UFC 262 Predictions: Bleacher Report Staff Main Card Picks
UFC 262 goes down Saturday in Houston, Texas, and it looks like it's going to be an enjoyable night for fight fans.
The card will be topped by a lightweight showdown between streaking contenders Charles Oliveira and Michael Chandler, the winner of which will assume the throne recently vacated by Khabib Nurmagomedov.
The card was originally expected to then go to a welterweight fight between Leon Edwards and Nate Diaz, but that fight was bumped to UFC 263 next month after Diaz suffered a minor injury. With that shakeup, a lightweight fight between top-10 contenders Tony Ferguson and Beneil Dariush was promoted to the co-main event spot.
Beyond those two lightweight fights, the UFC 262 main card is rounded out by a women's flyweight fight between Katlyn Chookagian and Viviane Araujo, a featherweight fight between Edson Barboza and Shane Burgos and a men's flyweight bout between Matt Schnell and Rogerio Bontorin.
As always, there's no way to know how any of these matchups will shake out until fight night, but the B/R combat sports team has you covered with predictions for each UFC 262 main card bout.
Charles Oliveira vs. Michael Chandler
Scott Harris: I wouldn't expect this to go to the ground, although if it does, I'd expect Oliveira to have the upper hand. Oliveira, who as of Wednesday was a slight -134 betting favorite on DraftKings, sits second among active UFC fighters with 2.8 submission attempts per 15 minutes. (And of course, he owns the all-time UFC record for submission wins with 14).
Chandler's defensive wrestling is strong, and surely he'll be ready to defend. Nevertheless, he'll want to stay out of that danger zone and strike. Despite his debut only lasting two minutes and 30 seconds, Chandler nevertheless landed 17 of 24 strikes, all of them counting as significant. Do Bronx can be lured into a brawl, and this time he'll fall under Chandler's punching power. Sound the mild upset alarms and crown Chandler the champion after what can only be described as a meteoric rise to the top.
Chandler by TKO, Rd. 2
Tom Taylor: As I covered in my pre-fight breakdown for this fight, Charles Oliveira is probably a better fighter overall than Michael Chandler, but his inconsistency is hard to ignore. Yes, he's on a six-fight win streak, but his record is littered with bizarre losses—many of which occurred in fights he should have won on paper. For that reason alone, I can't confidently pick him to win a fight of this magnitude.
Chandler by KO, Rd. 2
Lyle Fitzsimmons: OK, I'll say it. Charles Oliveira is my favorite UFC fighter. I like his style. I like his flair. And I love the fact that he finally landed a title bout atop a pay-per-view show. I think he'll be ready to put on a show, and while I agree that Chandler is as legit as they come, I still think my guy gets it to the floor and finds a finish after a grueling back-and-forth affair.
Oliveira by submission, Rd. 4
Tony Ferguson vs. Beneil Dariush
Scott Harris: Ferguson is facing hard times, and that frenetic style of his may be taking its toll after years of punishment. On the other hand, losing back-to-back fights to Oliveira and former interim champ Justin Gaethje may not be a fair sample size.
Dariush is a very good fighter and has been for a long time. He's a smart competitor and a very accomplished grappler currently on a six-fight win streak. But on the feet, he's a pressure fighter through and through—does that sound familiar? Both men will look to come forward, and a Fight of the Night-caliber performance will ensue. El Cucuy has more experience in this area, and he'll come out on top—assuming, of course, that his chin can still keep him upright.
Ferguson by TKO, Rd. 2
Tom Taylor: A year ago, picking Beneil Dariush to beat Tony Ferguson would have gotten you laughed out of town, but a lot can happen in a year. Ferguson is now on a tough, two-fight skid, which has led many fans—myself included—to speculate he's on the decline. Throw in the fact that Dariush seemingly has the perfect skill set to beat even a prime Ferguson, and you can probably figure out which way I'm leaning. Dariush controls the fight on the feet and the mat en route to the biggest win of his career.
Dariush by unanimous decision
Lyle Fitzsimmons: The ever-erudite Mr. Taylor alluded to it, and I second the emotion wholeheartedly. This will be as much about what Ferguson has got left as anything else. He fought two world-class guys and lost in 2020. No shame there. But he took frightful beatings along the way and showed little resistance. I don't think Freddie Roach fixes that.
