UFC 262 Main & Co-Main Preview & Predictions
By Cathal Geeney
Charles ‘Do Bronx’ Oliveira v ‘Iron’ Michael Chandler
The 155-pound strap, vacated by Khabib Nurmagomedov back in October of last year, will be raised once again as Charles Oliveira and Michael Chandler face off for the vacant title.
The path to competing for a title could not be much more different for both fighters. It has taken Oliveira twenty-seven UFC fights, an eight-fight win streak, a record number of UFC submissions (14), and most recently a victory over former lightweight interim titleholder, Tony Ferguson, to get to this point. Whereas for Chandler, a single UFC victory was enough to earn him the shot at gold.
The stars have aligned perfectly for Chandler. He was presented with the opportunity to co-main a Conor McGregor PPV and took his chance perfectly with a first round, Performance of the Night, knockout over Dan Hooker. The former Bellator lightweight champion also benefitted from Dustin Poirier opting to face off against McGregor for a third time over a title shot.
Regardless, Chandler will not be asking any questions as to how he got here, he will be focusing solely on the task at hand this weekend. And the American has shown that he has all the tools at his disposal to become the next undisputed champion.
The thirty-five-year-old will look to stay light on his feet, throw plenty of feints and get in and out. Standing at 5’8”, Chandler isn’t particularly big for a lightweight, but he manages distance very well, relying on his speed and footwork to close distance and land big shots. And he demonstrated in his last meeting with Hooker, that he has got definite one-shot knockout power.
The Missouri native will also lean on his wrestling credentials to mix in takedown attempts with his striking. Even if Chandler doesn’t follow through with the takedown, the threat can force his opponent to take a back step or drop their guard, allowing him to go head hunting. If Chandler can manage to land a takedown, he can rely on his NCAA Division 1 wrestling experience to control his opponent.
Oliveira is also a very accomplished grappler. He is constantly active, both off his back or in top position. So, it will be interesting to see if Chandler wants to risk taking this contest to the canvas. Oliveira will not accept holding his guard off his back. The Brazilian will throw his legs up and fight for an opportunistic submission, latching on to any limb he can. The third degree BJJ blackbelt will smoothly transition from submission attempt to submission attempt until he manages to sink one in.
In his last outing against Ferguson, he comprehensively outwrestled El Cucuy, amassing a control time of 11 minutes and 39 seconds and going incredibly close to getting a submission.
In addition to his grappling skills, Do Bronx is a very exciting striker. He looks to land unorthodox shots; expect to see some spinning or flying attempts. Do not be fooled by the flamboyant nature of Oliveira’s attack though, as he also has solid fundamentals. The São Paulo born fighter has a strong jab and leg kick which he can use to establish himself before leaning to his more eccentric offence.
Chandler made a massive statement in his UFC debut. Entering the octagon as an underdog, he answered many critics (including myself) and looked incredibly sharp, controlling the fight with his pressure and aggression. It would be foolish to write Chandler off again. I expect he will look to outwork Oliveira early and there is every chance his pressure and power could prove to be too much.
With that being said, I believe Oliveira is destined to become a champion and has all the skills to do so. In his thirty-nine professional fight career, he has continued to improve and develop, and this should work in his favour on Saturday night. I’m predicting that Oliveira will become the next Brazilian UFC champion in Houston this weekend.
Charles Oliveira (by submission)
Tony ‘El Cucuy’ Ferguson v Beneil Dariush
The co-main event is an exciting lightweight bout which sees former interim champion, Tony Ferguson, take on the number nine ranked contender, Beneil Dariush.
It has been a difficult period for Ferguson. Just over twelve months ago, he was being touted as the next lightweight champion. And now, after a difficult, but exciting loss to Gaethje, followed by a grappling domination at the hands of Charles Oliveira, El Cucuy is staring down the barrel of a three-fight losing streak.
Despite this, Ferguson is still a formidable force and shouldn’t be overlooked this weekend. The Ultimate Fighter Season 13 winner always leaves everything in the octagon and is incredibly difficult to stop. Even in his last outing, when it looked like his shoulder was about to pop, he resisted the temptation to tap.
El Cucuy is a wild, unorthodox striker. He likes to switch stances and put on pressure with straight punches while mixing in kicks to the legs, body and head of his opponent. Constantly coming forward, Ferguson won’t relent until he breaks his opponent. This can be to his detriment at times as he can be overly reckless and leave himself somewhat exposed.
Ferguson is an experienced wrestler and is also a Black Belt in BJJ, training under Eddie Bravo. The Mexican American is generally comfortable anywhere the fight goes. Impressively, he has managed both submission and knock out (an upkick KO) victories off his back.
Despite this, Dariush will have been very encouraged by the success Oliveira had in controlling Ferguson in top position. It was surprising to see Ferguson being out grappled so comfortably, and I would not be surprised to see Beneil incorporate this into his game plan.
Currently riding a six-fight win streak, Dariush will see this fight as an opportunity to propel himself up the rankings and emerge as a legitimate contender at 155 pounds.
There are a number of similarities between the fighters which only serves to add to the intrigue for this one. Like his opposite number, Beneil has a tendency to throw caution to the wind as he comes forward, firing off powerful punches from a southpaw stance. He often looks to be rocked and yet manages to ride out the adversity on sheer will to win.
Dariush is also a very accomplished grappler holding numerous BJJ world titles. The Iranian has implemented this with great success of late, landing fourteen successful takedowns in his last six outings, without once being taken down himself.
This should prove to be an extremely interesting contest. Particularly to see if this bout plays out striking on the feet or whether they opt to take it to the mat. If it remains on the feet, this will surely turn into a slugfest and could be a classic.
On the canvas, Dariush could have the edge, particularly based on recent performances.
Despite this, I don’t believe Ferguson is finished just yet. I’m going to take El Cucuy to ride out any early struggles and get himself back in the win column in a highly entertaining fight.