UFC 262: Oliveira vs. Chandler
Saturday, May 15, 2021
Toyota Center, Houston, TX
Main Card (10 p.m. ET on ESPN+ PPV)
– #3 Charles Oliveira (-135) vs. #4 Michael Chandler (+110) – UFC Lightweight Championship
– #5 Tony Ferguson (+150) vs. #9 Beneil Dariush (-185) – Lightweight Bout
– #2 Katlyn Chookagian (-135) vs. #7 Viviane Araujo (+115) – W. Flyweight Bout
– #9 Shane Burgos (-125) vs. #13 Edson Barboza (+105) – Featherweight Bout
– #8 Matt Schnell (-160) vs. #9 Rogerio Bontorin (+130) – Flyweight Bout
Prelims (8 p.m. ET on ESPN)
– Jacare Souza (-115) vs. Andre Muniz (-105) – Middleweight Bout
– Mike Grundy (-120) vs. Lando Vannata (+100) – Featherweight Bout
– #11 Andrea Lee (+105) vs. #12 Antonina Shevchenko (-125) – W. Flyweight Bout
– Jamie Pickett (-110) vs. Jordan Wright (-110) – Middleweight Bout
Early Prelims (6 p.m. ET on ESPN+/Fight Pass)
– Gina Mazany (-215) vs. Priscilla Cachoeira (+170) – W. Flyweight Bout
– Tucker Lutz (-125) vs. Kevin Aguilar (+105) – Lightweight Bout
– Christos Giagos (-220) vs. Sean Soriano (+175) – Lightweight Bout
Charles Oliveira (-135) vs. Michael Chandler (+110)
For the first time in over three years, the undisputed UFC Lightweight Championship will be contested in the absence of Khabib Nurmagomedov.
Nurmagomedov submitted Justin Gaethje in the second round of his third title defense in October and promptly announced his retirement. Despite numerous efforts from UFC president Dana White, Nurmagomedov insisted on closing the book of his professional fighting career, thus vacating his lightweight belt.
Now, six months later, promotion veteran Charles Oliveira (30-8) will meet newly-anointed contender Michael Chandler (22-5) with that shiny gold strap hanging in the balance.
Oliveira is in the midst of arguably the most incredible career resurgence we’ve ever seen. After starting his UFC career a meager 10-8, the 31-year-old Brazillian has steamrolled all comers over the past three years, rattling off eight straight victories to earn a top-five ranking. During that stretch, Oliveira has collected the scalps of seasoned veterans and hot prospects alike, including Clay Guida, Jim Miller, David Teymur, Kevin Lee and, most notably and recently, Tony Ferguson.
The record-holder for most submissions in UFC history, Oliveira is widely considered the most prolific offensive grappler across all weight divisions. With a black belt in jiu-jitsu, he’s an absolute menace on the canvas and possesses the ability to lock in a submission from quite literally any position. Oliveira’s lack of striking prowess was his downfall in the early years of his career, but the refortification of discipline on the feet has largely contributed to his current win streak. He has made vast improvements in his defense, footwork and kick-punch combinations over the past two years.
In terms of well-rounded finishers, Oliveira is about as good as they come.
The blue corner will play host to a much different character in Saturday’s main event. Chandler, a former 3-time lightweight champion in rival promotion Bellator, finally transitioned to the UFC in January. He delivered and then some.
Chandler starched sixth-ranked Dan Hooker in the first round, landing a nuclear bomb of a right hand to finish the fight in just two minutes. The emphatic victory earned Chandler a top-five ranking and an immediate title shot with the chances of ascending to superstar status in a matter of months. Chandler is on a streak of three straight first-round knockouts, all of which came within the first three minutes.
The dynamite in Chandler’s hands and his relentless forward pressure have caused opponent after opponent to fold. He starts every fight like a bat out of hell, charging his counterparts with sweeping hooks and overhand bombs in hopes of ending it early. On top of that, he’s an elite wrestler. A 4-time Division I All-American at Missouri, Chandler has a folk-style wrestling base that serves him well in the Octagon. His takedown defense is masterful and his body control in scrambles can make it hard for anyone to keep him down.
If you were to genetically engineer the perfect wrestle-boxer in a lab, it would be Michael Chandler.
