Khabib Nurmagomedov dominated UFC’s lightweight division from 2018 to 2020. Now that he has retired and vacated his belt, his reign has finished. On Saturday night, the next era of the division will begin, as Charles Oliveira will fight former Bellator Lightweight Champion Michael Chandler for the vacant UFC Lightweight Championship.
The high-stakes title fight headlines UFC 262, which is set to take place in front of a full-capacity live crowd at the Toyota Center in Houston, Texas, USA.
Here’s a full preview of the evening.
Early Prelims (6:30PM EDT / 5:30PM CDT) (UFC Fight Pass)
Bout 1: Sean Soriano (14-6) vs. Christos Giagos (18-8) (Lightweight)
Making his return to the UFC, Sean Soriano will fight Christos Giagos in the opening fight of the card. Soriano was given the fight after the original opponent for Giagos, Joel Alvarez, withdrew from his bout.
Soriano has strung together a series of wins on the regional scene recently, competing in promotions like UAE Warriors, CFFC and CES.
Giagos last competed in late 2020, where he scored a decision victory over Carlton Minus.
Bout 2: Kevin Aguilar (17-4) vs. Tucker Lutz (11-1) (Featherweight)
Tucker Lutz will make his UFC debut against Kevin Aguilar on the prelims. Lutz is currently on an 11-fight win streak that mostly consists of wins in the regional scene in Maryland, USA. He competed twice on TV show “Dana White’s Contender Series” last year, getting offered a UFC contract after winning for the second time.
Aguilar is potentially in a must-win position on Saturday, as he enters his fight against Lutz on a three-fight losing streak. His last bout was in June, where Charles Rosa scored a split decision win over him.
Bout 3: Gina Mazany (7-4) vs. Priscila Cachoeira (9-3) (Flyweight)
Both coming off a win, Gina Mazany and Priscila Cachoeira will fight on Saturday.
Mazany earned the first win of her second UFC run in November, stopping Rachael Ostovich in the final minute of a fight.
Cachoeira snapped a three-fight losing streak in less than a minute earlier this year, catching Shana Dobson with punches that called an end to their fight.
Prelims (8:00PM EDT / 7:00PM CDT) (ESPN / TSN 5)
Bout 4: Andrea Lee (11-5) vs. Antonina Shevchenko (9-2) (Flyweight)
Andrea Lee will look to break a losing streak when facing Antonina Shevchenko on the prelims.
Lee has lost her last three appearances, dropping scorecards to flyweights. The losing streak was a big change compared to earlier in her career, where she earned three UFC wins amid a seven-fight win streak in total.
Shevchenko bounced back from a loss to Katlyn Chookagian in November, catching Ariane Lipski in the second round of a fight with strikes.
Bout 5: Jamie Pickett (11-5) vs. Jordan Wright (11-1) (Middleweight)
Both coming off a loss, Jamie Pickett and Jordan Wright have been paired for Saturday night.
Wright took his first pro loss in November, getting finished by Joaquin Buckley in the second round of a fight. Just months before then, he succeeded in his UFC debut with a quick win against Ike Villanueva.
Pickett lost his UFC debut last year in a unanimous decision to undefeated fighter Tafon Nchukwi.
Bout 6: Mike Grundy (12-2) vs. Lando Vannata (11-5-2) (Featherweight)
In early 2020, Mike Grundy had a strong nine-fight win streak that included numerous fights on the regional scene and his UFC debut against Nad Narimani. However, that momentum came to a grinding halt in July when Movsar Evloev defeated him on scorecards. Now nearly 10 months later, Grundy will look to bounce back in a fight against Lando Vannata.
Vannata is also coming off a loss, dropping a decision fight to veteran Bobby Green in August.
Bout 7: Jacare Souza (26-9) vs. Andre Muniz (20-4) (Middleweight)
MMA veteran Jacare Souza will compete in the final preliminary bout, facing Andre Muniz at middleweight.
Souza is currently on a three-fight losing streak. That’s the longest streak of losses he has taken since turning pro back in 2003. After he lost fights to Jack Hermansson and Jan Blachowicz in 2019, Souza’s return in December saw him get stopped within a round by Kevin Holland.
The tough tests won’t let up for Souza, as he is now being paired against Muniz, who has yet to lose since entering the UFC roster. His second UFC win was in September, where he submitted Bartosz Fabinski with an armbar in the third minute.
