Oliveira vs. Gaethje Predictions: UFC 274 Main Event Picks and Breakdown

Our guy Ben
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Oliveira vs. Gaethje Predictions: UFC 274 Main Event Picks and Breakdown

The lightweight champion Charles Oliveira is back for his second title defense this weekend in a fight that surely will produce fireworks. Across the octagon from Oliveira on Saturday night will be Justin Gaethje, coming off a fight-of-the-night and possibly the fight of the year in a win against Michael Chandler. Will Oliveira defend his title once again? Or will Gaethje reclaim the title he once held?

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Oliveira vs. Gaethje Prediction

This will be the first of three UFC pieces from me for UFC 274. This article will focus solely on the main event (which is coincidentally one of my favorite plays on the card), then I will have a parlay piece and a straight bets piece for all the fights besides the main event. Let's dive into the main event for Saturday.

There was a quote from Khabib Nurmagomedov (arguably the best UFC lightweight of all time, retiring 29-0 with four UFC title fight wins) that I haven't forgotten since I saw it, and it sets the tone for this fight for me.

"This guy hit like a truck, you know," Nurmagomedov said to Mike Tyson on his podcast 'The Hotboxin'.

"Nobody hit me harder than Justin Gaethje. His kick, his punch, his left hook, right hook, right uppercut. I make him hit me, you know."

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This is quite the compliment to Gaethje. This statement shouldn't be taken lightly either. After all, Khabib fought some of the hardest hitters we've seen in the lightweight division, including Conor McGregor and Dustin Poirer. It's no surprise that Gaethje is a hard hitter; I mean, he has 19 knockout wins in his 23 wins. In Gaethje's last ten wins, nine were by way of knockout. His only non-knockout UFC win was in his latest fight against Michael Chandler, which was a war from start to finish.

Gaethje is a volume striker who keeps his distance, picking his opponents apart while waiting for his perfect shot. He throws the kitchen sink and mixes up his strikes well. He's by no means a one-dimensional striker, throwing varieties of kicks, body shots, and many different combos. He does, however, have a weakness in the grappling department. His grappling lost him the title fight with Khabib when he got subbed in the second round after landing some good shots throughout the fight. Gaethje will have to keep this fight off the mat if he wants to win.

Oliveira's main path to victory in this fight is a submission. All the analysis I'm doing goes out the window if Oliveira can land a few or even one takedown, but can he? Gaethje has proven to be tough to take down. Perhaps one of the best wrestlers in the lightweight division, Michael Chandler, went 1-6 on takedown attempts and eventually lost to Gaethje's overwhelming power. Oliveira isn't necessarily the best at getting you down, but if he gets you done, that's where he is most dangerous. 20 of Charles's 32 wins have come by submission.

Gaethje has held a 65% takedown defense percentage in his tenure in the UFC, which is pretty impressive when you see the resume of the fighters he has faced. The only two people who were able to have success getting Gaethje to the ground were Eddie Alvarez and Khabib Nurmagomedov. Still, I wouldn't count the Alvarez fight as something to judge Gaethje by. It was early in his UFC career, and he has since worked heavily on his takedown defense, evident in the Chandler fight. I expect Gaethje to have similar success defending the takedown attempts in this fight.

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Gaethje spends 88% of the time at distance, and he lands 62% of his power strikes there. He also batters opponents' legs and keeps them guessing. This, combined with maintaining distance and not fighting in a phone booth, has helped him improve his takedown defense.

Oliveira is no slouch on the feet, and I'm not entirely counting him out if it does stay standing the entire fight, but Gaethje simply throws more volume and throws it harder. Gaethje has averaged 7.5 significant strikes per minute in his UFC fights, whereas Oliveira has landed 3.44 significant strikes per minute. Of course, part of that is because Oliveira spends more time in the clinch and grappling, but Gaethje still is the more active fighter on the feet. He doesn't slow down either.

Oliveira hasn't seen the championship rounds much yet in his career, but his first to third-round differential is interesting. Oliveira's power at distance drops 37% from round one to round three, whereas Gaethje's only drops 5%. Gaethje has also been to the championship rounds before. Conversely, Oliveira never has seen the fourth, so if it gets there, Gaethje could start piling it on since he has shown to have the better cardio.

I love Gaethje's chances to put Oliveira's lights out if this fight stays standing. Oliveira has been knocked out four times in the UFC and has shown not to have an iron chin at all times. Now, he faces the "hardest hitter" in the lightweight division, who has nineteen knockouts in his career. Gaethje hasn't had a perfect chin either, though, and has been knocked out multiple times in the UFC as well. Therefore, I am taking a few bets for Saturday night to cover all my bases for how I see this fight ending. This is my most confident main event pick of the year. I think we hear "and new" in this lightweight championship.

Oliveira vs. Gaethje Picks

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Ben Rajavuori is a handicapper out of Minneapolis, MN. He has been creating sports content for almost four years now and is an expert in all things NFL, MLB, NBA, UFC, and NCAAB. Ben thrives on diving deep into statistics to find the best angle on every bet. You can follow him on Twitter @WeBeatTheSpread.

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