LAS VEGAS – The UFC is capping its year with something of a celebration of the hardcore fan, a reward for those who have been following the sport of MMA for a long time.
Charles Oliveira defends his UFC lightweight title against Dustin Poirier in the main event of UFC 269 on Saturday at T-Mobile Arena. It’s not only a title fight between two of the top fighters in the world, it’s also a battle between two of the most tenured fighters in the promotion that have had long journeys to the elite.
Oliveira won the belt with a second-round TKO win over Michael Chandler at UFC 262 in May. That was Oliveira’s 28th UFC fight — the longest journey for any fighter to a UFC title in history. If Poirier wins Saturday, he’ll become champion in his 27th UFC fight, the second longest road ever. ESPN ranks Poirier No. 5 and Oliveira No. 6 in the world on its pound-for-pound MMA list. At lightweight, ESPN has Poirier at No. 1 and Oliveira at No. 2.
Oliveira (31-8, 1 NC) has won nine in a row. The Brazil native has the most finishes (17) and most submission wins (14) in UFC history. Oliveira, 32, has a 19-8 (1 NC) record in the UFC going back to his debut in 2010.
Poirier (28-6, 1 NC), a former UFC interim lightweight champ, has stopped Conor McGregor twice this year. Poirier, a Louisiana native fighting out of Florida, has won three straight and has just one loss in his last 10 fights, to former lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov in a title fight at UFC 242 in September 2019. Poirier, 32, has the most KO/TKO victories in UFC lightweight history (8).
In the co-main event, Amanda Nunes defends her UFC women’s bantamweight title against Julianna Pena. Nunes (21-4), who is also the UFC women’s featherweight champ, has won 12 straight going back to 2014. The 33-year-old Brazilian is regarded as the greatest women’s MMA fighter of all time, with wins over Ronda Rousey, Cris Cyborg and Valentina Shevchenko (twice). Pena (10-4), a 32-year-old Washington native, has won two of three and six of her last eight overall.
Also on the card, former bantamweight champion Cody Garbrandt moves down to flyweight to face Kai Kara-France, Geoff Neal and Santiago Ponzinibbio face off in a battle of welterweight knockout artists and top bantamweight prospect Sean O’Malley faces Raulian Paiva.
Fight in progress: Men’s featherweight: Ryan Hall (8-2, 4-1 UFC, -200) vs. Darrick Minner (26-12, 2-2 UFC, +170)
Men’s bantamweight: Tony Kelley (8-2, 2-1 UFC) def. Randy Costa (6-3, 2-3 UFC) by second-round TKO
Kelley had a game plan and executed it to perfection.
In the first round, Kelley came out and put a relentless pace on Costa, causing Costa to fatigue. In the second, Kelley finished the job, winning by TKO at 4:15 of the round. Kelley dropped Costa with a knee to the body from the Thai clinch and then fired off a barrage of ground and pound until referee Mark Smith stepped in to stop it.
“I’m stoked, man,” Kelley said in his postfight interview. “But I’m not surprised.”
Kelley, 34, has won two straight following a loss in his UFC debut in August 2020. The Louisiana native picked up his first stoppage victory in the UFC here, as well. Costa, a 27-year-old Massachusetts native, had a two-fight winning streak snapped.
Women’s flyweight: Gillian Robertson (10-6, 7-4 UFC) def. Priscila Cachoeira (10-4, 2-43 UFC) by first-round submission
Robertson is at her best when grappling, and she put that on display in the evening’s opener, dominating Cachoeira before clamping on a rear-naked choke that elicited the tapout with one second to go in Round 1.
For Robertson, a 26-year-old Canadian who fights out of Port Saint Lucie, Florida, it was her sixth submission among nine pro wins. This win broke a two-fight losing streak.
Cachoeira, 33, from Brazil, saw a two-fight winning streak come to an end. She missed weight on Friday and surrendered 30% of her purse to Robertson.
Still to come:
Lightweight title: Charles Oliveira (c) (31-8 1 NC, 19-8 1 NC UFC, +135) vs. Dustin Poirier (28-6 1 NC, 20-5 1 NC UFC, -160)
Women’s bantamweight title: Amanda Nunes (c) (21-4, 14-1 UFC, -900) vs. Julianna Peña (11-4, 6-2 UFC, +600)
Welterweight: Geoff Neal (13-4, 5-2 UFC, +110) vs. Santiago Ponzinibbio (29-4, 10-3 UFC, -130)
Men’s flyweight: Kai Kara-France (22-9 NC, 5-2 UFC, +120) vs. Cody Garbrandt (12-4, 7-4 UFC, -140)
Men’s bantamweight: Raulian Paiva (21-3, 3-2 UFC, +250) vs. Sean O’Malley (14-1, 6-1 UFC, -310)
Men’s featherweight: Josh Emmett (16-2, 7-2 UFC, -165) vs. Dan Ige (15-4, 7-3 UFC, +140)
Men’s bantamweight: Dominick Cruz (23-3, 6-2 UFC, -105) vs. Pedro Munhoz (19-6 1 NC, 9-6 1 NC UFC, -115)
Heavyweight: Augusto Sakai (15-3-1, 4-2 UFC, -110) vs. Tai Tuivasa (13-3, 6-3 UFC, -110)
Middleweight: Jordan Wright (12-1, 2-1 UFC, +280) vs. Bruno Silva (21-6, 2-0 UFC, -360)
Middleweight: Andre Muniz (21-4, 3-0 UFC, -155) vs. Eryk Anders (14-5 1 NC, 6-5 1 NC UFC, +130)
Women’s flyweight: Erin Blanchfield (7-1, 1-0 UFC, +115) vs. Miranda Maverick (11-3, 2-1 UFC, -135)
(c) = defending champion