The new king of the lightweight division will be crowned at UFC 262 when Charles Oliveira takes on Michael Chandler for the vacant 155lbs title.
203 days after Khabib Nurmagomedov retired, the number three and four ranked fighters in the division go head to head to be crowned champion but the division will be far from settled after this fight.
In the co-main event both Tony Ferguson and Beneil Dariush will bring the chaos as both men enter a crossroads phase of their career, trying to get to the top but having to cross a top guy on their path.
Last week at UFC Vegas 26 we went 6/9 on an interesting card with one perfect pick to move to 308/482 (63.9%) with 134 perfect picks (43.51%).
Shane Burgos (13-2) vs Edson Barboza (21-9) – (Featherweight/145lbs)
My pick for fight of the night here as two absolute bangers meet in the featherweight division to open up the main card. Burgos was beaten by Josh Emmett in his last fight at UFC Vegas 3, with both guys trading absolute bombs on the feet, while Barboza “lost” his featherweight debut to Dan Ige before destroying Makwan Amirkhani at UFC Fight Island 5.
Both of these guys are expert strikers, with Burgos coming with a fairly heavy boxing approach while Barboza is as good a kickboxer as there is in the UFC. Both guys use great pressure to overwhelm their opponents and are happy to hold their ground in the centre of the cage rather than back up. Both guys have genuine KO power, but one thing about Burgos is that he is hittable.
He’s as durable as they come though and while he has the ability to get the knockout, Barboza’s ability to use kicks to keep range and some decent grappling in his arsenal too I think he takes a super close fight.
PICK – Edson Barboza via Decision
Katlyn Chookagian (15-4) vs Viviane Araujo (10-2) – (Flyweight/125lbs)
A striker’s paradise in the women’s flyweight division here as former title challenger Chookagian looks to make it back-to-back wins for the first time since 2019. Chookagian lost to Valentina Shevchenko before beating Antonina just two months later. She then got knocked out by Jessica Andrade due to a body shot at UFC Fight Island 6 before bouncing back with a decision win over Cynthia Calvillo at UFC 255. Araujo has won her last two in the UFC, beating Montana De La Rosa before a win over Roxanne Modafferi at Fight Island 8.
Chookagian is a great kicker from distance, but showed in her last fight that she’s capable of mixing in some wrestling to her game too. Araujo on the other hand walks her opponents down and uses good striking and clinches to wear her opponent down for two rounds before slowly fading in the third.
This is a really close fight on paper and in the octagon, but I think Chookagian is able to mix it up that little bit more and has no issues with her gas tank so she should be able to outlast Araujo and get the win.
PICK – Katlyn Chookagian via Decision
Matt Schnell (15-5) vs Rogerio Bontorin (16-3) – (Bantamweight/135lbs)
A fun bantamweight fight between two natural flyweights that was bumped up to the main card following a change in the cards. Schnell has won five of his last six fights, with a win over Tyson Nam at UFC Fight Island 8 most recently. Bontorin has lost his last two in a row, including a violent KO loss to Kai-Kara France III as recently as UFC 259.
Schnell is a brilliant grappler, but he’s shown in recent fights that he has got great power on his feet too and solid technique. Bontorin is a very similar fighter, with good skills on the ground backing up his powerful striking technique. On the feet Schnell has a slight power advantage and in the grappling both have the ability to control from the top but not get submitted from the bottom.
Schnell has a great cardio advantage though and in a scrap I expect to be quite scramble-heavy, I think he can keep the pressure up late to get a stoppage.
PICK – Matt Schnell via Knockout, Round 3
Tony Ferguson (26-5) vs Beneil Dariush (20-4-1) – (Lightweight/155lbs)
Enter chaos for this huge lightweight fight between ‘El Cucuy’ Tony Ferguson and the division’s dark horse Beneil Dariush. Ferguson was on a record-breaking 12-fight win streak before getting dominated by both Justin Gaethje and then Charles Oliveira at UFC 256. Dariush on the other hand is on a six-fight win streak including a memorable KO win over Drakkar Klose before a spinning-back fist win over Scott Holtzman at UFC Vegas 6 and a split decision win over Diego Ferreira at UFC Vegas 19.
Ferguson is elite at absolutely everything. He brings total chaos to fights with unrivalled forward pressure, heavy hands with his unorthodox striking and great jiu-jitsu skills from top position or off his back. Dariush is similar, with stunning jiu-jitsu skills now being paired with heavy hands and improved striking of his own. This fight will undoubtedly be wild for as long as it lasts, but Ferguson is still by far the best fighter Dariush has ever fought. The question is which Ferguson turns up; the savage or the new version who can’t take the punishment anymore?
My bets are on the old Ferguson, simply because Dariush isn’t even close to being as good and dangerous as Gaethje and Oliveira are. Dariush will however take encouragement from the fact that Oliveira was able to dominate Ferguson on the mat. Despite that though, I think Ferguson comes through the other side and gets a highlight reel KO win to get back on track.
PICK – Tony Ferguson via Knockout, Round 1
Charles Oliveira (30-8 1NC) vs Michael Chandler (22-5) – (Lightweight/155lbs)
There will be a new lightweight champion crowned this weekend when two styles clash in the main event. Oliveira is on an impressive eight-fight win streak including wins over Kevin Lee and Tony Ferguson, while Chandler is on a three-fight win streak of his own including a vicious knockout win in his company debut against Dan Hooker at UFC 257.
Oliveira is a third-degree Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt, with heavy hands and great volume on the feet too. Chandler on the other hand is a world class wrestler with great power in both his hands to set up those grinding takedowns. Oliveira is a scary proposition for anyone right now, with the most submission wins in UFC history but enough power and range to really cause Chandler problems. Chandler will undoubtedly be looking to put Oliveira on his back foot in a similar way that he did against Hooker but he will need the fight to stay on the feet to have his best chance of winning.
It’s going to be a crazy fight regardless of how it goes, but Oliveira just has so many paths to victory. The one thing we haven’t see from him is if his cardio can hold up for 25 minutes since he’s never gone past a third round before. Despite that, I think he gets it done with a knockdown followed by a submission to become the new champion.
PICK – Charles Oliveira via Submission, Round 2