Charles Oliveira is Michael Chandler’s pick for fighter of the year.
Oliveira recently defended his lightweight title for the first time after submitting Dustin Poirier in the third round of their UFC 269 headliner earlier this month.
It capped off a solid year for Oliveira who won the vacant title with a come-from-behind second-round TKO victory against Chandler back in May.
If there were any doubts about Oliveira being an elite level fighter or not having any heart, they are certainly quelled now. Especially for Chandler who never expected the Brazilian to be in this position in the first place.
“You can’t get in a championship fight, almost get knocked out and lose a 10-8 round to me and come back and meet me in the center of the octagon like he did and win the fight or have somewhat of a lopsided win against Dustin Poirier, a finish but dominant two rounds and not have the opinion of yourself being a champion or being of championship caliber,” Chandler said (via MMA Fighting). “We were wrong about Charles Oliveira. I’ll be the first to admit it as well.
“When I was talking about the top lightweights a year ago when I was coming into the UFC, I never would have thought that I would be challenging Charles Oliveira for the title or wanting to be chasing the gold and have it be around Charles Oliveira’s waist.”
Michael Chandler Picks Charles Oliveira Over Kamaru Usman
Given what Oliveira has achieved as well as the manner of his two wins in 2021, Chandler has even picked him as his fighter of the year for 2021.
“What Charles Oliveira has been able to do and he’s been in the UFC for so long and now to finally capture gold and then defend his gold against the guy everyone knew was the No. 1 contender in the world if not the best lightweight in the world in Dustin Poirier. It’s been a great year for him,” Chandler explained.
“I think that would probably be my pick for Fighter of the Year. Watching what Charles Oliveira has done this year. Claiming gold and then defending it against one of the best to ever do it at lightweight, one of the greatest lightweights of all time, will inevitably be a UFC Hall of Famer Dustin Poirier. Hats off to him. I think he would be my pick for Fighter of the Year.”
Of course, many would have UFC welterweight champion Kamaru Usman as their fighter of the year as he has three welterweight title defenses including two impressive knockout wins over Gilbert Burns and Jorge Masvidal.
But despite Usman being his ex-teammate, Chandler is still riding with Oliveira.
“I think that’s the one thing that Charles had going against him,” Chandler added. “He didn’t have as many fights in the year as Kamaru did. But the one thing Kamaru has going against him, if we’re talking about Fighter of the Year, is that unfortunately it’s almost as though we expected Kamaru to be that dominant. Our expectation of Kamaru was a little higher so when it comes to exceeding expectations and that feeling you get when you say what that guy did, that makes him Fighter of the Year, that for me is Charles Oliveira.
“Because I feel like it was unexpected. Would we have ever thought that Charles Oliveira would be the lightweight champion a year or year and a half ago? Obviously, he was still on a run but he was still fighting guys outside the top 10 and then all of a sudden comes inside the top 10 and has been finishing guys inside the top 10 for about a year or over a year. To cap it all off beating Dustin Poirier, one of the greatest to ever do it at lightweight. That’s where I see it. The exceeding of expectations for me is why I would give it to Charles.”
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