UFC 262 takes place on Saturday night in Houston, Texas and we’ve got our predictions for all the fights below.
Charles Oliveira vs. Michael Chandler
After an impressive and at times record-breaking eight-fight winning streak at lightweight, the UFC’s premier submission specialist Oliveira finally gets to fight for the vacant title against former a Bellator kingpin in Chandler.
It’s a very exciting match-up as both men have well-rounded skill sets and are proven finishers and yet at the same time are also vulnerable enough that it leaves a palpable sense that anything could happen.
Chandler’s is heavy-handed and he likes to pressure fighters while looking for opportunities to launch big overhand right’s with fight-ending power. Oliveira doesn’t have that same one-punch potential, but his muay thai striking has come along very nicely in recent years and he’s both dynamic and creative with his output, and will have a 2″ height and 3″ reach advantage.
Chandler has been rocked multiple times in his career and been stopped a few times too, but in general he shows good powers of recovery and he’ll be encouraged by the fact that Oliveira has been finished in the past too.
Another of Chandler’s key weapons is his wrestling though, driving into takedowns where he can unleash his heavy ground and pound and submission game. That seems like it would be a risky strategy here though as Oliveira is an absolute predator on the mat, restlessly seeking submissions and having the creativity and skill to make it happen time-after-time.
As such Chandler may seek to use his wrestling more defensively to keep this one upright, but Oliveira may still find ways to take the fight to the mat if he starts working tactics like pulling guard or forcing scrambles.
So it’s a very nicely balanced fight with a lot of possible outcomes for both fighters, but though I do have some concerns over his chin if Chandler lands cleanly, I’m going to take Oliveira thanks to his BJJ thwarting Chandler’s wrestling game, while his striking helps him stay very competitive on the feet and strong cardio gives him the edge in the championship rounds, leading to a submission finish.
Pick: Charles Oliveira wins by submission in Rd4.
Tony Ferguson vs. Beneil Dariush
Another intriguing match-up here, particularly given their opposite trajectories at this stage in their career’s, with the 37-year-old Ferguson having gone from a 12-fight winning streak to convincing back-to-back defeats, while the 32-year-old Dariush is riding a six-fight winning streak and looking better than ever.
Dariush has always shone as a very talented grappler, but after a very shaky spell in his career when he was KO’d twice, he’s since reinvented his striking game by becoming more dangerous offensively and showcasing genuine knockout power.
Given his age, the number of wars he’s been in, his injury woes and out-of-sorts performances recently, it’s certainly reasonable to question whether Ferguson has now gone off the boil. There’s still a lot to like about him offensively though as he is dynamic, unpredictable and accurate with his striking and keeps a very high pace, but he does rely a lot on his traditionally excellent durability to enable him to fight on when others would fold, which typically isn’t a strategy that bodes well for that kind of fighter late in their career’s.
Dariush isn’t as versatile or quick as Ferguson on the feet, but he is the heavier hitter and will find that he can land on ‘El Cucuy’. It’s his ground game that’s particularly intriguing here though, as while Ferguson also has good wrestling and a crafty submission arsenal, I feel that Dariush has a real chance to outwrestle him.
It wouldn’t be a shock to see either man winning here, but I don’t like what I’ve seen from Ferguson lately, so I’m leaning toward Dariush here, particularly as I think his wrestling ability will help him to win rounds.
Pick: Beneil Dariush wins by decision.
Matt Schnell vs Rogerio Bontorin
This flyweight fight was promoted to the main card on short notice and sees Schnell coming off a split decision win over Tyson Nam, while Bontorin was KO’d by Kai Kara-France just a couple of months ago.
I never like to see a fighter return so soon after a loss like that, although the plus side for Bontorin is that, much like himself, Schnell has never been much of a finisher on the feet, and furthermore has also been knocked out a few times in the past.
Schnell will have a 3″ height and reach advantage though and he’s the more fundamentally sound striker and can make solid use of the jab, while Bontorin is more likely to load up and look to land something big.
The ground game is where these two have their greatest level of success though, as demonstrated by Bontorin’s 11 submission from 16 career wins, while Schnell has 8 from 15 and secured two of those by arm triangle back-to-back in the UFC.
I prefer Schnell here as I think his cleaner, more methodical striking from range gives him an edge that he can take advantage of, while he can hold his own on the mat too on his way to a decision win.
Pick: Matt Schnell wins by decision.
Katlyn Chookagian vs Viviane Araujo
A decision win over Cynthia Calvillo helped Chookagian hold down the No.2 spot at flyweight heading into this fight, while Araujo has climbed up to No.7 courtesy of back-to-back wins against Roxanne Modafferi and Montana De La Rosa.
Chookagian is a striker who doesn’t really pack a great deal of punch, but she is nonetheless proven to be very effective at fighting her way to wins on the scorecards thanks to her cardio and volume striking, which enables her to stay busy even if it’s not particularly effective, which appears to catch the eye of the judges.
Aruajo is the shorter, more powerful fighter here who will look to be aggressive on the feet and also is quite capable on the mat, but I think Chookagian is going to be able to outlast her over three rounds with her consistent offensive output to secure another win on points.
Pick: Katlyn Chookagian wins by decision.
Shane Burgos vs Edson Barboza
There’s plenty of firepower on offer here, so this should be an entertaining way to start the main card on pay-per-view tomorrow night.
Burgos has the more limited striking arsenal of the two, but he does have very solid boxing ability and he’ll push a hard pace with high volume punching that’s backed up by significant power.
Barboza has more weapons at his disposal though and he has that ability to throw hard, fast and accurate kicks effortlessly, which means his opponents always have to be on their guard.
As such, Barboza has the edge technically here, but he has a style that’s most effective when he has time and space to operate, which is something that Burgos won’t afford him as he’ll constantly be marching forward and keeping punches in his face.
Burgos can be hit, which is always a concern against someone like Barboza, but he’s the fresher man of the two at this stage in his career and I think his pressure will dent the Brazilian’s offensive potency enough that he can strike his way to a decision victory.
Pick: Shane Burgos wins by decision.
Prelims (Predicted winners in bold)
Ronaldo Souza vs Andre Muniz
Lando Vannata vs Mike Gundry
Andrea Lee vs Antonia Shevchenko
Jordan Wright vs Jamie Pickett
Kevin Aguilar vs Tucker Lutz
Gina Mazany vs. Priscila Cachoeira
Christos Giagos vs Joel Alvarez