which many who follow the sport closely had known for years. The Missouri native is a former three-time Bellator lightweight champion and owns wins over former UFC champions Benson Henderson and Eddie Alvarez. Chandler, 35, holds the record for the most finishes in Bellator history (13).
“We’ll get this one back,” Chandler said. “We’ll win this one back eventually.”