Getting prepared for UFC action this coming Saturday? Here is everything you need to know about the event with our Guide to UFC 262.
Date: May 15, 2021
Location: Toyota Center in Houston, Texas
Start Time: 10:00 p.m. ET, 7:00 p.m. PT
Where To Watch: ESPN+ pay-per-view
UFC Lightweight Championship: Charles Oliveira vs. Michael Chandler
Overall Records: Oliveira 30-8 1 NC, Chandler 22-5
UFC Records: Oliveira 18-8 1 NC, Chandler 1-0
Last Fight: Oliveira def. Ferguson, UDec, UFC 256 (12/12/20), Chandler def. Hooker, R1 TKO, UFC 257 (1/23/21)
Last Five Fights: Oliveira 5-0, Chandler 4-1
Rankings: Oliveira #3, Chandler #4
Betting Odds: Oliveira -140, Chandler +115
Preview: The vacant UFC Lightweight Championship held by Khabib Nurmagomedov before he retired has been in limbo since October, but Oliveira and Chandler will meet in the main event on Saturday to determine the new champion. There were many options as to who could’ve been put into this fight, but Oliveira and Chandler are both worthy fighters to battle for the throne. Oliveira, ranked third in the division, comes into this riding the longest active win streak at 155 lbs., winning his last eight fights. He’s been with UFC since 2010, and many who saw his early UFC fights were wondering not if, but when would he be fighting for a title. It’s been a long road to getting there, but along the way he has set the UFC record for most wins by submission and has improved tremendously, and he’s still only 31-years-old. Chandler will be making his second walk into the Octagon, and while it has happened before, it’s rare to see a fighter with this few amount of UFC bouts fight for a title. However, Chandler’s accomplishments in the sport are certainly worthy of the spot, and he had a fantastic debut in January, knocking out Dan Hooker in the first round. He’s an exciting fighter, an explosive fighter, and has been one of the best lightweights in the world for a long time. He’s finished opponents in 17 of his 22 wins, and he was specifically signed to UFC to be put in a position to fight for the title some day, and they aren’t wasting time in getting him there. It’s Chandler’s chance to truly show what many have known for years- that he is one of the all-time greats at 155 lbs.
The one clear edge that Chandler is going to have over Oliveira is in the power department. Chandler has the ability to end the fights with a single right hand, and has shown it plenty of times, including in the win over Hooker. If there was any knock against Oliveira in the past, the biggest one was his inability to take a punch. He’s folded a lot of times after being hit, especially in his younger days, as he does have four losses by knockout. Oliveira will be needing to be prepared for that overhand right to come his way, and if Chandler gets a little too wild with it, all Oliveira will have to do is duck right under it and look for the takedown. Oliveira does like to use his length in fights, and he has a three-inch reach advantage over Chandler. Chandler is a world-class wrestler, which many tend to forget about since he’s mainly been utilizing his power in recent fights. Oliveira might be able to take Chandler down, but he also might not. The longer the fight stays on the feet, the more it favors Chandler due to his power.
If the fight goes to the mat, Chandler is going to have to watch out for the world-class ground game of Oliveira. There’s a reason he has the most submissions in UFC history. He’s one of the best to ever do it on the mat. He can find submissions from all positions, sweeps and transitions from all positions, and he goes for nearly three submission attempts in every fight. Chandler does defend around 80% of takedowns attempted on him, so Oliveira may just be willing to let Chandler take him down to get the fight where he wants it. However, Chandler does have heavy ground-and-pound.
This is such an interesting fight, and a really close one when breaking it down. Conditioning will be key, and Oliveira has shown tremendous improvement, especially in the Ferguson fight. However, it feels like Chandler has more of the momentum, and it feels like this is his fight to lose, despite him technically being the underdog. It really is a toss-up, but I expect a great fight, and whoever wins the title will be a worty champion, though it feels like Chandler leaves Houston fulfilling a destiny of becoming a UFC champion.