This fight is really difficult to handicap simply because there are so many questions yet to be answered on Chandler’s side. With only one fight in the UFC that lasted just two minutes, it’s hard to judge if he truly belongs in the world’s upper echelon of lightweight fighters. That said, he was a champion in a major professional promotion for nearly a decade, so he’s been under the bright lights many times before.
With Oliveira, we at least know what we’re going to get: a calculated striker who can keep Chandler at range until eventually changing levels in search of a takedown. From there, he can execute any submission in the book.
In my opinion, if Oliveira can survive the inevitable first round flurry of kill shots from Chandler, his paths to victory will become much more abundant, while Chandler’s will dwindle. Keep Chandler at a safe distance and avoiding the initial knockout blows will be paramount for Oliveira. Easier said than done, but at this point, it’s really difficult to fade a man who made Tony Ferguson look like an amateur.
If the moneyline number was larger, I might entertain the idea of picking Chandler. However, I think Vegas is giving us a solid price on Oliveira and the line keeps moving closer to even, in which case his betting value continues to grow.
Oliveira should have more options regarding methods of victory and his cardio has never been in question, so if this goes deep into the championship rounds, I don’t see him gassing out.
I’m picking Oliveira to add to his win streak and walk away the undisputed lightweight champion of the world on Saturday night.
Best Bet: Charles Oliveira moneyline (-135)
– Nick Stavas (@nickstavas)
Tony Ferguson (+150) vs. Beneil Dariush (-185)
Bumped up to the co-main event of the evening, Tony Ferguson (25-5) tries to end a two fight skid as he takes on rising contender Beneil Dariush (20-4).
After falling to Charles Oliveira in December, many have questions about Tony Ferguson’s status among the lightweight divisions elite. That has him coming into this fight as the +175 and with a major chip on his shoulder. Always known for his endless cardio and unpredictability, Ferguson has looked off in his last two fights. His typically gashing elbows haven’t hit the mark, and his cardio can only help so much when he is being dominated on the ground. He did have his moments in the fight against Gaethje, and if there were an extra ten seconds he may have been able to finish him and win that fight.
For Ferguson to find success in this fight, he’ll have to go back to the well a bit. Fight behind his jab, which also happens to be his power hand, and mix in takedowns effectively to keep Dariush at bay. Even with the beating he took against Gaethje, he never was dropped and his chin appears to be as good as ever.
As the winner of five straight, expectations are high for Dariush coming into this fight. He most recently displayed an incredible performance against Diego Ferreira, dominating him over three rounds on the ground and the feet. Dariush is one of the more well-rounded fighters in the UFC, very capable on the ground while also possessing serious power in his hands. He’ll no doubt hold the power advantage in this fight. He’ll need to mix in takedowns as well to test Ferguson’s ground game as well. Ultimately I don’t see Dariush stopping Ferguson so he’ll likely need to win this one on the scorecards.
Even with his last performance in December, I’m not going to doubt Tony Ferguson’s ground game. It’s hard to knock Ferguson for getting dominated on the ground by a guy who dominates everyone on the ground. As a pretty decent underdog in this fight, I’m riding with Ferguson ending his losing streak in this one.
Best Bet: Tony Ferguson moneyline (+150)
–William Burke (@w_burke22)
Katlyn Chookagian (-135) vs. Viviane Araujo (+115)
My lone bet of the night comes in the women’s flyweight division between second ranked Katlyn Chookagian and seventh ranked Viviane Araujo. Chookagian’s entering off of unanimous decision victory over Cynthia Calvillo back in November of 2020 while Araujo has won two straight contests. She defeated Roxanne Modafferi in January of this year and Montana De La Rosa back in September of 2020.
I’m going to get right into the final analysis and best bet portion for this bout. Despite Viviane having seven career finishes (3 KO/TKO’s and 4 submissions) in ten wins, I don’t think she’ll be able to end Chookagian before the final bell. This is a big step up in competition for the Brazilian and one thing that initially caught my eye is the height differential. Chookagian towers over her opponent at 5’9” compared to the 5’4” frame of Araujo. But don’t let the height fool you, they boast the same reach at 68 inches so it shouldn’t be as much of a factor as you’d think. Chookagian will look to use her kicks and incredible striking ability to keep Araujo at distance but Viv’s best opportunity to win will be using her wrestling and grappling to take this one to the mat.
