CHICAGO — The Tim Tebow of the UFC doesn’t speak English.
His name is Charles Oliveira (15-2, 1 NC) and the back of his walkout shirt reads, “My power come from God,” who Oliveira credited with helping him scramble into a successful submission after Eric Wisely (19-6) escaped both the ankle lock and knee bar.
“God gave me the power. God showed me the way,” said Oliveira through his translator. “He helps me and gives me support and it’s my job to get that message out.”
After a lightning fast 14-0 start to his MMA career, former top prospect Oliveira dropped two of his next three fights, but he made his featherweight debut in style on the UFC on FOX 2 undercard. Oliveira successfully switched from an ankle lock to a knee bar to a calf slicer and submitted Wisely in the first round. He said he was ready for the fight to go to any position.
“I’m a professional fighter, “Oliveira said. “My gameplan is to fight standing up and to fight on the ground.”
Oliveira, who had previously fought at lightweight in the UFC, said he normally walks around at about 157 pounds so he expects to remain at 145 for the foreseeable future. He even weighed in at 144 pounds just to show that he could make the weight cut.
“This is my division now. The cut wasn’t easy, but I feel strong and I feel fast,” said Oliveira, who wants to be viewed as a true professional who makes weight every time he fights.
The win snaps a three-fight winless streak for Oliveira, but he said he didn’t feel pressure from his coaches or Dana White to win this fight. Oliveira put all the pressure on himself and refused to crumble under it. He wasn’t the only former top prospect to put on a solid performance on the undercard.
Evan Dunham (13-2) picked up a TKO victory over Nik Lentz (21-5-2, 1 NC). Dunham started off his MMA career with a promising 11-0 start, but had dropped two of his last three fights, defeating only former Ultimate Fighter contestant Shamar Bailey.
“I’m in a different mind frame now-a-days,” said Dunham, who admitted he was down on himself after losing back-to-back fights to Sean Sherk and Melvin Guillard.
That new mindset and the UFC on FOX 2 win put Dunham one or two fights away from being back in the mix to contend for a title in a stacked lightweight division.
“At lightweight we’ve got a lot of bad dudes and I’m proud to be a part of it,” said Dunham.
He hopes to fight either the winner of Joe Lauzon-Anthony Pettis — who fight at UFC 144 in Japan in February — or the winner of Nick Diaz-Jim Miller – who will face off at UFC on FOX 3 in May. Dunham thinks his fresh attitude has helped get his career back on track and now has him ready to contend for a UFC title.
Another man that may be in the title mix soon is undefeated middleweight Chris Weidman (8-0). He won by split decision over Demian Maia (15-4), with two judges scoring the bout in his favor 29-28. While Chael Sonnen’s win over Michael Bisping has immediate title implications, Chris Weidman is also a name that fight fans should probably keep in mind.
“There’s no secret that Demian Maia is a great fighter, especially on the ground and he’s gotten a lot better on his feet and I was ready for that,” said Weidman, who took the fight on 11 days notice and cut 32 pounds to make weight.
The 27-year-old utilizes a hybrid grappling style the mixes wrestling (he was a two-time All-American at Hofstra) and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu (he’s a purple belt). He also has a well-rounded striking game, three submission victories and two knockouts in his MMA career. Against Maia, Weidman was able to get two takedowns, but was unable to hold down the Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt. He ending up edging out Maia in a stand-up battle to earn the split decision victory.
The rest of the card
Lavar Johnson (16-5) made the most of his UFC debut. The heavyweight has never gone the distance and that didn’t change Saturday. He picked up a TKO victory over Joey Beltran (13-7). Johnson finished the strong-chinned Beltran with a flurry of right uppercuts and left hooks in the first round. “Those are four good uppercuts,” Johnson told Fox broadcaster Joe Rogan immediately following the fight. “Usually I knock people out with just one.” Beltran has now lost four of his last five fights.
Mike Russow (15-1), a UFC heavyweight and Chicago Police officer, defeated Brazilain Jiu-Jitsu wiz John-Olav Einemo (6-3) by decision in front of his hometown crowd. Russow is now 4-0 in the UFC.
Cub Swanson (16-5) picked up his first win in the octagon. The featherweight earned a second-round TKO victory over George Roop (12-10) with a straight left and overhand right combination that sent Roop and his mouth guard in separate directions and allowed Swanson to swarm Roop on the ground.
Michael Johnson (10-6) managed to avoid being submitted after giving up his back in the third period and pulled off a unanimous 29-28 decision over Shane Roller (10-6). The lightweight landed a highlight flying knee in the first and took down Roller in the second.
Middleweight Chris Camozzi (16-5) submitted Illinois-product and former Quincy College quarterback Dustin Jacoby (6-2) in the third round with a standing, 10-finger guillotine choke.
– Stephen Boyle