ABU DHABI: When mixed martial arts fighters Islam Makhachev and Charles Oliveira stand opposite each other in the Octagon on Oct. 21 there will be a real sense of deja vu for audiences around the world.
Twelve months ago, at Ultimate Fighting Championship 280, the two men met at the Etihad Arena on Yas Island in Abu Dhabi for the vacant UFC lightweight title.
On that night it was Makhachev who emerged the victor, stopping his Brazilian opponent in the second round and sending a partisan crowd into raptures.
Now they meet once more, again for the UFC lightweight title, and here is the story of their rivalry.
What happened last time?
Makhachev had long been seen as the ultimate successor of his mentor Khabib Nurmagomedov and arrived in Abu Dhabi carrying a 10-fight win streak having built a fearsome reputation in the 155 pounds division.
His grappling and wrestling are standout with many of his victims struggling to deal with his strength on the ground.
Oliveira was sporting an unbeaten record one better than his opponent and had tasted title success, having claimed the crown in 2021 defeating Michael Chandler, and defending it later that year against Dustin Poirier.
He would then go on to defeat Justin Gaethje but was forced to vacate the title on the eve of that fight having missed weight.
And now to Abu Dhabi with a vacant title, and two fighters determined to make it their own.
Oliveira holds records in the UFC for most finishes and submission wins – credentials that would give Makhachev his sternest test to date. On the night, however, the man from Dagestan was simply unstoppable – winning via arm-triangle in the second round.
What has happened since?
Since that night in Abu Dhabi both men have fought once. Makhachev moved his record to 24-1 when he defended the lightweight title in a champion versus champion clash against Alexander Volkanovski, the UFC’s featherweight king.
Stepping into Volkanovski’s home territory of Australia in February, Makhachev once again put his grappling skills to the fore edging a close decision in the super-fight.
Oliveira returned to the Octagon in June when he took on Beneil Dariush.
It was a highly dangerous fight for Oliveira, as Dariush had forged an eight-fight win streak with his name very much in the title picture at the top of the division.
But Oliveira put in the performance of the night, stopping the man of Iranian decent inside the first round with a barrage of accurate strikes.
What is next?
Fans now get the chance to see the intriguing battle of styles once more. After last year’s victory, Makhachev will go in as favorite, but that is a position Oliveira will enjoy.
Questions heading into the fight will center around the grappling game. Can Oliveira keep the fight standing? Does he have the answers if it does go to the ground?
For Makhachev, can he make history repeat itself? What new weapons will he have to blunt Oliveira’s attack?
It is a mouth-watering prospect, and one that will be answered on Oct. 21.
The fight in numbers
20 – Charles Oliveira has the most finishes in UFC history
16 – His 16 submissions are also the most in UFC history
19 – He leads the way in all-time fight-night bonuses won
12 – Islam Makhachev’s current win streak is equal 8th all-time
11 – All bar one of Makhachev’s current win streak are in the lightweight division – a win in Abu Dhabi will put him joint first all-time in the 155-pound class
1.27 – The number of strikes per minute Islam absorbs – 7th best of all-time