Main Card (10:00PM EDT / 9:00PM CDT) (PPV)
Bout 8: Shane Burgos (13-2) vs. Edson Barboza (21-9) (Featherweight)
The five-fight pay-per-view portion of the card will kick off with a featherweight bout between Shane Burgos and Edson Barboza.
Burgos had a strong three-fight win streak broken in June, as Josh Emmett picked up a decision win over him. The fight was only the second loss of his pro career.
Barboza’s last victory was a big one, as he snapped a three-fight losing streak in a decision against Makwan Amirkhani. The fight was his second appearance since making the move down from lightweight to featherweight. The losses from Barboza came against tough opponents in both divisions, including names like Dan Ige and Justin Gaethje.
Bout 9: Katlyn Chookagian (15-4) vs. Viviane Araujo (10-2) (Flyweight)
Ranked flyweights Katlyn Chookagian and Viviane Araujo are set to compete as part of the main card.
Araujo has put together an impressive record since entering the UFC in 2019. She has earned four wins and one loss, and enters Saturday on a two-fight win streak. She defeated an MMA veteran in her last fight, landing a scorecard win against Roxanne Modafferi in January.
Chookagian had a busy 2020, competing four times in the calendar year. Her year started with a title fight, as current 125-pound champ Valentina Shevchenko stopped her in the third round with strikes.
Chookagian bounced back a fight later, defeating Antonina Shevchenko three months later. After a loss to former strawweight champ Jessica Andrade in October, Chookagian finished her year on a high note, defeating Cynthia Calvillo at UFC 255.
Bout 10: Matt Schnell (15-5) vs. Rogerio Bontorin (16-3) (Bantamweight)
After both competing regularly at flyweight, Matt Schnell and Rogerio Bontorin will meet at bantamweight on Saturday night. The booking was first set to see Bontorin fight Alex Perez at flyweight, although he eventually got a different opponent and weight class.
Bontorin’s five-fight UFC run has previously been contested at 125-pounds, including two wins, two losses and one draw. He is coming off a stoppage loss that he took in March against Kai Kara-France.
Schnell has already picked up a win this year, earning a close split decision victory over Tyson Nam in January.
Bontorin slightly missed weight for the fight, coming in one pound over the non-championship limit at bantamweight.
Bout 11: Tony Ferguson (25-5) vs. Beneil Dariush (20-4-1) (Lightweight)
Rising lightweight Beneil Dariush has a tough challenge in the co-main event, as he will fight former title challenger Tony Ferguson in a three-round fight.
While Dariush has been on the UFC roster since 2014, a run that started in 2018 is currently the best he has seen in his career. Dariush is currently on a six-fight win streak that includes four finish wins. He stopped the long win streak of Diego Ferreira earlier this year, defeating him via split decision.
He now fights Ferguson, who has the chance to return to the win column following two wins. Ferguson’s two fights in 2020 saw him on the losing side of dominant fights, although they came against successful fighters in Justin Gaethje and Charles Oliveira.
Ferguson was long overdue for a title shot before losing an interim bout to Gaethje in 2020. With 12 consecutive wins, the plan was for Ferguson to fight then-lightweight champ Khabib Nurmagomedov. That booking was later cancelled as UFC re-arranged their schedule due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Bout 12: Charles Oliveira (30-8) vs. Michael Chandler (22-5) (Vacant UFC Lightweight Championship)
Last year, undefeated UFC Lightweight Champion Khabib Nurmagomedov announced his retirement after defending his belt for the third time. Since then, the stacked lightweight division has been hard to predict. The division arguably has more than two fighters deserving of a title shot, putting matchmakers in a frustrating lose-lose position no matter who they book to compete for the vacant belt.
However, they have landed on a bout that they find reasonable. In the main event of UFC 262, Charles Oliveira will face Michael Chandler.
If you exclusively follow UFC, Chandler was a name you only became familiar with months ago. You wouldn’t have seen his incredibly successful Bellator run from 2010 to 2020, which included numerous title runs. But, you would have seen his explosive UFC debut in January, where he stopped Dan Hooker in the third minute of action. The strong entrance into the promotion along with his prior resume as a lightweight is what has landed him in the main event position on Saturday.
For Oliveira, the title fight was awarded after consistent success in the division. While he has often been one of the fighters left out of the conversation for title contention, Oliveira has strung together eight wins since 2018. He made a statement in his most recent performance, shutting out scorecards against former title challenger Tony Ferguson in December.