Lightweights: Tony Ferguson vs. Beneil Dariush
Overall Records: Ferguson 25-5, Dariush 19-4-1
UFC Records: Ferguson 15-3, Dariush 13-4-1
Last Fight: Oliveira def. Ferguson, UDec, UFC 256 (12/12/20), Dariush def. Ferreira, SpDec, UFC On ESPN+ 42 (2/6/21)
Last Five Fights: Ferguson 3-2, Dariush 5-0
Rankings: Ferguson #5, Dariush #9
Betting Odds: Ferguson +150, Dariush -185
Preview: The co-main event features a pair of lightweights in a pivotal bout that will determine the futures of both men as Ferguson looks to get back on track against Dariush. Ferguson comes into this fight after a rough 2020. He entered the year primed for a title fight against Khabib Nurmagomedov, and it finally looked like that long-awaited fight was going to finally happen. Alas, the pandemic hit, and the fight never happened, and Ferguson ended up fighting Justin Gaethje when UFC returned last May. Gaethje gave him a beating, finishing him in the fifth round, and then Ferguson returned to drop a decision to Charles Oliveira in December. He now finds himself in a must-win situation if he ever has hopes of getting back into title fights. Dariush comes into the biggest fight of his career riding a six-fight win streak, which is hard to do at 155 lbs. He’s really been underrated in this stage of his career, but after his win over Diego Ferreira in February, he said that he felt he was ready and owed a big fight, and Ferguson is as big as it gets. His six straight wins have seen him knock out two opponents, submit two opponents, and get decisions over the other two. He looks to seize this opportunity to break into the top five and possibly be next for whomever emerges as the new lightweight champion.
This will likely be a different Ferguson than we saw in 2020. Both of his fights last year saw him on short training camps, and in conditions he wasn’t fully comfortable with when it comes to getting warmed up on fight night. This time, he’s had a full camp against the same opponent, and the warming up conditions will be back to somewhat normal. However, this fight will show just how much Ferguson has left in the tank. He took some bad beatings, and while Dariush may not dish out the punishment that a Gaethje will, or dominate from the top like an Oliveira will, he will bring the fight to you. Dariush does hit hard, and his grappling is very good as well. While Dariush has been scoring some good wins and has looked good lately while climbing the rankings, he has yet to beat a top-ten opponent. Ferguson does land a lot of strikes, though he has been getting hit more lately than usual. Dariush has been finished in all four of his losses, and Ferguson is plenty capable of finishing him.
Ferguson has stated that he feels little pressure coming into this fight, and his confidence is sky high. The Ferguson of old would be a huge favorite in this one. The Ferguson of 2020, combined with how well Dariush has been lately, is a whole other question. Dariush could certainly follow the gameplan that Oliveira showed, and take Ferguson down and hold him on the mat. That is his easiest path to win. This is another tough fight to call, but it is also one that feels like Ferguson will come out on top. It should be an exciting fight, and a lot is riding on the outcome for both men.
Bantamweights: Matt Schnell vs. Rogerio Bontorin
Overall Records: Schnell 15-5, Bontorin 16-3 1 NC
UFC Records: Schnell 5-3, Bontorin 2-2
Last Fight: Schnell def. Nam, SpDec, UFC On ESPN 20 (1/20/21), Kara-France def. Bontorin, R1 KO, UFC 259 (3/6/21)
Last Five Fights: Schnell 4-1, Bontorin 3-2
Rankings: Schnell #8 FLW, Bontorin #9 FLW
Betting Odds: Schnell -165, Bontorin +135
Preview: A pair of flyweights who will be fighting at 135 lbs. this week get a main card spot after some late changes, as Schnell and Bontorin look to get a win on a big stage. Schnell is looking to score his second straight win after scoring a decision win over Tyson Nam on Fight Island in January. Schnell has put together a nice little run, winning five of his last six fights. He does have three UFC losses, all of which saw him finished, but he’s gotten better over the past few years to become a legit contender at 125 lbs. Bontorin comes into this fight on short notice, replacing an injured Alex Perez, and he is looking to end a two-fight losing skid. He was last seen in March, dominating early against Kai Kara-France before Kara-France made a huge comeback to finish him late in the first in a moment that even saw Bontorin chunk his mouth piece at Kara-France. Bontorin had won four straight prior to those two losses, and he knows his back is against the wall as a third straight loss could spell trouble for his UFC future.
