Two titles will be on the line at UFC 274. Originally, the plan was to have this promotion in Brazil so Charles Oliveira could defend his UFC Lightweight Championship in front of his countrymen. Unfortunately, continued concerns about COVID nixed that plan, so the event will take place in the United States. Oliveira will defend his title against Justin Gaethje, while UFC Women’s Strawweight champion Rose Namajunas will defend her title for the second time.
UFC 274 will take place on Saturday, May 7, 2022, from the Footprint Center in Phoenix, Arizona. The prelims will kick off at 8 p.m. ET on ESPN and ESPN+, and the main event will get started at 10 p.m. ET through PPV on ESPN+.
Charles Oliveira vs. Justin Gaethje
It looked like Charles Oliveira might be on his way out of the UFC five years ago. Oliveira had lost four of his last six fights after his defeat at the hands of Paul Felder at UFC 218, and he failed to make weight twice. However, rather than fade into oblivion, Oliveira redoubled his efforts and set two UFC records. He now has the most finishes in UFC history (18) and the most submission wins in UFC history (15). Oliveira has won 10 straight fights and beat Michael Chandler for the title at UFC 262 and successfully defended the belt against Dustin Poirier at UFC 269.
Justin Gaethje struggled in his first two UFC fights. Gaethje was 18-0 in other promotions, but he suffered knockout losses to Eddie Alvarez and Poirier in his first two bouts in the UFC. However, Gaethje overcame those setbacks and proved he really belonged with three straight quick finishes to set up a title fight with Tony Ferguson. He was an underdog against the more experienced Ferguson, but he came out strong and eventually secured the interim UFC Lightweight Championship by fifth-round TKO before losing to the great Khabib Nurmagomedov at UFC 254. Gaethje scored a unanimous decision win over Michael Chandler at UFC 268
Rose Namajunas vs. Carla Esparza
Fan favorite Rose Namajunas is looking to hold onto her UFC Women’s Strawweight Championship for a while this time. Namajunas originally won the belt by knocking out Joanna Jedrzejczyk at UFC 217, and she won the rematch five months later to retain her title. However, she was knocked out by Jessica Andrade in her next fight and had to avenge that defeat in order to get another shot at the belt. Thug Rose wasn’t expected to beat Zhang Weili last year in Jacksonville at UFC 261, but she knocked out the champion in the first round to claim the title and successfully defended the belt with a split decision win in November.
Carla Esparza has a lot of reason to be optimistic about her chances though. Esparza submitted Thug Rose for the inaugural UFC Women’s Strawweight Championship over seven years ago. She immediately lost the belt to Jedrzejczyk, but she has won five straight fights ahead of this showdown. Three of those victories came by split decision or majority decision though, so she hasn’t been too impressive.
Michael Chandler vs. Tony Ferguson
These two title challengers are both looking for another chance at glory. Tony Ferguson was seen as the most likely champion in the lightweight division after Khabib retired. He won 12 straight fights and earned the interim UFC Lightweight Championship at UFC 216, but he was forced to relinquish the belt due to injury. Ferguson was supposed to grind out a win over Gaethje when the interim title was again on the line two years ago, but he was knocked out for the first time in his career. He has since lost unanimous decisions to Charles Oliveira and Beneil Dariush, casting doubts about his future.
Three-time Bellator Lightweight World Championship winner Michael Chandler made the jump to UFC last January at UFC 257. Chandler scored an impressive first-round TKO of Dan Hooker that earned him a Performance of the Night bonus, but he was unable to beat either Oliveira or Gaethje in his next two bouts. This is a big fight for him as a third straight loss would put a serious blemish on his resume.