CHARLES OLIVEIRA VS. MICHAEL CHANDLER
Saturday night’s festivities come to a close with Charles Oliveira and Michael Chandler battling it out to see which of them will become the 11th man to reign as the undisputed UFC lightweight champion.
Oliveira’s ascent to the UFC 262 main event has been a slow burn, stretching back nearly a dozen years with 27 fights between two divisions. Since returning to the 155-pound ranks at the start of 2017, “Do Bronx” has gone 9-1, and he carries an eight-fight winning streak with seven finishes into his clash with Chandler this weekend in Houston.
One of the most hyped additions to the UFC roster in recent memory, the 35-year-old Chandler validated his advance billing with a first-round stoppage win over Dan Hooker in his promotional debut earlier this year at UFC 257. After cutting a Ric Flair-inspired promo following the victory, the Sanford MMA product now has a chance to claim championship gold in his sophomore appearance inside the Octagon.
This is a tremendously compelling matchup between two elite talents with a penchant for finishing fights, as both Oliveira (90 percent) and Chandler (77 percent) have incredible finishing rates and a history of putting forth exciting efforts. What’s more is that stylistically, there are dangers apparent for each man regardless of where the fight takes place, as both have power in their hands and are a handful on the canvas.
No matter what happens, this one should be wildly entertaining for as long as it lasts and help chart a course for what is undoubtedly going to be an eventful and action-packed second half of the year in the lightweight division.
TONY FERGUSON VS. BENEIL DARIUSH
For the first time since 2014, Tony Ferguson makes his first appearance of the year looking to get back in the win column after an 0-2 campaign in 2020. He returns Saturday night to take on Beneil Dariush, who is aiming to further Ferguson’s slide will extending his own run of success in this crucial lightweight pairing.
Ferguson had his 12-fight winning streak snapped by Justin Gaethje last spring at UFC 249. Seven months later, the 37-year-old title picture mainstay was handed a second consecutive loss by Oliveira, who controlled the former Ultimate Fighter winner on the canvas for large stretches, leading everyone to wonder if Ferguson’s best days are now behind him.
Since enduring a three-fight stretch without a victory from March 2017 to March 2018, Dariush has been absolutely lights out, registering six consecutive victories to re-establish himself as a bona fide threat in the 155-pound weight class. Adding powerful striking potential to his already dangerous ground game, Dariush has morphed into an all-action fighter willing to throw caution to the wind in pursuit of victory, and the results have been undeniable.
Will Ferguson get back into the win column and use Dariush’s more aggressive approach against him or can the Kings MMA product hand the veteran contender a third straight loss while putting himself in the thick of the title chase with another victory at UFC 262?
KATLYN CHOOKAGIAN VS. VIVIANE ARAUJO
Flyweight contenders meet in this main card class as divisional standout Katlyn Chookagian takes on Brazilian hopeful Viviane Araujo.
Chookagian has three losses in the UFC flyweight division — one to champion Valentina Shevchenko, and one to each of the title-challenging Jessicas, Andrade and Eye. She’s cemented her standing as the top-end litmus test contenders must pass in order to challenge for championship gold with victories over Joanne Calderwood, Jennifer Maia, and Cynthia Calvillo, and will look to similarly delay Araujo’s ascent this weekend in Houston.
UFC 262 FREE FIGHT: Charles Oliveira vs Tony Ferguson
An impressive effort against Alexis Davis in her divisional debut put Araujo on the fast track to contention in the flyweight division, but Eye halted her rise by handing her a loss at UFC 245. Last year, the Cerrado MMA product got back in the win column with a victory over Montana De La Rosa, and she already took another step forward this year by out-hustling veteran Roxanne Modafferi on Fight Island.
There is always a need for new contenders in the flyweight division given how quickly and expertly Shevchenko has dispatched her challengers, and how this one plays out will have a definite impact on the makeup of the list of title contenders in the 125-pound weight class as we head towards the summer months.
SHANE BURGOS VS. EDSON BARBOZA
Ranked featherweights Shane Burgos and Edson Barboza are ready to go toe-to-toe, blow-for-blow, round-for-round in this electric encounter designed to launch the victor into the thick of the title chase in the ultra-competitive 145-pound ranks.
The 30-year-old Burgos established himself as an exciting addition to the division in his sophomore victory over Charles Rosa back at UFC 210 and has been making steady progress up the divisional ladder while delivering entertaining fights ever since.