Dariush by split decision
Katlyn Chookagian vs. Viviane Araujo
Scott Harris: Even if she were to magically grow a horseshoe mustache, Chookagian isn't going to be confused with Chuck Liddell any time soon. To put that more like a normal person would, her boxing game is predicated not on power but on points and precision—and it's not a particularly fan-friendly style. At 5'9", she'll have a size advantage over the 5'5" Araujo, who could use her speed and quick hands to make up the difference. There are two matadors in this one but no bull. Here's guessing Chookagian racks up riding time in the clinch to give her an edge over what will essentially amount to a stalemate on the feet.
Chookagian via split decision
Tom Taylor: Katlyn Chookagian is a solid fighter, but I have to wonder how she keeps ending up on main cards. A whopping 12 of her 15 wins have come by way of decision—and not particularly exciting decisions, either.
I think that unfortunate trend continues at UFC 262. Viviane Araujo has proven herself to be a finisher with seven stoppages in 10 wins—and she could add to that tally this weekend—but it's more likely she finds herself on the wrong end of an underwhelming Chookagian jab-fest.
Chookagian by unanimous decision
Lyle Fitzsimmons: I'm hardly in the Taylor/Harris stratosphere when it comes to cashflow, but I'll confidently wager my weekend B/R proceeds on the idea that this one will not be in the running for a Performance of the Night bonus. With little to choose between dull and duller, we'll go with the bigger and more street-credded (hey...I made up a word!) principal.
Chookagian by unanimous decision
Edson Barboza vs. Shane Burgos
Scott Harris: This is one of those shoot-them-all-and-let-God-sort-them-out kinds of fights. This is Barboza's third fight at featherweight, and he's gone 1-1 since. His power may be a bit diminished at 145 pounds, though, and he doesn't have a significant size advantage over Burgos (both men are 5'11" with a 75-inch reach). Burgos will close the distance to get inside of Barboza's lethal kicks and hand Barboza the fourth knockout loss of his career.
Burgos by TKO, Rd. 3
Tom Taylor: This is going to be a great fight. Barboza will be looking to keep his distance and land plenty of his patented kicks, and Burgos will be applying constant pressure as he looks for a fight-ending overhand or hook.
In the past, we've seen Barboza wilt when his opponents effectively apply pressure—Michael Johnson arguably did it better than anyone—but at this stage of his career, I think he's experienced enough to deal with Burgos. Barboza wins and hopefully gets booked for a fight with Zabit Magomedsharipov or Yair Rodriguez next.
Barboza by unanimous decision
Lyle Fitzsimmons: Here's a fight only a fool wouldn't love. A dynamic and athletic kicker paired with a grinding, aggressive puncher. I agree with Tom that the Johnson fight might be a worthwhile precedent, and I foresee Burgos getting to where he needs to be and doing damage from that point forward. Call it a highlight-reel stoppage.
Burgos by KO, Rd. 3
Matt Schnell vs. Rogerio Bontorin
Scott Harris: Battle of two submission artists right here. These two replace Jack Hermansson and Edmen Shahbazyan on the main card after a member of Hermansson's team tested positive for COVID-19. Schnell has quietly assembled a solid UFC resume, with eight tapout wins overall to his name. After losing his first two fights with the promotion several years ago, he's won five of his last six. Bontorin is sort of the opposite, winning his first three UFC contests before dropping his last two, though he's still dangerous with 11 pro submission wins on his resume. Look for a washout here. A boring washout.
Schnell via unanimous decision
Tom Taylor: I'm going to have to disagree with my man Scott on this one. He's anticipating a boring washout, but my crystal ball is forecasting an exciting and competitive fight.
That being said, I do agree that Schnell will come out on top. He gets the better of a scramble-filled grappling match en route to an obvious win.
Schnell by unanimous decision
Lyle Fitzsimmons: No offense, Scott, but I feel the pull to Tom's side of things here, too. While I concede that a snore is a possibility, I think this one comes in a level or two above and instead remains compelling throughout 15 minutes as each guy chases and fends off finishers. Not a Fight of the Night, perhaps, but not the worst of the bunch either.
Schnell by split decision
Statistics courtesy of UFCStats.com unless otherwise noted.
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