I’m going against the grain in this one and I’ll take a shot on Viviane Araujo on the money line at +115 to walk away victorious for a unit. Early on I thought that Chookagian would be able to keep her distance and this would turn into a kickboxing match but I think Vivi will take the fight to the American and will find success in the takedown department. She’s landing 64% of her takedowns and averaging 2.33 per 15 minutes. And in these short three round bouts, when the judges see a fighter owning control time, it’s hard to say that won’t factor into the decision. The key stat here is that Chookagian’s takedown defense is only at 51%. Viviane will be able to exploit this weakness of Katlyn and even if she can’t, she still owns the significant strike advantage at 4.97 significant strikes per minute compared to Katlyn’s 4.22. And sure, perhaps Araujo’s stats are a bit inflated due to the difference in levels of competition that the two women have faced, but I think there are trends to be taken away from these to help us cash a ticket. Take a shot with the Brazilian to skyrocket herself into title contention and pick up her fifth win in the UFC!
Best Bet: Viviane Araujo money line (+115)
-Trent Pruitt (@trentbets)
Shane Burgos (-140) vs. Edson Barboza (+115)
If this matchup was a bout at a K-1 Kickboxing event, no one would bat an eye. There’s some major Fight of the Night potential in this main card curtain-raiser between Shane Burgos (13-2) and Edson Barboza (21-9)
Burgos is returning from a layoff of nearly a year after suffering a loss to Josh Emmett last June in a 15-minute war that was strongly considered for the 2020 Fight of the Year. In terms of three-round fights, Burgos vs. Emmett certainly had all the makings of an all-time classic. You can watch it here.
The two men traded haymakers from the opening bell to the final horn, neither able to put the other away despite a plethora of kill shots landed throughout the fight. In the end, Emmett earned a unanimous decision victory.
Standing 5-foot-11, Burgos is absolutely massive for 145 pounds and possesses the longest reach of any featherweight on the UFC roster at 75.5 inches. Burgos is constantly pressing forward, using his elite athleticism to throw a wide array of kick-punch combinations, often working from the bottom up, attacking his opponent’s legs and body relentlessly.
Burgos’ style is scarily similar to Barboza’s, which is what makes me think this fight will be wildly entertaining. Any person who has been an MMA fan for the past 12 years is familiar with Barboza and his incredible, highlight-reel finishes.
Benson Henderson might be credited as the first fighter to ever use the leg kick in the Octagon, but Barboza has essentially made it his signature move. The way he contorts his hips to generate maximum power in his calf kicks makes it painful to watch as a fan. I can’t imagine being the guy on the receiving end. In addition to his patented leg kicks, Barboza is a polished boxer and mixes in beautiful Muay-Thai combinations to piece up his opponents from all angles.
Barboza just recently made the move down to featherweight after competing at lightweight for the better part of a decade. He has undoubtedly struggled in recent years, but his “strength of schedule,” as college football fans call it, is unparalleled.
Let’s take a gander at the list of men who have beaten Barboza since 2015: Tony Ferguson, Khabib Nurmagomedov, Kevin Lee, Justin Gaethje, Paul Felder and Dan Ige.
Regardless of who he’s faced, Barboza will be the first one to tell you that a loss is a loss and he isn’t here to lose. He’s at a crossroads in his career and has a chance to begin a resurgence in a new weight class on Saturday night.
So how do we bet on this fight? To me, it’s pretty simple. Only three (3) of Burgos’ 15 pro fights have gone to the judges’ scorecards. Even though Barboza is on a streak of three straight decisions, half of his 24 UFC bouts have failed to go the distance and he still has the stopping power to end any fight in an instant.
Both Burgos and Barboza are striking wizards who hit really hard and love to leave their chins open. That tells me someone is going to sleep here.
Best Bet: Fight does not go distance (+130)
– Nick Stavas (@nickstavas)
Matt Schnell (-160) vs. Rogerio Bontorin (+130)
Matt Schnell (15-5) squares off against Rogerio Bontorin (16-3) in this top-10 flyweight matchup on the prelim card.
Despite being only 31 years old, Schnell is essentially a UFC veteran at this point. An alumnus of The Ultimate Fighter Season 24, Schnell has been with the promotion since early 2016; next month marking the five-year anniversary of his debut. Schnell stumbled out of the gate, losing his first two UFC bouts before rattling off four straight victories between 2017-2019 and solidifying his spot in the top 15. He then suffered a disappointing loss to Alexandre Pantoja and took a 14-month layoff before returning this past January against Tyson Nam.
