The UFC is back in Texas for the first time in over a year. On May 15, the Octagon hits the Toyota Center in Houston for a lightweight championship main event between Charles Oliveira and Michael Chandler, who’s looking to join his former rival Eddie Alvarez as having the distinction of winning 155-pound titles in Bellator and the UFC. The co-main event pits former interim UFC lightweight champ Tony Ferguson against the surging Beneil Dariush in a very important crossroads matchup.
Unfortunately, this pay-per-view lost Nate Diaz vs. Leon Edwards and Jack Hermansson vs. Edmen Shahbazyan to postponement, but it’s still nevertheless a very good card that should be incredibly fun to watch. Before fight night arrives in the Lone Star State, let’s look at some of the fighters on UFC 262 who are poised to produce big performances and high scores for your DraftKings fantasy MMA lineups.
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Charles Oliveira ($8,700) vs. Michael Chandler ($7,500) - Lightweights
‘Do Bronx’ has persevered through disappointing losses and weight cutting problems (at featherweight) to become a top contender in the prime of his career. The 31-year-old Brazilian has won a whopping eight consecutive fights, perhaps none more impressive than his three-round domination of Tony Ferguson at UFC 256. Known for his historically great submission game, Oliveira has also picked up knockouts over Nik Lentz and Jared Gordon during this stretch. Chandler is one of Bellator MMA’s greatest ever fighters and he finally made his foray into the UFC back in January, knocking out Dan Hooker in the opening round. He possesses a devastating right hand to go with his strong wrestling, and during his ten years in Bellator he racked up wins against the likes of Eddie Alvarez, Benson Henderson twice, Patricky ‘Pitbull’ Freire twice, David Rickels twice, and Goiti Yamauchi.
This may not be the top two ranked contenders in the division but that doesn’t mean this isn’t an awesome, difficult to predict contest. Chandler has the obvious edge in knockout power, but for his wrestling credentials he may be wary of getting into too much of a tangle with such a vaunted grappler. Oliveira also has underrated strength and offensive wrestling, not to mention his dangerous Muay Thai striking. I’m going with Oliveira to win UFC gold in what should be a fascinating and exciting fight.
Number of note: 14. Oliveira has 14 submission finishes, which is the all-time record in UFC history. Getting Chandler to tap out would be truly historic, as none of Chandler’s five losses have come via submission.
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Beneil Dariush ($8,600) vs. Tony Ferguson ($7,600) - Lightweights
Dariush has won six in a row and looks better than ever before. He came into the UFC as an extraordinary grappler but he showcased his striking creativity and knockout power in his brutal finishes over Drakkar Klose (who hurt Dariush right before the KO) and Scott Holtzman. In his last outing he picked up a grueling three-round decision in a rematch vs. Diego Ferreira, in which he hurt Ferreira early and outgrappled him for the victory. Ferguson has had the misfortune of winning 12 straight fights yet due to multiple cancellations for various reasons, never actually fought for the undisputed title. That elusive fight with Khabib Nurmagomedov won’t ever happen, but that’s the least of Ferguson’s concerns at the moment. That stretch that featured notable victories over Donald Cerrone, Kevin Lee, Edson Barboza, and Rafael dos Anjos has given way to consecutive losses to Justin Gaethje and Charles Oliveira, so while he’s beaten a who’s who of the best lightweights over the years, one more defeat may put him out of title contention for good.
This fight is largely dependent on how much you believe Ferguson has declined. If you made this matchup a couple of years ago, Dariush’s pronounced cardio issues would’ve been enough to justify picking Ferguson and his whirlwind of offense. But the wars look to have caught up with Ferguson and Oliveira showed that he can be controlled and dominated on the ground, where Dariush is at his strongest. I still give Ferguson a chance to flash some of that old magic again considering how potent his striking can be, but I believe he’s on the downside and Dariush is catching him at the right time. I’ll take Beneil to fend off some nervy third round moments and prevail in what would be his biggest win to date.
Number of note: 0. If this fight goes to the ground it won’t be on Ferguson’s terms, as he’s not completed a takedown (and scarcely attempted them) since Gleison Tibau way back in 2015. Dariush meanwhile has gotten 14 takedowns during his current win streak and will surely look to put Ferguson on his back when they fight.
Viviane Araujo ($7,400) vs. Katlyn Chookagian ($8,800) - Women’s Flyweights
As women’s flyweight desperately searches for new contenders for champion Valentina Shevchenko to face, Viviane Araujo may be a name to watch. The Brazilian has won four of her five UFC fights, including decisions over Roxanne Modafferi and Montana De La Rosa over her last two bouts. She began her career at strawweight, went to bantamweight for her UFC debut, and has campaigned at 125 pounds ever since. Chookagian is a former title challenger who’s bested several of the top contenders in the division, including Joanne Calderwood, Jennifer Maia, and most recently Cynthia Calvillo.
The two concerns I would have for Araujo are her tendency to fade in round three and her five-inch height disadvantage against Chookagian, who likes to fight on the outside and has a knack for winning close striking battles at range. Otherwise I see Araujo just overpowering Katlyn by landing the heavier shots and getting several takedowns (with extended top control time) on her way to a vital victory.
Number of note: 51. Chookagian’s takedown defense success rate is just 51% through 12 UFC fights. Nine of her opponents have taken her down at least once. Araujo’s takedown success rate is 64% and she’s gotten four of her five UFC foes to the mat at least once.
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Edson Barboza ($7,800) vs. Shane Burgos ($8,400) - Featherweights
Barboza made a name for himself as a fearsome lightweight striker, but he made the somewhat surprising decision to drop to featherweight last year after a close defeat to Paul Felder. His 145-pound debut didn’t go as planned, as another close fight went against him on the scorecards when he lost to Dan Ige. His next fight saw him snap his three-fight losing streak with a dominant decision over Makwan Amirkhani. Burgos, who holds a stoppage win over Amirkhani, is looking to bounce back from a difficult but thrilling decision loss to fellow contender Josh Emmett last June. That setback snapped a three-fight winning streak, which included a split decision over veteran Cub Swanson.
This has high potential to deliver Fight of the Night honors. Burgos is the more well-rounded fighter but for the most part he is very much a high-volume striker, which may be both the best and worst approach to this one. ‘Hurricane’ Shane is the more durable, less battleworn of the two fighters but not the better striker. Barboza can lace him up with leg kicks and body kicks, plus usually it takes elite wrestlers (e.g. Khabib, Kevin Lee) to repeatedly take him down. I like Barboza for the upset and I like that $7,800 value given the strong likelihood for fireworks in this one.
Number of note: 13. In addition to his seven KO/TKO wins over his 24-fight UFC career, Barboza has recorded 13 knockdowns, which is tied for 8th most in promotion history.
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