With his own fight booked against Islam Makhachev in February with the winner all but assured to earn a shot at the championship, Dariush has a vested interest in the upcoming showdown between Charles Oliveira and Dustin Poirier.
While Oliveira currently holds the 155-pound title, it’s Poirier — the No. 1 lightweight in MMA Fighting’s Global Rankings — who is widely installed as the favorite and considered by many as the uncrowned champion in arguably the UFC’s deepest division. Despite Poirier’s credentials and past experience as an interim champion, Dariush believes that Oliveira is being vastly underrated heading into this fight, especially when considering one of his greatest strengths.
“I’m actually leaning towards Charles [to win] to be honest,” Dariush said when appearing on The Fighter vs. The Writer. “Not by much. It’s not like a heavy lean but I’m leaning towards Charles because I think his grappling is so much better than Dustin’s.
“I don’t think Dustin really has the grappling that Charles has. I think Dustin is a good grappler but Charles is definitely a couple notches ahead and I think that will be the difference.”
Oliveira currently holds the record for the most submission wins in UFC history with 14 along with the most finishes overall with 17 as well as earning 11 post-fight bonuses throughout his career.
All of those records should explain why Oliveira is such a worthy champion but yet he’s still a sizable underdog against Poirier heading into Saturday night.
Part of the reason could center around past doubts that Oliveira has faced in his career where he’s struggled in the face of adversity.
Fellow lightweight and potential title challenger Justin Gaethje has questioned Oliveira’s toughness while flat out calling him a “quitter” in many of his biggest losses. As much as Oliveira has said those tendencies are a thing of the past even Dariush admits that’s exactly what gives him pause when making his prediction for the Brazilian.
“The real issue I see with Charles is the mindset,” Dariush explained. “You see him in some fights, he’s there, he’s present, he’s willing to dig deep and then sometimes he’s not. It’s going to be which Charles shows up. If the Charles we saw against [Michael] Chandler shows up, I think he has a very good chance of winning. If the Charles that faces a little adversity and breaks shows up, then I think Dustin Poirier is going to dominate him.
“Obviously, I think Charles can recognize that and he can improve on that but it’s there. Everyone’s thinking that it’s there, everyone sees that it’s there and everybody’s going to look for that. I think that Justin [Gaethje] is not wrong in what he’s saying. I think Charles can obviously prove him wrong with each fight but we’ve seen it. We’ve seen it. We recognize it, especially fighters.”
Dariush can point towards his own career when looking at specific moments where he may not have been the more skilled competitor but a willingness to push harder and further than his opponent made the difference between victory and defeat.
“One of my favorite things when I fight, even when I used to grapple and do jiu-jitsu, I would face opponents who were better than me technically but I would just stay on them and be as relentless and resilient as possible and eventually the gap would get a little bit closer and a little bit closer and a little bit closer,” Dariush said. “All of a sudden, they’re not better than me.
“I’m pushing them around. All of a sudden, I’m starting to break them. That was one of my favorite things was to get after a guy like that and make them crumble. I think other fighters see that and other fighters have that as well. They recognized that and I think a lot of people see in Charles that they can make him crumble.”
As far as his own preference, Dariush doesn’t really care who comes out as champion because all he really wants is the opportunity face the winner with the UFC lightweight title on the line.
That said, Dariush has a little history with Oliveira after they were scheduled to clash this past year but the fight fell apart almost as quickly as it became official and he wouldn’t mind settling some unfinished business between them.
“There’s definitely history there,” Dariush said. “I asked to fight him, we were scheduled to fight and then he said he had family issues and I said I understand, you know family comes first. Then a month later he was scheduled to fight Tony [Ferguson]. That rubbed me the wrong way.
“Sure, I would say I would definitely want to fight Charles but at the same time, Dustin has such a great legacy. He was the interim champ. In my eyes, he was champion. He has such a great legacy, too, so fighting him would be great as well. I don’t know which guy I would pick but if we down to it, I’d probably pick Charles.”