May 20, 2022, 9:19

    Charles Oliveira submits Justin Gaethje in 1st round of UFC lightweight bout but loses title belt

    Charles Oliveira submits Justin Gaethje in 1st round of UFC lightweight bout but loses title belt

    PHOENIX — Charles Oliveira isn’t the official champion. But he’s the champion.

    Oliveira, under extremely difficult circumstances, submitted Justin Gaethje via rear-naked choke just 3:22 into the first round of their lightweight battle at UFC 274 inside Footprint Center.

    Oliveira (33-8) was scheduled to defend his title against Gaethje (23-4) at UFC 274 but was stripped of the belt instead after missing weight by half a pound on Friday. It meant that going into Saturday’s fight, only Gaethje could win the belt; if Oliveira won, it would remain vacant.

    If that had an impact on Oliveira’s mindset, it was only a positive one. The Brazilian fighter was ultra-aggressive from the opening bell. He staggered Gaethje, who is from Arizona, immediately with a right hand and threw kicks to the body. Gaethje responded in kind. He dropped Oliveira twice in the very short fight, once with a left hook and again with a right. Both times Gaethje stepped back and allowed Oliveira to get up.

    Oliveira, 32, even pulled guard at one point, but Gaethje, 33, backed off. However, it was a right hand down the middle by Oliveira that dropped Gaethje again and was the beginning of the end. Oliveira followed him to the floor and set up a triangle then a rear-naked choke. Gaethje refused to tap and went unconscious.

    It’s unclear what will happen in the immediate aftermath. This situation has never happened in UFC history, a defending champion missing weight and losing the belt on the scale. UFC president Dana White told Oliveira immediately after the fight he is a No. 1 contender and not a champion, although the sport will certainly continue to see him as such.

    Also during the fight, a young woman ran from the stands and leaped onto the stage a few seconds after Oliveira submitted Gaethje. She started to climb the side of the cage, but was immediately slammed to the concrete several feet below by a security guard.

    After seeming dazed for a few seconds, she tried to run toward a tunnel but stopped and sat in a chair. Security immediately swarmed and took her away right before Gaethje left the arena floor.

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