There has to be a reason why this fight is taking place at 135 lbs, especially since it was a late change. Perhaps it’s because Bontorin took this fight late, but he did take it over a month ago, and the change to a bantamweight fight didn’t come out until Monday of this week. Whatever the case may be, this should be an action-packed fight. Both men like to slug it out on the feet, but don’t underplay the effectiveness of Bontorin’s grappling game. Schnell does have a suspect chin, as he’s been knocked out three times in his career, and his defensive wrestling is questionable at best. He does land over four significant strikes per minute, but he’s not very accurate, while Bontorin lands with around a 59% accuracy rate. Bontorin did dominate Kara-France on the mat, but he faded quickly in going for fight-ending submissions, and he couldn’t take the punches when they got back to their feet.
Schnell doesn’t have the power of Kara-France, but he can take advantage of mishaps on the ground if Bontorin makes them. Bontorin seems to have the edge both standing and on the ground, despite Schnell having more recent success. It’s hard to pick against Schnell, moreso because Bontorin has struggled to put it all together. I feel like this is a pick ’em fight, but Bontorin would be the better bet with the current betting odds. This has the potential to be an under the radar great fight.
Women’s Flyweights: Katlyn Chookagian vs. Viviane Araujo
Overall Records: Chookagian 15-4, Araujo 10-2
UFC Records: Chookagian 8-4, Araujo 4-1
Last Fight: Chookagian def. Calvillo, UDec, UFC 255 (11/21/20), Araujo def. Modafferi, UDec, UFC On ESPN 20 (1/20/21)
Last Five Fights: Chookagian 3-2, Araujo 4-1
Rankings: Chookagian #2, Araujo #7
Betting Odds: Chookagian -140, Araujo +115
Preview: Flyweight contenders Chookagian and Araujo meet in a main card bout, something that may not please a lot of the fans in attendance and fans watching at home, but they are both ranked fighters with something to prove. Chookagian is looking to make another run at contending for a UFC title, and she enters this fight looking for her second straight win after scoring a decision over Cynthia Calvillo in November. This will be Chookagian’s 13th UFC fight, but she is still in search of her first stoppage in UFC, as all eight of her wins have been by decision. She has been finished in her last two losses. Araujo enters this fight riding a two-fight win streak after scoring back-to-back wins over Roxanne Modafferi and Montana De La Rosa. He’s 4-1 in her five UFC fights thus far, and Chookagian will be the fourth former title challenger that Araujo will have fought in her six appearances. Araujo is looking for her first finish since her UFC debut, having gone the distance in her past four fights, three of those wins.
This fight does have the potential to be a dud, and it will be all about how Araujo comes to fight. Chookagian is, to be perfectly frank, one of the most boring fighters in the sport to watch, and she doesn’t make it easy to watch her fights with her constant loud grunting. It can actually be a huge distraction to her fight. She also just seems to play it safe all the time, rarely ever taking any huge risks and preferring to point fight and let the judges decide. Araujo is coming into the fight with the mentality of needing to finish, and Chookagian has shown she can be finished. Araujo needs to be aggressive and come after Chookagian right away, and keep Chookagian out of range with her kicks. Both land just as much as they get hit, though Araujo is much more accurate with her strikes. Araujo has good takedowns and Chookagian isn’t much of a defensive wrestler, so Araujo may look to dominate on the mat. I don’t think this will be pretty, but it is yet another fight where the underdog might very well be the actual favorite. I think Araujo wins this one, and permanently sends Chookagian out of the title picture.
