UFC 262 lost A LOT of punch when its five-round co-main event (the first of that sort in the promotion’s history) between Nate Diaz and Leon Edwards was pushed back to UFC 263 due to a minor injury sustained by Diaz in training.
Nevertheless, there are still 12 fights on tap Saturday night and winning bets all pay the same. I don’t have a ton of opinions for this card, but we’ll break down the headliner and the new co-main event and give out a few selections.
With Khabib Nurmagomedov seemingly in retirement to stay, the vacated lightweight belt will be awarded to Saturday’s winner between Charles ‘Do Bronx’ Oliveira and Michael Chandler.
As of Friday morning, most books had the 31-year-old Oliveira (30-8-0-1 MMA, 18-8-0-1 UFC) installed as a -135 favorite, with Chandler listed as a +115 underdog. The total was 1.5 rounds (‘over’ -145, ‘under’ +115).
Oliveria has won eight consecutive fights with seven finishes. The Brazilian has bagged six Performance of the Night bonuses during his current surge. Oliveria has taken out the likes of Clay Guida, Jim Miller, Jared Gordon, Kevin Lee and Tony Ferguson.
Oliveira made his Octagon debut with a submission win over Darren Elkins on Aug. 1 of 2010 at UFC San Diego. He went 2-2 with one no-contest (originally a submission win for ‘Do Bronx,’ but the result was changed later due to an illegal knee) in the lightweight loop before deciding to drop down to 145 pounds.
From 2012-2016, Oliveria went 7-5 in 12 scraps but missed weight four times, including a nine-pound miss in his featherweight finale, which was a submission defeat to Ricardo Lamas.
But on this second run at 155 pounds, Oliveira has compiled a 9-1 record with the lone loss coming by second-round knockout to perennial contender Paul Felder.
Oliveira is tied with Donald ‘Cowboy’ Cerrone for the most career finishes in UFC history with 16. He is the promotion’s all-time leader in career submissions with 14, which is three more than the rest of the pack that’s led by Demian Maia’s 11. Oliveira is second in UFC history in performance bonuses with 16, trailing only Cerrone’s 18.
Chandler (22-5 MMA, 1-0 UFC) enjoyed a spectacular Octagon debut, finishing Dan ‘Hangman’ Hooker via first-round KO in 150 seconds. It was only the fourth time Hooker had been finished in his 30-fight career and just the second time he’d been KO’d.
The 35-year-old Chandler won the Bellator lightweight belt three different times. He owns a 6-5 record in 11 five-round title fights.
Chandler first won the belt with a fourth-round submission victory over former UFC lightweight kingpin Eddie Alvarez at Bellator 58 in November of 2011. After a pair of successful title defenses, Chandler lost the belt via split decision in a rematch with Alvarez.
According to MMADecisions, however, 10 media members scored the bout 48-47 for Chandler while only three media members had it 48-47 for Alvarez, who vacated the title to join the UFC after that victory.
Chandler’s next two fights were against Will Brooks, who won the first scrap for the Bellator interim lightweight championship by split decision. In a rematch at Bellator 131, Brooks scored a fourth-round KO over Chandler.
After Chandler posted back-to-back wins with impressive finishes, he got another crack at the lightweight strap at Bellator 157. He took full advantage with a first-round KO win over Patricky Freire. Next, Chandler retained the belt with a split-decision triumph over former UFC lightweight kingpin Benson Henderson.
However, Chandler lost the belt again his next time out via first-round TKO (doctor stoppage) vs. Brent Primus. He won his next three fights, including a revenge victory over Primus by unanimous decision to capture Bellator gold for a third time.
Chandler lost the strap right away, though, falling to Freire by first-round KO. His time in Bellator ended with back-to-back wins via first-round finishes over Sidney Outlaw and Henderson (again).
After Thursday’s UFC 262 press conference, Oliveira and Chandler had an intense, albeit respectful, staredown:
Chandler was fortunate to get a title shot just one fight into his UFC tenure, but his timing was perfect. Dustin Poirier turned down the fight with Oliveira to complete his trilogy (and most importantly, make WAYYYY more money) with Conor McGregor this summer. Nurmagomedov retired to vacate the belt and the promotion presumably passed on Justin Gaethje because he’s off the loss to ‘The Eagle.’
