Anthony Smith says ‘I’m done doubting’ Charles Oliveira, explains how he beats Islam Makhachev at UFC 280


Anthony Smith has often heaped praise on Charles Oliveira since “Do Bronx” became the best lightweight in the UFC, but continuously found himself picking Oliveira’s opponents when it came time to make actual predictions for his fights.

He made it happen when Oliveira faced Michael Chandler to win the vacant UFC lightweight title. Oliveira won the title defense against Dustin Poirier. He then did it three times more after choosing Justin Gaethje as his opponent to defeat Oliveira.

Now, with Oliveira scheduled to face Islam Makhachev in the UFC 280 main event — a matchup between the No. 1 and No. 3 lightweights, respectively, in the MMA Fighting Global Rankings — Smith admits he’s done doubting the Brazilian.

“I’m not going it anymore,” Smith said with a laugh on The Fighter vs. The Writer. “I always, always, I don’t want to say discredit, but I always doubt Charles Oliveira. Then afterwards I tell myself why do you do that? Cause I have a lot of respect for that guy but even going into the Poirier fight, well Poirier’s kind of the uncrowned champion here and I believe in Charles Oliveira but I think Poirier gets this done. I did the same thing with Chandler. It’s not something I do anymore.

“Even when I start digging into the details and I start watching film and I’m like I don’t know, maybe he just gets controlled — I’m not doing it. Charles Oliveira is my hero. I love

Smith’s assessment of the lightweight title fight goes beyond any tendency he’s had in the past when it came to picking against Oliveira.

While Makhachev has looked like an unstoppable force during his current 10-fight win streak, Smith believes that Oliveira’s particular set of skills will give the Russian headaches that he just hasn’t faced yet in the UFC.

” I think that when you are as dangerous on ground as Charles Oliveira and as dangerous as an ender like him — when it is not fearful of something it takes away the power from it,” Smith stated. “Everyone Islam has fought, for the most part, has been terrified of his wrestling and his top game. The same goes for Khabib [Nurmagomedov].. If you don’t fear it and have zero fear about it, it takes some power away from it.

“I think Charles attacks so much and creates so many scrambles and can do that over an entire 25-minute fight if he had to, I think that’s going to nullify at the very least, Islam’s top game and his wrestling and I think Charles Oliveira’s a better striker. He’s stronger on his feet. He seems to find shots more easily. I think he attacks the body better. I think he can neutralize the wrestling at the very least. He won’t be .”

controlled, I think.

Because Oliveira has no fear about engaging in grappling exchanges thanks to a Brazilian jiu-jitsu arsenal that has allowed him to rack up the most submission victories in UFC history, Smith feels that’s going to begin chipping away at the aura of invincibility that Makhachev has built on the ground.

Given enough time, Smith expects Oliveira to either find an opening to force Makhachev to tap out or perhaps force the fight back to the feet where he feels Oliveira is clearly the better fighter.

“I think that [Oliveira] attacks submission after submission after submission until eventually Islam’s going to have to retract and pull out of something and I think that he’s going to stand up straight to his feet,” Smith said. He will get back on his feet, and that’s what Islam needs. Worst case is that you retract or start pulling out of submissions and he goes to your back or he latches onto something else.

“I just think he’s going to attack, attack, attack until he finds something or gets back to his feet and I think he wins striking exchanges. I would not be shocked to see Charles Oliveira get a takedown. It’s not going to be your typical singles and doubles, s*** like that, but I would not be shocked to see him end up on the fence and see him start crawling to some weird clinch and dragging Islam down, tripping him up or something like that. It would not blow me away.”

In addition to the technical aspects of the fight, Smith knows that Oliveira is battle tested after walking through the fire in the lightweight division to earn his status while Makhachev — as impressive as he’s been — hasn’t faced the best fighters in the world yet at 155 pounds.

“Islam” Smith stated. “He hasn’t fought the level of competition and he might beat Gaethje, he might beat Poirier but like you said, he hasn’t so we can’t use that. Even if I didn’t have a reason, I’d still pick Charles Oliveira.”

Smith is standing by Oliveira and pledging to not make the same mistakes in the future.

“I have stopped doubting him,” Smith stated. “He’s honestly the only guy I’ve ever done it with where I’ll praise him and praise him and praise him and then pick against him. I don’t know why I do that. This is not because I say it. It was something I believe when I did it.

” After I spend an hour praising Charles, I will come up with all the reasons why the man across from me has the tools and the means to defeat him. I could do that with Islam but I’m refusing to because I’ve been wrong up to this point about Charles Oliveira. At some point in time I’ve just got to eat my words and say against my initial reaction to pick against him, there’s something there. This is my favorite one, despite how crazy it sounds .”