Saturday night will mark a new era for the UFC Lightweight division as the vacant belt will be contested between longtime vet Charles Oliveira and contender Michael Chandler, who is only making his second appearance under the UFC banner.
With a main card filled with fun fights, UFC 262 is sure to carry the momentum from an insane UFC 261 and bring the thrills to the sold-out Toyota Center in Houston, Texas.
Without further ado, let’s take a closer look into the card. (Odds via William-Hill Sportsbook)
UFC Lightweight Championship: Charles Oliveira(-125) vs. Michael Chandler(+105)
Undefeated Russian legend Khabib Nurmagomedov brought nightmares to every competitor in the 155-pound division for years. However, in October 2020, Nurmagomedov left the gloves in the Octagon and chose to retire from competition at a perfect 29-0 record.
Due to his retirement, two brand-new title contenders come into the fold as Oliveira and Chandler get their first shots at a title in the UFC.
It’s been a long time coming for Oliveira as the 11-year UFC vet finally gets his shot at gold. He entered the promotion at lightweight before dropping down to featherweight. It would be an understatement to say he struggled at 145 as his run led to a 7-5 record, while missing weight four times. He returned to lightweight in 2017 and has been on a tear ever since.
Outside of a TKO loss to Paul Felder at the end of 2017, Oliveira has yet to lose. He’s won eight straight with seven of those coming by finish. Last December, he manhandled Tony Ferguson on the ground to pick up a decisive win to earn the title shot.
“You have Dana White privilege.”
These words from Ferguson were uttered to Chandler during the UFC 262 pre-fight press conference as Chandler earned a title shot after just one fight in White’s promotion, but Chandler is no lightning in a bottle.
Before his UFC debut in January, Chandler won the lightweight belt three times in Bellator. His Bellator career consisted of wins over Eddie Alvarez, Benson Henderson (2x) and an overall 18-5 record.
Expect absolute chaos with little to no gaps between action. Both men know how to bring it on the feet and are exceptional on the ground. It will be important for Chandler to utilize his profound wrestling skills and actively sprawl to keep Oliveira off him. What concerns me about Chandler entering Saturday night is the seconds of undisciplined lapses he can go through and Oliveira will absolutely capitalize on those. If this is the case, Oliveira will be a champion in the UFC. Regardless, this will be a main event you will not want to miss.
Prediction: Charles Oliveira via submission
Co-main event: Tony Ferguson(+130) vs. Beneil Dariush(-150)
To lead us into the main event, Dariush will look to continue his rise to title contention with a win over the former Interim lightweight champion in Ferguson.
One could say Ferguson’s peak performance came to an end in May 2020 after he was bloodied, bruised and battered for five rounds against Justin Gaethje. Seven months later, those thoughts were reaffirmed as Ferguson was dominated by Oliveira.
Knowing Dariush’s style, he’s not going to be one to hold back any violence against the 37-year old.
Dating back to 2018, Dariush currently holds a six-fight winning streak with wins over Drew Dober, Drakkar Klose and Carlos Diego Ferreira.
With betting odds almost pick-em for a majority of fights on the card, this is the one I’d lock in on. I just don’t think Ferguson has much left at a title-contending level, while Dariush is finding his stride at the right time.
Prediction: Dariush via TKO
Matt Schnell(-160) vs. Rogerio Bontorin(+140)
After weighing it over the bantamweight limit of 136 pounds, Bontorin will hand 20% of the purse over to Schnell following Saturday night.
A first-round knockout loss to Alexandre Pantoja didn’t stop Schnell from getting back into the win column after defeating Tyson Nam by split decision in January. Schnell is a winner in five of his last six fights and will look to put on a show during a card with a lot of eyes on it.
With two-straight losses and missing weight in his following bout, Bontorin’s UFC tenure may be on the line if he can’t get the job done Saturday night. He put together two wins in his first appearances in the UFC during 2019, but dropped two fights in a row to Ray Borg and Kai Kara-France respectively. Even though his record sits at an impressive 16-3 (1 NC), three-straight losses certainly will land you in good standing with the boss.
Prediction: Schnell via decision
Katlyn Chookagian(-140) vs. Viviane Araújo(+120)
While Chookagian has put together wins in the UFC, one can’t say she’s impressed in any of them. The heavy, audible feints she puts together every time she competes in the Octagon is about as insufferable as a crowd’s “WOO” chants are, which will probably make an appearance in Houston as well.
One could only hope that Araujo can bring the power she brought against Talita Bernardo in her UFC debut in 2019 as she knocked Bernardo out in the first round. However, her four other fights in the UFC have all resulted in decisions.
Prediction: Chookagian via decision
Shane Burgos(-120) vs. Edson Barboza(+100)
What a way to start the pay-per-view portion of UFC 262 as high-octane featherweights in Barboza and Burgos clash.
Although, those that watched UFC 261 will be wincing a lot during this fight as Barboza brings his patented wicked leg kicks to the fold. Let’s just hope we don’t get a repeat of results from the first two fights of the last PPV.
If all goes well and these two avoid injury, this is going to be the fight to set this card on fire. These men are going to stand and deliver. Barboza will throw his multitude of kicks all over Burgos, while “Hurricane” will stick to using his hands mostly. Don’t blink with this fight.
Prediction: Burgos via decision
Picks for the rest of the card:
Andre Muniz(-105) via decision
Lando Vannata(+100) via TKO
Jordan Wright(-110) via submission
Antonina Shevchenko(-140) via decision
Priscila Cachoeira(+180) via decision
Tucker Lutz(-125) via decision
Sean Soriano(+176) via decision
UFC 262 begins with the early prelims on ESPN+/UFC Fight Pass at 6:30 p.m. EST. The prelims will continue on ESPN at 8:00 p.m. EST with the main card on ESPN+ PPV at 10:00 p.m. EST.