I feel like Chandler will have the advantage when the fight is standing, but it certainly won’t be a lopsided advantage. Likewise, I think Oliveira wants to get the fight to the ground to utilize his next-level Brazilian jiu-jitsu skills. That task won’t be easy, though, because I feel like Chandler will have more strength in clinch situations.
Whatever the case, I think the fight ends early with Chandler scoring a KO or Oliveira locking up a submission. ‘Under’ 1.5 rounds has been a winner at a 9-5 clip for ‘Do Bronx’ in his last 14 Octagon appearances. Chandler’s last four fights have ended in the opening frame and six of his last eight scraps have ended in Round 1.
Chandler-Oliveira Pick: Three Units on ‘Under’ 1.5 rounds for a +115 return.
In the co-main event, Tony ‘El Cucuy’ Ferguson will attempt to avoid a three-fight losing streak when he takes on Beneil Dariush. As of early this afternoon, most books had Dariush (20-4-1 MMA, 14-4-1 UFC) as a favorite in the -155 to 175 range. Ferguson was +145 on the comeback at most spots.
Dariush apparently had a tough weight cut, missing his mark in his first attempt Friday morning when he tipped the scales at 156.5 pounds. He returned later and although he required the towel and taking off all of his clothes, he did made his mark.
Ferguson (25-5 MMA, 15-3 UFC) had his 12-fight winning streak snapped last summer in a fifth-round KO loss to Gaethje. In his bounce-back scrap against Oliveira at UFC 256, ‘Do Bronx’ won by unanimous decision.
Dariush has won six consecutive fights, but this is a big step up in competition for the 32-year-old Iranian American. His most notable career victories have come over Michael Johnson, Jim Miller, Carlos Diego Ferreira (twice), Drew Dober and James Vick.
These fighters have three common opponents. Johnson beat Ferguson via unanimous decision, but ‘The Menace’ lost a split decision to Dariush. Ferguson won a pair of bonuses for Performance of the Night and Fight of the Night in his second-round submission win over Edson Barboza in what was a bloody battle from start to finish.
However, Dariush lost to Barboza by second-round KO (flying knee). The third common foe is Ramsey Nijem, who Ferguson dusted by first-round KO to win Season 13 of The Ultimate Fighter. On the flip side, Nijem defeated Dariush by first-round KO.
As much as I lean to the notion that Ferguson’s best days are behind him at the age of 37, his moxy at Thursday’s presser certainly had me questioning that thought process. After all, there’s zero shame in losing to Gaethje or Oliveira in the past year, and look at The Boogey Man’s wins during his 12-fight winning streak: Cerrone by first-round KO, Pettis by second-round TKO, Kevin Lee via third-round submission, Rafael dos Anjos by UD, Barboza by second-round submission and Josh Thomson by UD.
Pettis and RDA are former UFC lightweight champions, Thomson is the former Strikeforce lightweight champion and Lee and Cerrone have both fought for 155-pound gold in the UFC. Dariush doesn’t have one victory that can measure up to any of those triumphs by Ferguson.
My thoughts early in the week were that the price was too expensive for Dariush, but my lean was to him and thought I might use him in a parlay. I’ve changed my mind.
PICK: One-half unit on Ferguson as a +145 underdog.
I have two more picks: First, let’s put Two Units on Edson Barboza as a +120 underdog vs. Shane Burgos. Barboza is 1-1 since dropping down to the featherweight loop, but 16 of 18 media members scored his split-decision loss to Dan Ige in favor of Barboza (and so did I and I’m still irate about the BS decision from the judges!).
This is a monster step up in competition for Burgos, who has produced his best wins over Charles Rosa, Cub Swanson and Makwan Amirkhani (which is obviously a ho-hum list!) Barboza just beat Amirkhani and he’s taken out perennial lightweight contenders such as Felder, Hooker, Pettis, Gilbert Melendez, Ross Pearson and Evan Dunham. Pettis is a former UFC champ and Melendez is the former two-time Strikeforce lightweight kingpin.
For one unit, let’s go with a two-fight parlay that includes Oliveira at a -130 price and Katlyn Chookagian (vs. Viviane Araujo) at a -136 price (FanDuel). My parlay calculator has a win on that parlay bringing home a +207 return.
Folks, best of luck with your bets and enjoy the show!