UAE - Charles Oliveira and Islam Makhachev promise plenty of fireworks as the two MMA fighters clash for the vacant UFC lightweight title at Yas Island’s Etihad Arena on Saturday night.

The Abu Dhabi Showdown Week headlined by UFC 280, returns to the UAE Capital with a 12-fight card, which also features bantamweight champion Aljamain Sterling defending his title against former champion TJ Dillashaw in the co-main event.

Oliveira, the former lightweight champion, predicts a first-round knockout.

“I have all the respect in the world for this guy, but I am a sharpshooter, I am going to keep pressing forward and knock him down in the first round,” the 33-year-old Brazilian told reporters.

Oliveira, with a 33-8 win-loss record, has the most submissions (16) and finishes (19) in UFC history. He is No.3 in the men’s pound-for-pound rankings and among one of the most feared fighters inside the octagon. But Makhachev wasn’t perturbed and promised to finish the Brazilian on the ground.

“He has the record for the most finishes in the UFC. I want to take this record. I have finished all my last opponents. I am always looking for the finish. I know that I am going to finish him off because he always gives up. And I am going to do this again,” said Makhachev, who has 10 submissions to his credit.

Makhachev, who is from Khabib Nurmagomedov’s camp, is a crowd favourite. Tempers flared during the press conference as ‘Islam, Islam’ chants filled the air. Oliveira and Makhachev exchanged barbs on the fight being in Abu Dhabi and not in Brazil.

“I am home. I like to be in places like this. I always invite him to come to my house. They never come. So, I knock on people’s doors and go to theirs,” Oliveira said.

Makhachev, ranked No.4, shot back saying he had requested UFC president Dana White to make the encounter happen in Brazil.

“I asked about Brazil many times. You tried to avoid this fight for how many months? I never heard you saying my name,” said Makhachev, with a 22-1 win-loss record and on a 10-fight win streak.

The headline clash on Saturday has a great backstory too. On October 24, 2020, Nurmagomedov defended his title against Justin Gaethje at UFC 254 in the same venue. Following the fight, the UFC icon announced his shock retirement inside the octagon. And now after two years, Makhachev has a chance to take the lightweight belt back to Russia’s Dagestan by ending Oliveira’s 11-fight win streak.

“This is what all the people from my country are waiting for. Now we don’t have a belt but Saturday night it’s going to be for my people,” Makhachev, the 31-year-old Russian, said.

Both the fighters made weight on Friday confirming their fight will be for the title. So, there is no repeat of UFC 274, when Oliveira lost his UFC title after failing to make weight. Reminded about the incident, Oliveira said: “Everyone knows who the champion is.”

In the co-main event, Sterling will make his second title defence in Abu Dhabi, while Dillashaw will be looking to reclaim the title.

Prelims start from 6 pm and the main card by 10 pm.

Charles Oliveira vs Islam Makhachev (lightweight title fight)

Aljamain Sterling vs TJ Dillashaw (bantamweight title fight)

Petr Yan vs Sean O’Malley (bantamweight)

Beneil Dariush vs Mateusz Gamrot (lightweight)

Katlyn Chookagian vs Manon Fiorot (women’s flyweight)

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