Last year, the Tiger Schulmann trainee had his three-fight winning streak snapped when he landed on the wrong side of the result in a Fight of the Night-winning, Fight of the Year contender opposite Josh Emmett. He rebounded from his first career setback by posting those three consecutive victories, and he’ll look to begin replicating that feat this weekend when he takes on Barboza.
A longtime contender in the lightweight division, the 35-year-old Barboza relocated to the featherweight ranks last spring, dropping a debated split decision to Dan Ige in his divisional debut. The Brazilian veteran got back into the win column with a unanimous decision triumph over Makwan Amirkhani in October, and he seeks his second straight win when he steps in against Burgos on Saturday.
Like his opponent in Houston, Barboza is guaranteed excitement whenever he steps into the Octagon, owning the record for the most finishes by kicks in UFC history, including his highlight reel finish of Terry Etim at UFC 142.
Featherweight is one of the most talent-rich divisions going right now and the competition to move into contention is steep, making this a crucial matchup for both men and a must-see attraction for all fans.
JACARE SOUZA VS. ANDRE MUNIZ
Jacare Souza and Andre Muniz meet in this clash of Brazilian middleweights.
A staple in the Top 15 since arriving from Strikeforce in the 2013, the 41-year-old Souza arrives in Houston on a three-fight slide and having lost four of his last five appearances. Now, those setbacks have come against a host of ranked fighters and current light heavyweight kingpin Jan Blachowicz, and Souza has traditionally thrived in matchups against unranked competition, but he’s also getting up there in age, so a strong performance here is critical if he wants to silence talk about the end of his career drawing closer.
Unlike his countryman, Muniz enters this weekend’s fight card riding high, having posted six straight victories overall, including two wins in as many UFC starts since being part of the Class of ’19 on the Contender Series. Last time out, “Sergipano” snatched up a first-round submission victory over Bartosz Fabinski, and if he can secure a third straight UFC win this weekend, the 31-year-old could establish himself as someone to pay close attention to going forward in the 185-pound weight class.
Inside The Octagon | UFC 262: Oliveira Vs. Chandler
Inside The Octagon | UFC 262: Oliveira Vs. Chandler
MATT SCHNELL VS. ROGERIO BONTORIN
Top 10 flyweights clash in this electric preliminary card pairing as Matt Schnell takes on Rogerio Bontorin.
After losing his first two UFC fights, Schnell has quietly cobbled together a 5-1 record to emerge as a dark horse contender in the 125-pound weight class. Last time out, the former MTV reality TV star registered a split decision win over Tyson Nam in one of his most complete, most impressive performances to date.
Bontorin has had the opposite experience of his opponent this weekend, earning wins in each of his first two trips into the Octagon before landing on the wrong side of the results in his last two appearances. The Brazilian dropped a decision to Ray Borg in his lone appearance of 2020 in a fight where Borg missed weight, and then earlier this year at UFC 259, the 29-year-old dominated for the majority of the opening round before getting clipped and finished by Kai Kara-France.
ANDREA LEE VS. ANTONINA SHEVCHENKO
Andrea Lee and Antonina Shevchenko draw one another in what should be a highly competitive clash between ranked fighters in the flyweight division.
Lee entered the UFC on a four-fight winning streak and positioned herself as a dark horse contender in the division with victories in each of her first three trips into the Octagon. Since then, however, the former LFA champ and Invicta FC standout has suffered three straight losses, landing on the wrong side of split decision verdicts against Joanne Calderwood and Lauren Murphy before getting outworked by Roxanne Modaferri in her most recent outing.
UFC 262 FREE FIGHT: Michael Chandler vs Dan Hooker
The older sister of the division’s ruler, Shevchenko has struggled to find consistency inside the Octagon, alternating wins and losses over her five fights since earning a UFC contract with a win on Season 2 of the Contender Series. The 36-year-old has earned finishes in each of her last two victories, and like Lee, her losses have come on the scorecards against established contenders.
Which of these two Top 15 talents will secure their first victory over a ranked opponent and which one will be forced to go back to the drawing board?
Bonus Résumé: Tony Ferguson
Bonus Résumé: Tony Ferguson
LANDO VANNATA VS. MIKE GRUNDY
Longtime lightweight Lando Vannata drops down to the featherweight division for the first time, where British grinder Mike Grundy is ready to welcome him to the 145-pound ranks.
Vannata is one of those fighters whose record (3-5-2 in the UFC) doesn’t quite properly reflect what he brings to the Octagon. An entertaining competitor with a unique style and deep arsenal of skills, the 29-year-old was tired of being undersized and outmuscled at lightweight, and he looks to start fresh and find some consistency with a shift down in divisions.
