Charles “do Bronx” Oliveira was set to take center stage at UFC 294, as he was in line for a Lightweight championship rematch against Islam Makhachev. But Oliveira could not participate in that fight after sustaining an injury during training. What is next for Oliveira, and can he get back into the championship mix?
Oliveira Misses UFC 294 Bout After Suffering Cut
Charles Oliveira is unquestionably on the experienced observer’s list of UFC top fighters, especially with his professional history since 2010. He holds the UFC record for the most finishes in the promotion history, having notched his 20th finish against Beneil Dariush at UFC 289. This knowledge makes his absence from UFC 294 all the more painful for fight fans.
UFC president Dana White formally announced that Charles Oliveira had to pull out of his UFC 294 primary event fight against Islan Makhachev due to a cut above his eye while sparring. Oliveira tried to get the injury stitched up, hoping it would sufficiently heal in time for the fight, but that attempt was unsuccessful. Instead, Oliveira’s injury caused a late change to the UFC 294 main event.
Fortunately for Oliveira, this injury will not cause any long-term issues — fans can rest assured that his cut will heal, and he will be back in condition to fight soon. In a sport like MMA, where much worse can happen both in training and in the fights themselves, this should be but a minor inconvenience in the career of one of the true legends of the sport. But missing out on this fight questions what the future holds for Oliveira, as his career could go in several different directions from here.
Is an Islam Makhachev Rematch Next?
Oliveira is clearly at the top of the card in the Lightweight division, which makes a rematch against Islam Makhachev a distinct possibility. Oliveira lost to Makhachev by submission in the second round of their championship bout in October of 2022, and they were set for their rematch at UFC 294. The question will be whether that rematch will be rescheduled once Oliveira is healed and ready to compete again.
The answer to that question will depend mainly on how things go for Makhachev in his UFC 294 main event bout, which has been switched to feature Alexander Volkanovski instead of Oliveira. The bout between Makhachev and Volkanovski should be electrifying in the place of the scheduled bout. However, it is worth examining how the new main event will impact Oliveira’s future.
How UFC 294 Main Event Impacts Things
The first answer to how Makhachev vs. Volkanovski can impact the future of Oliveira is the most obvious one, that being a win for Makhachev in Abu Dhabi leading to a rematch between Makhachev and Oliveira as soon as the two can do battle. For that to occur, Makhachev would need to win against Volkanovski while remaining healthy enough to not need any significant time out of the octagon. There would also be the matter of whether or not Oliveira would need to jump back into action before a rematch were to take place.
Things get more complicated if Volkanovski manages to upset Makhachev and where that would leave the Brazilian. If Volkanovski beats Makhachev, there would be an argument to be made that a rematch between the UFC 294 main eventers should take place before Oliveira jumps back into the championship mix. Or, we could see a non-title rematch between Makhachev and Oliveira to determine who would fight Volkanovski for the Lightweight belt.
This scenario is not likely, as Makhachev is the favorite to beat Volkanovski and retain the Lightweight championship. But when it comes to the future of Charles Oliveira in UFC, the results of the UFC 294 main event are significant. He hopes Makhachev can get the job done, giving him a claim to the next title fight in this division, as Volkanovski would likely avoid waiting for another Lightweight title fight after a loss.
Oliveira Hoping for Redemption Against Makhachev
If Oliveira does manage to get in the octagon against Makhachev again in the near future, he should be hoping for a much better performance than he put forth in their first meeting. Oliveira was dominated in that initial bout, with Makhachev landing 30 significant strikes compared to Oliveira’s 19. Makhachev also enjoyed over five minutes of control time in under 10 minutes of action, which led to the submission that ended the fight.
Oliveira must be especially protective of his head if this fight happens again. He took 25 significant strikes to the head in that matchup in 2022 — Makhachev did not need to attack the legs or body much, given how much success he had in wearing Oliveira down.
Oliveira in a Great Place No Matter What
In a way, Charles Oliveira could benefit from missing out on his scheduled title fight against Islam Makhachev. He will have the opportunity to observe Makhachev in another battle against an elite opponent and can use the information he gains from that matchup to his advantage. Charles Oliveira should be in a great spot to compete for the UFC Lightweight title soon, no matter what happens at UFC 294. Despite this injury, Oliveira is still only 34 and has solidified himself as a contender for years to come.