Featherweights: Shane Burgos vs. Edson Barboza
Overall Records: Burgos 13-2, Barboza 21-9
UFC Records: Burgos 6-2, Barboza 15-9
Last Fight: Emmett def. Burgos, UDec, UFC On ESPN 11 (6/20/20), Barboza def. Amirkhani, UDec, UFC On ESPN+ 37 (10/10/20)
Last Five Fights: Burgos 3-2, Barboza 2-3
Rankings: Burgos #9, Barboza #13
Betting Odds: Burgos -140, Barboza +115
Preview: An exciting featherweight bout takes place here, in what has the potential to be both the Fight Of The Night and a Fight Of The Year contender, as Burgos and Barboza meet in what could become an instant classic. Burgos returns for the first time since a loss to Josh Emmett in June in what was one of 2020’s best fights. It ended a three-fight win streak, but Burgos remains right outside the top ten. He’s won 13 of his 15 career fights, with the only losses coming to Emmett and Calvin Kattar, so he has what it takes to beat some really tough opponents. He also has a 77% finish rate and a knack for exciting fights. Barboza also has a knack for exciting fights, and he’s been around UFC for quite some time, as this will be his 25th appearance inside the Octagon. He’s also coming into this fight on a new contract and a huge boost of confidence after scoring a decision over Makwan Amirkhani in his last fight. He’s known for his flashy kicks and spectacular finishes, including one of the all-time great knockouts in UFC history of Terry Etim. Even at 35-years-old, Barboza feels he has what it takes to fight for a UFC title, and the time to make a run is right now, as 145 lbs. is getting to be a tough, tough division.
One of Burgos’ biggest strengths is one of Barboza’s biggest weaknesses, and that is pressure. Burgos is a pressure fighter, as he constantly comes forward and works the jab beautifully to find openings. Barboza struggles with foes who pressure him, but he has the great equalizer with his kicking power. His power in his hands has gotten better with the move down to featherweight, and he still has the same speed despite being older. Burgos lands a lot, averaging over seven significant strikes landed per minute, but he also absorbs nearly six significant strikes a minute. He likes to get in brawls, no doubt, and he can take punishment as good as he can dish it out. It is unlikely this one goes to the mat, but, if it does, Burgos has scored on every takedown attempt he’s made, though Barboza has excellent takedown defense. Burgos does like to land body shots on the feet, and Barboza has taken some body punishment in the past. They have the same reach, so it could lead to a lot of fighting inside the pocket.
This is going to be a slugfest. It is another fight that feels like it could go either way, and Barboza is the underdog, and he has a realistically great shot of winning. He really should use leg and body kicks to keep Burgos from pressuring, and work on keeping the fight in the center of the Octagon instead of against the fence. The larger Octagon in the Toyota Center will play in Barboza’s hands as well. If this fight doesn’t end up being the Fight Of The Night, it was either a huge disappointment, or we had some really awesome fights on the card. I tend to favor Barboza’s experience, and I think the new contract he has with a stable future gives him the added confidence needed to win such a tough fight.
Start Time: 8:00 p.m. ET, 5:00 p.m. PT
Where To Watch: ESPN & ESPN+
Middleweights: Ronaldo Souza vs. Andre Muniz
Overall Records: Souza 26-9 1 NC, Muniz 20-4
UFC Records: Souza 9-6, Muniz 2-0
Last Fight: Holland def. Souza, R1 KO, UFC 256 (12/12/20), Muniz def. Fabinski, R1 SUB, UFC On ESPN+ 34 (9/5/20)
Last Five Fights: Souza 1-4, Muniz 5-0
Betting Odds: Souza -115, Muniz -105
Preview: One of the legends in the sport of MMA keeps his career going at age 41 in this one, as Jacare Souza looks to get back into the win column when he meets rising prospect Muniz in the featured prelim bout. Souza is looking to end a three-fight losing skid. He was last in action in December, being knocked out cold by Kevin Holland with some hammerfists from the bottom. This bout against Muniz will essentially show if he has anything left in the gas tank to be competitive at the UFC level. Muniz has had an impressive start to his career, compiling 20 wins in his 24 career fights. He’s won two straight since joining UFC off of the Contender Series, scoring wins over Bartosz Fabinski and Antonio Arroyo. This fight against Souza is far-and-away his highest-profile fight to date, but he is 14–1 in his past 15 fights, and an 85% finish rate in his career, so this will be a test to see how good he really is.
