There is a new, legitimate title challenger in the UFC’s lightweight division. And it does not appear he’s slowing down any time soon.
The 155-pound bout headlined UFC Fight Night at Ginasio Nilson Nelson in Brasilia, Brazil. The card took place in an empty arena due to the government’s response to the coronavirus.
“I came to make history again, this time without anyone cheering,” Oliveira said. “But as my team likes to say, it was written. We came to get what is ours. Of course I wanted everyone to be there, but I’m sure that an audience that didn’t know me yet had the opportunity to meet me today.”
Oliveira’s seven finishes, dating back to 2018, is good for the second-longest streak in UFC history, behind only former middleweight champion Anderson Silva.
“Tony Ferguson and Khabib [are scheduled to fight on April 18], I’ll be sitting there front row,” Oliveira said of the bout pitting Ferguson against lightweight champ Khabib Nurmagomedov. “There’s no way to deny it. I’m ready. The belt is going to be mine.”
Oliveira, 30, has been fighting in the UFC since 2010, but he has never put together a run like he’s on now. He came out looking extremely confident against Lee, who is known for his power wrestling and striking. Oliveira showed no respect for Lee’s power, as he walked straight forward and strung together combinations on the feet.
He caught Lee early with a jumping front kick in the opening round, and found a home for the left hook. The offense forced Lee to turn to his wrestling, which Oliveira welcomed. Even after Lee took him down, he scored points with elbows off his back and submission attempts. The finish came early in the third, when Lee lazily shot for a takedown.
Lee clearly tapped to the guillotine, but seemed confused and continued to fight after the referee called the bout. Five of Oliveira’s finishes during this streak have come via submission.
“My team never let it go up in my head that I am a record holder,” Oliveira said. “This is just one more. I always enter to put on a show. I don’t come with the goal of submitting, knocking out or getting bonuses. I come to do my job, to show that a humble guy can chase what he wants. I’m very happy.”
For Lee, it’s a major setback for a 27-year-old who has tried to find a foothold at lightweight and welterweight. Lee lost to Ferguson in an interim title fight in 2017 and has gone 2-3 in five appearances since. Only one of those came at welterweight, a submission loss to former champion Rafael dos Anjos.