The official record says split decision, but Schnell beat Nam pretty thoroughly and many fans, including myself, believed Schnell to be the obvious winner. Regardless, a win is a win and Schnell proved that ring rust was no issue for him.
Speed is the name of the game for Schnell, and now that John Dodson is fighting at 135 pounds, there’s an argument to be made that Schnell possesses the fastest hands in the flyweight division. His elite ability to cut angles and throw faints accompanies his lightning fast punch combos nicely, while his leg/body kicks round out a quite sophisticated standing attack.
Standing is certainly what Schnell will want to be doing in this fight because Bontorin is terrifying on the ground. A black belt and former Jiu-Jitsu national champion in Brazil, Bontorin has made a living off relentless ground pressure and submission offense. Of his 16 pro victories, a whopping 11 of them came via submission, ranging anywhere from a rear-naked choke to an armbar to a heel hook. The dude has it all.
All those stats are well and good, but having lost two in a row, Bontorin finds himself in a must-win situation Saturday. His last fight against Kara-France was one of the strangest I’ve ever seen, even though it only lasted one round. Bontorin dominated him on the ground for the entirety of the first round before Kara-France escaped with 20 seconds remaining, threw three punches and turned Bontorin’s lights out. Bizarre.
This is a true clash of styles, which usually makes for a tough pick.
The biggest factor here is the fact that Schnell has fared surprisingly well against grapplers in the past. His takedown defense is solid and his speed in scramble situations makes him difficult to hold down. Marco Beltran, Naoki Inoue and Jordan Espinosa are all world-class submission artists. Schnell beat all three of them.
In my eyes, Vegas is actually giving us a solid price on Schnell in this spot. Bontorin hasn’t shown us anything recently to suggest he can compete in the top 10 in this division, while Schnell appears to be improving in all aspects of his game.
I think the speed and striking acuity of Schnell will be too much for Bontorin to overcome. I’m backing the favorite to notch another big victory here.
Best Bet: Matt Schnell moneyline (-160)
Value Bet: Matt Schnell by decision (+175)
– Nick Stavas (@nickstavas)
Mike Grundy (-120) vs. Lando Vannata (+100)
A pair of lightweights trying to get back in the win column get the nod in this prelim spot as Mike Grundy (12-2) takes on Lando Vannata (11-5-2).
In his most recent outing, Grundy was dominated by Movsar Evloev for 15 straight minutes en route to a unanimous decision loss. That result is slightly misleading, however, considering the undefeated Russian phenom appears to be on track to becoming a legitimate title threat in the very near future. Prior to getting run over by the Evloev hype train, Grundy was the winner of nine straight, including his UFC debut, in which he finished Nad Narimani in the second round.
Even though his only UFC victory came via knockout, Grundy is the epitome of a submission artist, with eight of his 12 career victories ending in a tapout. He has the ability to execute just about every submission in the book, having finished fights with anything from a D’arce choke to an arm triangle to a key lock. Grundy isn’t an elite striker by any stretch of the imagination, but his boxing is good enough to hold him over until he’s able to change levels and land a takedown.
Vannata will likely try to avoid going to the ground with Grundy at all costs, considering he’s much more comfortable on the feet. The way Vannata goes about his striking is far from normal, as he throws a wide range of unconventional attacks to maintain maximum unpredictability and keep his opponents guessing at all times.
That’s really just a fancy way of saying Vannata is a bit of a wild child in the Octagon.
Vannata’s unusual style has both helped and hurt him throughout his UFC career. While it works to throw off the rhythm of his counterparts, sometimes it seems as if he’s just trying to do too much. This was exactly the case in his last outing against Bobby Green, in which Green was able to totally control Vannata both in the clinch and on the canvas.
I was a bit shocked to see that the moneyline odds for this bout are so close because I think Grundy should be a much larger favorite. His striking is good enough to avoid getting knocked out and his grappling is far superior to that of Vannata. On top of that, Vannata has a bad tendency to gas out quickly, which should play right into the hand of Grundy’s smothering ground game.
If Bobby Green can out-wrestle Vannata with ease, Grundy should have no issues. I’ll gladly ride with the slight favorite in this spot.
Best Bet: Mike Grundy moneyline (-120)
– Nick Stavas (@nickstavas)