Believe or not, after 15 fights in UFC, this will be the first time that Souza has ever been on the prelims in his UFC career. This is definitely a fight to see if he is worth keeping on UFC’s roster. Muniz has less power on the feet, and while his grappling is good, it is still nowhere near the world-class ground game that Souza has.
It’s really hard to count Souza out, just because the level of competition he’s lost to is elite, and Muniz isn’t close to that level. But, the age is a concern, and the battles are a concern. I do think this is a good spot for him to turn it back, and this feels like a safe fight for him as Muniz, while good and on a good string in his past 15 fights, might not be ready for that high of a level of opponent. Souza is the slight favorite, and I think he turns the clock back at least one last time.
Featherweights: Lando Vannata vs. Mike Grundy
Overall Records: Vannata 11-5-2, Grundy 2-2
UFC Records: Vannata 3-5-2, Grundy 1-1
Last Fight: Green def. Vannata, UDec, UFC On ESPN+ 31 (8/1/20), Evloev, UDec, UFC On ESPN 14 (7/25/20)
Last Five Fights: Vannata 2-2-1, Grundy 4-1
Betting Odds: Vannata +105, Grundy -125
Preview: Fighting in a new weight class, Vannata battles Grundy in a featherweight bout featuring two men trying to get back into the win column. Vannata is looking to rebound from a decision loss to Bobby Green in August. He’s struggled to score wins inside the Octagon, as he has just three wins in ten UFC bouts, but he is also one of the very few fighters to have two draws on their UFC record. However, he has proven to be one of the more entertaining fighters on the roster, as he’s gotten post-fight bonuses in five of his ten fights, and he hopes the move to 145 lbs. brings some better fortune. Grundy will be looking to rebound from a decision loss to Movsar Evloev in July on Fight Island. That ended a nine-fight win streak Grundy was on, including a knockout win over Nad Narimani in his UFC debut in March 2019. He’s struggled to be active, as this is only his second fight since that UFC debut over two years ago, and he’s also looking to improve on his 75% finish rate.
This is going to be your classic striker-versus-wrestler match-up, as Vannata is going to want to keep this fight standing while Grundy will want to get it to the mat. Grundy averages over four takedowns per 15 minutes, but only at a 38% success rate. That shows he’s constantly after the takedown, so Vannata is going to need to use his crafty striking to keep him from pressuring for takedowns. Vannata lands a lot of strikes, but gets hit more than he lands, though Grundy tends to absorb a lot of strikes. Vannata has struggled recently, but perhaps a move to featherweight is exactly what he needed. Grundy needs to turn this into a grind, as that is the type of fight that Vannata struggles with. If Grundy can get the fight to the mat, even though Vannata is a great scrambler, it opens it up more for Grundy to win.
Middleweights: Jordan Wright vs. Jamie Pickett
Overall Records: Wright 11-1 1 NC, Pickett 11-5
UFC Records: Wright 1-1, Pickett 0-1
Last Fight: Buckley def. Wright, R2 KO, UFC 255 (11/21/20), Nchukwi def. Pickett, UDec, UFC On ESPN+ 41 (12/19/20)
Last Five Fights: Wright 3-1 1 NC, Pickett 3-2
Betting Odds: Wright -110, Pickett -110
Preview: A pair of middleweights looking to climb the ladder and score their 12th career win battle here as Wright and Pickett both look to rebound from losses in their previous fight. Wright is making his third trek into the Octagon in this one, and is coming off a knockout loss to Joaquin Buckley in November. That was actually Wright’s first career loss. He had a successful UFC debut in August, with a first-round win over Ike Villanueva, and all eleven of his wins have come by stoppage. Pickett is a veteran of the Contender Series, as it took him three attempts on the show to finally secure a UFC contract. He earned his contract based off a finish of Jhonoven Pati in August, but struggled in his UFC debut, dropping a decision to Tafon Nchukwi in December. Pickett has scored finishes in nine of his eleven wins, with eight wins coming by knockout.