A wrestler who represented his country internationally and captured a bronze medal in the 2014 Commonwealth Games, Grundy had his nine-fight winning streak snapped last summer when he faced off with streaking Russian prospect Movsar Evloev. Fighting out of Team Kaobon, the 34-year-old brings a suffocating style predicated on pace, takedowns, and top control with him every time he steps into the Octagon.
JORDAN WRIGHT VS. JAMIE PICKETT
Contender Series alums Jordan Wright and Jamie Pickett meet in this battle of middleweights looking to rebound from setbacks last time out.
The 29-year-old Wright earned nine straight first-round stoppage wins to land a spot on Season 2 of Dana White’s Contender Series, where his loss to Anthony Hernandez was later deemed a no contest. After a second-round stoppage win over Gabriel Checco under the LFA banner, “The Beverly Hills Ninja” got the call to the Octagon last summer, registering a stoppage win over Ike Villanueva in his debut before running into Joaquin Buckley in his sophomore showing and coming away with his first professional loss.
Pickett’s third appearance on the annual talent search series finally yielded positive results as he parlayed a second-round stoppage win over Jhonoven Pati into a UFC contract last summer. Unfortunately for “The Night Wolf,” he was paired with fellow Contender Series grad and promising middleweight prospect Tafon Nchukwi in their shared debuts, landing on the wrong side of the unanimous decision verdict.
Both men have shown flashes of promise, but the competition for space in the middleweight division is hotter than it has been in years, making this a pivotal pairing for both Wright and Pickett if they hope to start making headway in the UFC’s 185-pound weight class in 2021.
Top Finishes: Charles Oliveira
Top Finishes: Charles Oliveira
GINA MAZANY VS. PRISCILA CACHOEIRA
It’s a battle between fighters coming off the best UFC efforts of their careers as Gina Mazany and Priscila Cachoeira clash in this preliminary card pairing.
A veteran of the fight game who took a number of tough, short-notice assignments over her first five UFC appearances, Mazany had two months to prepare for her flyweight debut against Rachael Ostovich last November and came away with a third-round stoppage win. Now residing in Missouri and training with James Krause and the crew at Glory MMA & Fitness, it will be interesting to see how “Danger” does in her second appearance in the 125-pound weight class and coming off her best performance in years.
Cachoeira ended a three-fight losing streak and registered the first win of her career last February, earning a Performance of the Night bonus for her 40-second knockout of Shana Dobson in Auckland, New Zealand. The Brazilian “Zombie Girl” was slated to return in October but was forced to withdraw from her bout with Cortney Casey the day before the event due to issues with her weight cut.
KEVIN AGUILAR VS. TUCKER LUTZ
Texas native Kevin Aguilar looks to snap a three-fight slide as he competes in his home state for the first time in three years when he welcomes Tucker Lutz to the UFC this weekend at UFC 262.
A fixture under the Legacy banner during both of its iterations, Aguilar arrived in the UFC with a 15-1 record and pushed that mark to 17-1 with victories over Rick Glenn and Enrique Barzola in his first two appearances. Since then, the 32-year-old “Angel of Death” has dropped three straight, including a split decision loss to Charles Rosa last time out.
Lutz made tandem appearances on the Contender Series in September and November of last year, earning unanimous decision wins over Chase Gibson and Sherrard Blackledge to push his record to 11-1 and land a UFC contract. The 26-year-old has faced limited competition over the course of his career but has rattled off 11 consecutive victories since dropping his professional debut.
CHRISTOS GIAGOS VS. SEAN SORIANO
Business gets underway on Saturday night in the lightweight division as Christos Giagos welcomes Sean Soriano back to the Octagon.
After dropping two of three against tough competition in his first stint with the UFC, the 31-year-old Giagos has found his footing the second time around, posting three wins in his last four appearances. He was limited to a single appearance last year due to injury, but made the most of it, grinding out a decision win over Carlton Minus.
Like Giagos, the now 31-year-old Soriano fought a nasty slate in his initial go-round in the Octagon, suffering consecutive losses to Tatsuya Kawajiri, Chas Skelly, and Charles Rosa to go from 8-0 to 8-3 as he returned to the regional circuit. Of late, the Sanford MMA representative has been sharp, registering three straight wins, including a first-round stoppage victory over Noad Lahat last time out, to earn this short-notice call back to the UFC cage.
Second chances are hard to come by at this level. Giagos is already doing his best to make the most of his, you can be sure Soriano will be looking to do the same on Saturday, making this impromptu pairing an intriguing way to kick off what should be an entertaining night for action in Houston, Texas on Saturday.