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%).
We’ll look to improve that record with this 12 fight card and after starting with the early prelims here, we move on to the rest of the prelims here.
Andrea Lee (11-5) vs Antonina Shevchenko (9-2) – (Flyweight/125lbs)
A very fun flyweight fight between two ranked ladies in this one as Lee looks to get off a three-fight skid against the sister of the champion. Lee has dropped three decisions in a row to Joanne Calderwood, Lauren Murphy and most recently Roxanne Modafferi at UFC Vegas 10, while Shevchenko has alternated wins and losses since joining the UFC with a KO win over Ariane Lipski most recently at UFC 255.
Both Lee and Shevchenko are good strikers on the feet but Lee is also a very competent wrestler when it’s needed too. Shevchenko’s biggest struggles have come whenever a fighter puts her on her back, with next to zero bottom game in her arsenal. This issue Lee has is that she definitely prefers to stand and trade, but her lack of real power encourages her opponents to come forward through those strikes.
Shevchenko does have a decent top game of her own though and this is a pretty even fight on paper, but because Shevchenko is likely to push forward more the takedown should be there for her moreso and she can grab a decision win.
PICK – Antonina Shevchenko via Decision
Jordan Wright (11-1) vs Jamie Pickett (11-5) – (Middleweight/185lbs)
An intriguing fight at middleweight between two prospects coming off defeats in their last UFC fight. Wright stopped Isaac Villanueva after just 91 seconds in his debut back at UFC Vegas 7 before being sent to the shadow realm by Joaquin Buckley at UFC 255 last time out, while Pickett’s debut against Tafon Nchukwi was unsuccessful on the judge’s scorecards at UFC Vegas 17.
Wright is a great striker, with great kicks and good footwork around the cage while Pickett is a good striker of his own. The problem for Pickett is that he struggles to lead the fight, with not enough volume and pressure going forward and too easily backed up to the cage. Wright will pressure forward and get those kicks going looking to land his big right hand.
Pickett is a pretty durable opponent and will throw back with heat, but Wright has the power advantage and stylistically this bout suits him more. He should be able to back Pickett up against the cage and I think he could land hard and clean to get a stoppage.
PICK – Jordan Wright via Knockout, Round 2
Lando Vannata (11-5-2) vs Mike Grundy (12-2) – (Featherweight/145lbs)
A very fun clash of styles fight at featherweight between two UFC veterans. Vannata has just two wins from his last eight fights stretching back to 2016, with his most recent fight being a loss to Bobby Green at UFC Vegas 5. Grundy on the other hand was on a nine-fight win streak heading into his last fight, where he was well beaten by Movsar Evloev at Fight Island 3.
Vannata is a striker with decent power on his hands, once dropping Tony Ferguson in a fight, but over the years his level has plateaued while everyone else has continued evolving. Grundy is the polar opposite, with takedowns the sole intention in his mind to then get control from top position and dominate fights. Vannata’s only path to victory is to KO Grundy early or avoid takedowns for the entire fight.
With Grundy’s high level of wrestling and good durability on the feet, it’s highly unlikely that happens and Grundy should cruise to a pretty one-sided decision win.
PICK – Mike Grundy via Decision
Jacare Souza (26-9) vs Andre Muniz (20-4) – (Middleweight/185lbs)
An absolute banger at middleweight as the veteran Jacare Souza steps back into the octagon to take on the hot prospect Andre Muniz. Souza has lost five of his last seven fights, including his last three in a row which ended in a a KO defeat by Kevin Holland at UFC 256, while Muniz has won six-in-a-row including wins over Antonio Arroyo before a submission win over Bartosz Fabinski.
Jacare is a highly-skilled all-rounder with great striking and brilliant jiu-jitsu, while Muniz is a great judo fighter with brilliant submission skills off his back. Souza was able to hold his own in the grappling with Yoel Romero and Chris Weidman in the past and while he’s not the same fighter anymore he’s still not a pushover. He has a clear power advantage on the feet and if Muniz was able to out-grapple him to get a submission it would be the upset of the year.
Muniz’s only path really is to win the grappling exchanges and control on top, but Souza should be able to use his experience, power and solid grappling to get the win via ground and pound.
PICK – Jacare Souza via Knockout, Round 2