This fight has the potential of either ending in devastating fashion or being a drawn-out and boring fight. Neither fighter handles pressure well, which is good for both as they will both know they key to winning is to pressure the other. Wright has shown more power with all of his finishes, but Pickett also has good power. Pickett has trouble keeping himself off of the fence, and that will help Wright gain the edge. Pickett will have a reach advantage, and both men do eat a lot of shots from their opponents. Wright does land more than Pickett, though. Pickett should look for the takedowns as his grappling is better, but he does just prefer to fight it on the feet. This will be a grind, and I’m not sure if it’ll be good. I think Wright gets the win, but this is yet another toss-up fight, which makes sense given the even betting odds. This is really a must-win fight for both as well.
Women’s Flyweights: Andrea Lee vs. Antonina Shevchenko
Overall Records: Lee 11-5, Shevchenko 9-2
UFC Records: Lee 3-3, Shevchenko 3-2
Last Fight: Modafferi def. Lee, UDec, UFC On ESPN+ 35 (9/12/20), Shevchenko def. Lipski, R2 TKO, UFC 255 (11/21/20)
Last Five Fights: Lee 2-3, Shevchenko 3-2
Rankings: Lee #11, Shevchenko #12
Betting Odds: Lee +105, Shevchenko -125
Preview: A flyweight bout between two women looking to break into the top ten at 125 lbs., with one in desperate need of a win, sees Lee battle the older sister of the division’s champion, Shevchenko. Lee comes into this fight having lost three straight fights, losing decisions to Roxanne Modafferi, Lauren Murphy and Joanne Calderwood. She is also in search of his first stoppage in UFC, as all six of her fights have gone the distance. Shevchenko is looking to score her second straight win after a second-round finish of Ariane Lipski in November.
History would say that means Lee should get the win, but Shevchenko is looking to buck the trend here. Lee is going to need to fight with a sense of urgency like her career is on the line, because it very well is. She said she spent this camp going back to basics, and branched out to Colorado to train with Tecia Torres and Montana De La Rosa for this one. Shevchenko, of course, trains with one of the best fighters in the world, her sister Valentina, and she’s got some great speed in her striking, but has also shown a great grappling game recently.
Lee needs to fight for a finish, and getting on top and smothering with some ground-and-pound is the best path for getting that. She should look to take a play out of Valentina’s playbook and find the crucifix position, as Antonina did struggle from that position in a prior fight. This is another real toss-up fight, and in the back of Lee’s mind, she has to remember what happened the last time she fought in Houston, when she lost that absolute robbery at the hands of the judges to Murphy. I like her to get back into the win column in this one.
Early Preliminary Card
Start Time: 6:30 p.m. ET, 3:30 p.m. PT
Where To Watch: ESPN+
Women’s Flyweights: Gina Mazany vs. Priscila Cachoeira
Overall Records: Mazany 7-4, Cachoeira 9-3
UFC Records: Mazany 2-4, Cachoeira 1-3
Last Fight: Mazany def. Ostovich, R3 TKO, UFC On ESPN 18 (11/28/20), Cachoeira def. Dobson, R1 KO, UFC On ESPN+ 26 (2/22/20)
Last Five Fights: Mazany 2-3, Cachoeira 2-3
Betting Odds: Mazany -220, Cachoeira +175
Preview: A flyweight fight takes place on the prelims here as Mazany and Cachoeira both enter this fight looking for their second straight win. Mazany is looking to make it two-for-two since moving down to 125 lbs., as she scored a third-round finish of Rachael Ostovich in November in her last fight. Cachoeira is entering this fight on the heels of her first UFC win, coming by knockout in 40 seconds over Shana Dobson last February.
