UFC 262 has the chance to be a storybook moment in the brilliant career of Michael Chandler. The former Bellator star finally has his chance for UFC gold, competing for the vacant lightweight title in the main event of Saturday’s UFC 262 card. But one major obstacle stands in Chandler’s path.
Chandler’s opponent, Charles Oliveira, has decimated opponents in his last eight fights, and he is primed to win his ninth in a row—and start his own long-awaited championship—with a victory against Chandler.
Despite only having one title fight, the main card for 262 is full of compelling bouts. Fight fans have certainly enjoyed seeing cards with multiple titles on the line, but top to bottom, this is an outstanding card that builds perfectly to the main event.
Here are the most pressing questions entering UFC 262:
Chandler or Oliveira?
Michael Chandler is a three-time Bellator lightweight champion. Though he came into the UFC and dazzled with a dominant performance in his debut against Dan Hooker in January, he now faces an opponent in Charles Oliveira who is peaking at the perfect time.
Oliveira (30–8, 1 NC) mauled Tony Ferguson in his last bout in December. The combination of his striking and Brazilian jiu-jitsu is extremely dangerous, and he is catching Chandler (22–5) at an opportune moment.
Chandler has gone through the gantlet, and it would be wonderful to see him win UFC gold. But we also saw him start to stumble at the end of his Bellator run, with Patricio Pitbull taking the torch as the promotion’s top lightweight fighter. Oliveira is on the rise, ascending to the level that people initially expected of him, and we will learn this Saturday whether Chandler arrived in the UFC just a little too late.
Oliveira is going to show he is a force to be reckoned with, and he will make it a point to say Dustin Poirier’s name after the fight.
The prediction: Saturday is Oliveira’s crowning moment. Not only will he win, but Oliveira will also finish Chandler. Brazil is going to have another big, booming moment in MMA, and it starts this Saturday with Oliveira winning the UFC lightweight title.
Is it better for the UFC if Chandler wins? Or Oliveira?
Don’t kid yourself: There will be a plethora of people in the UFC thrilled to see one of its seasoned veterans defeat a top outsider.
Chandler winning makes the UFC money, so this is a win-win situation. But what promotion wouldn’t love to bring in a dominant fighter from another organization and see him humbled by one of their own stars? That will certainly be the case with an Oliveira win at 262.
Will Tony Ferguson bounce back with a victory?
In a fight that is destined to be hard-hitting and compelling, Tony Ferguson faces off against Beneil Dariush in lightweight action.
Ferguson (25–5) has dropped his past two fights, losing both convincingly. This is another bad matchup for him, as Dariush (20-4-1) is a grinder with surprising power in his hands. Coupled with the way Ferguson has been so thoroughly defeated, it appears he is trending in the wrong direction. Until we see him look like the Tony Ferguson of old, there is significant reason to doubt him in this bout.
If Dariush wins by knockout, it is not out of the realm of possibility to think Ferguson is finished in the UFC.
What makes 262 such a complete card?
The first three fights on 262 also offer some action. While there are no significant ramifications to the bantamweight bout pitting Matt Schnell against Rogerio Bontorin, it should serve as a hot open to the card. When he is on, Schnell (15–5) is incredible to watch. Bontorin (16–3, 1 NC) needs the win, so this is a clash of two fighters who will put on an entertaining bout.
The second fight is similar, a meeting of featherweights as Shane Burgos squares off against the great Edson Barboza. Burgos (13–2) has been captivating since his Cage Fury debut in 2014, and he would benefit greatly from a victory against Barboza (21–9), who has lost five of his last seven. Even without the high stakes of a title bout, this should be another solid fight.
Also, the women’s flyweight fight pitting Katlyn Chookagian against Viviane Araujo should help add some clarity in the division in terms of whether Chookagian is making another run at the belt or Araujo is the future of the division. Chookagian (15–4) has split her last four fights, and as the second-ranked fighter in the division, she needs the win to make a push for a rematch against flyweight champ Valentina Shevchenko. Araujo (10–2) is seventh in the division but primed to jump into the top-five with a win.
Chookagian is a very good fighter, but she is in trouble if this goes to the ground. If it plays out as expected, they will stand-and-trade, and this bout will likely end in a decision for Araujo.
How will 262 play a factor in Antonina Shevchenko’s future?
In addition to Chookagian-Araujo, Antonina Shevchenko meets a very tough opponent in Andrea Lee in a second women’s flyweight fight in the prelims.
Lee (11–5) has dropped her last three bouts, but Shevchenko (9–2) has not fared much better, splitting her last four, including dropping a decision to Chookagian. This fight will provide a clear indicator of where Shevchenko stands in the division.
Stylistically, Lee is a tough matchup. Expect to see more kickboxing here than grappling, and a victory will be a big stepping-stone for whoever wins.
The women’s flyweight champion, of course, is the dominant Valentina Shevchenko. Could we ever see Valentina against Antonina? Or, if Antonina earns this win and then picks up one more solid victory, would that trigger a series of events where Valentina goes back to bantamweight to challenge Amanda Nunes? At this point, that is the only real fight for Valentina.
Justin Barrasso can be reached at JBarrasso@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @JustinBarrasso.