Dan Hardy finds it hard to pick against UFC lightweight champion Charles Oliveira.
Oliveira is set for his first title defense when he meets Dustin Poirier in Saturday’s UFC 269 main event. While the likes of Justin Gaethje, Michael Chandler and former lightweight king Khabib Nurmagomedov all pick Poirier to win, Hardy thinks otherwise.
Oliveira (31-8 MMA, 19-8 UFC) was able to show off his grappling in a dominant win over Tony Ferguson, but “Do Bronx” proved he’s not just a jiu-jitsu ace when he knocked out Chandler to win the title earlier this year.
Because of the diversity in his attacks, Hardy likes the Brazilian’s chances.
“When my breakdown show went up, there were a few comments about people saying ‘finally someone that’s not underestimating Charles Oliveira,’” Hardy told Submission Radio.“I find him very difficult to underestimate, if I’m honest. Anybody that pays attention when he’s fighting knows how lethal he is. Dustin Poirier is no doubt a tough, durable veteran. He’s a smart individual that’s rounded out his game with maturity and has made him a far more effective fighter.
“And if it goes into the trenches, we know he can fight through hell, and he can come out on the other side. The general feeling around Poirier is that, well, if Khabib wasn’t in the division at the same time then Poirier would have been champion. Yeah, for sure. But I think times have changed now, and Oliveira’s the champion, and I think he would be very difficult for anybody to get the belt off (him).”
Hardy acknowledges that Poirier (28-6 MMA, 20-5 UFC) is battle tested, but he sees Oliveira as the more well rounded fighter.
“I just think skills-wise, Oliveira is a better martial artist all around,” Hardy said. “Whether Dustin Poirier can apply it better because he’s been swimming in this top pool for a bit longer, I don’t know. But I’ve seen no reason to believe that Charles Oliveira won’t be champion by the end of the fight. It wouldn’t surprise me if he’s able to back Poirier up against the fence and beat him up a little bit, and then catch his neck on the way in. Something like the Kevin Lee fight.
“But at the same time, I wouldn’t be surprised if Oliveira decides to go offensive and take Poirier down and kind of beat him up and maul him like he did Tony Ferguson. It’s a hard fight for Poirier. He’s got heart, and he’s got heavy hands, and once he gets in the swing of things and finds his rhythm, if Charles Oliveira has not been prepared for those championship rounds, then for sure Dustin Poirier can take that belt. But skill-wise, from the research I’ve done, I think Charles Oliveira has got probably a 70 or 80 percent chance of coming out on top.”