Mazany looks to be in her perfect weight class, and the win over Ostovich showed that she has some good wrestling chops. While Ostovich, who is no longer on UFC’s roster, isn’t a high-level fighter, she might just be better than Cachoeira is. Cachoeira does boast some power in her hands, but she hasn’t shown a whole lot of anything else in her career. If she is even able to make weight and stay in the fight, she has bad takedown defense, and Mazany, who scored seven takedowns against Ostovich, is definitely going to exploit that. Cachoeira does have good pressure, but that will be all for naught if Mazany is able to get the body locks, especially against the fence. Cachoeira should hope Mazany gasses out, but her conditioning has seemed to be really good, but Cachoeira just isn’t very good, and this should be an easy win for Mazany as long as she can avoid the early power. I think Mazany grinds out to either a decision or late finish here.
Featherweights: Kevin Aguilar vs. Tucker Lutz
Overall Records: Aguilar 17-4, Lutz 11-1
UFC Records: Aguilar 2-3, Lutz 0-0
Last Fight: Rosa def. Aguilar, SpDec, UFC On ESPN 10 (6/13/20), Lutz def. Blackledge, UDec, Dana White’s Contender Series 36 (11/17/20)
Last Five Fights: Aguilar 2-3, Lutz 5-0
Betting Odds: Aguilar EVEN, Lutz -120
Preview: A native Texan looks to give the fans in Houston something to cheer about early, while also trying to get back on track, as Aguilar fights in his home state against the debuting Lutz. Aguilar comes into this fight looking to end a three-fight losing skid as he’s in a must-win position. Aguilar is an exciting fighter, with ten career wins by knockout. Lutz makes his debut on the heels of two wins in just over two months on the Contender Series. Those two wins ran Lutz’ win streak to eleven straight, as his only professional loss came in his debut. Eight of his eleven wins were stoppages, six were knockouts.
Lutz has been one of the best prospects in the regional circuit in recent times, and he brings in a good blend of power and well-rounded skills. Aguilar would’ve been a tough opponent for any debuting fighter years ago, but his recent slide may be a side that his best days are behind him. Lutz’ one big weakness has been his lack of head movement, and Aguilar has the power to exploit that. Aguilar does have those ten knockout wins, and he still has some power in his hands, but he isn’t as accurate or as durable as he once was. Both have good takedown defense, but Lutz is the much better offensive wrestler, and is plenty capable of getting Aguilar down and controlling from the top.
This has some potential for fireworks here. Aguilar’s slide is hard to trust when it comes to him getting back in the win column, but maybe fighting in Texas is what he needs to get back on track.
Lightweights: Christos Giagos vs. Sean Soriano
Overall Records: Giagos 18-8, Soriano 14-6
UFC Records: Giagos 4-4, Soriano 0-3
Last Fight: Giagos def. Minus, UDec, UFC On ESPN+ 41 (12/19/20), Soriano def. Lahat, R1 TKO, UAE Warriors 18 (3/20/21)
Last Five Fights: Giagos 3-2, Soriano 4-1
Betting Odds: Giagos -220, Soriano +175
Preview: A pair of lightweights open the card as Giagos takes on short-notice replacement Soriano in the night’s first fight. Soriano makes his UFC return as a replacement for Joel Alvarez, who had to pull out due to visa issues. It has been a six-year road back to UFC for Soriano, who lost all three of his UFC fights during his first stint. Giagos knows exactly what Soriano is going through, as he is also in his second UFC stint. Before he was cut in June 2015, he went 1–2 in his first run, then worked his way back to UFC. In September 2018 he returned, although he lost by submission to Charles Oliveira. He has since won three of his last four, including a decision win over Carlton Minus in December.
Both are definitely fighters who learned from their first UFC stints, and used that regional scene work to improve themselves, and are better fighters than they were. It will be interesting to see if Soriano has jitters with it being his first fight back. Giagos has gotten comfortable being back as this is his sixth UFC fight since returning. Soriano has scored finishes in five of his six wins since his UFC cut, but he’s also been finished in his three losses since that first UFC run. Giagos’ wrestling has helped him tremendously, scoring 18 takedowns in his past four fights.
Soriano took the fight with no real training camp, while Giagos has been preparing to fight for two months. I expect Giagos to lean heavily on his wrestling. Unless Soriano’s striking has improved, I feel like Giagos will take win by taking the fight to the ground often.