Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) will once again enjoy a jam-packed house at Toyota Center in Houston, Texas, this Saturday (May 15, 2021) when surging finisher Charles Oliveira meets former Bellator champion Michael Chandler for the vacant Lightweight title. UFC 262 viewers and attendees will also get to enjoy another terrific Lightweight tilt between Beneil Dariush and Tony Ferguson, as well as Jack Hermansson against Middleweight young gun Edmen Shahbazyan.
We’ve gone from 10 “Prelims” undercard bouts down to eight, four on ESPN+/UFC Fight Pass and the rest on ESPN+/ESPN. Let’s have a look at the first batch below:
185 lbs.: Jordan Wright vs. Jamie Pickett
Jordan Wright (11-1) — who saw a “Contender Series” loss overturned because of his opponent’s failed drug test — knocked out Gabriel Checco in LFA before stepping up on short notice to stop Ike Villanueva in the Octagon. He wasn’t quite as successful against Joaquin Buckley, suffering the first official defeat of his career in Nov. 2020.
All of his wins have come by stoppage, 10 of them in the first round.
Having fallen to Charles Byrd and Punahele Soriano in previous stints on the program, Jamie Pickett (11-5) entered his third “Contender Series” bout on a mission, stopping Jhonoven Pati early in the second round. Fellow series veteran Tafon Nhukwi proved a tougher out, however, as he defeated Pickett by unanimous decision in the Octagon.
He’ll have three inches of reach on “The Beverly Hills Ninja.”
Both of these men struggle mightily when pressured, so this one comes down to who can seize the initiative. For my money, that’s Wright. That’s because Pickett’s generally awkward when he tries to lead and can’t seem to stay off the fence when forced to retreat. Even the painfully slow Tafon Nchukwi had all kinds of success backing him up, so Wright shouldn’t have an issue pressing forward and getting his kicks going.
Wright looks to have the greater stopping power of the two, and though Pickett’s durable enough to avoid a knockout, he’ll have a hard time landing as many meaningful blows. In the end, Wright’s first trip to the judges ends successfully.
Prediction: Wright via unanimous decision
125 lbs.: Gina Mazany vs. Priscila Cachoeira
Former The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) competitor Gina Mazany (7-4) spent her first five UFC bouts as a Bantamweight, going 1-4 against division standouts like Sara McMann, Macy Chiasson and Julia Avila. A drop to 125 pounds quickly paid dividends, pounding out Rachael Ostovich in Nov. 2020.
Five of her professional wins have come inside the distance, four by form of knockout.
The tenacity of Priscila Cachoeira (9-3) didn’t translate into success in her first three Octagon bouts, which included a one-sided thrashing from Valentina Shevchenko and decision losses to Molly McCann and Luana Carolina. The fourth time proved the charm, however, leveling Shana Dobson with a vicious one-punch knockout to earn “Performance of the Night.”
“Zombie Girl” fights for the first time in almost 15 months thanks to a failed weight cut scrapping an Oct. 2020 clash with Cortney Casey.
I may have been a bit too hard on Mazany in the past — all four of the women she lost to were very capable Bantamweights, and her performance against Ostovich suggests that she was fighting above her ideal weight. She should be way too much for Cachoeira, at the very least, boasting the wrestling skills to dominate her on the mat the way McCann did.
Cachoeira’s pressure and power won’t mean much when she can’t keep it standing, and considering that Mazany racked up more than a half-dozen takedowns on Ostovich, “Zombie Girl” can’t rely on Mazany gassing late. In short, Mazany moves to 2-0 at 125 pounds via relentless grind.
Prediction: Mazany via unanimous decision
145 lbs.: Kevin Aguilar vs. Tucker Lutz
Though Kevin Aguilar (17-5) didn’t manage to secure a contract on “Contender Series,” he made up for it in the Octagon itself, scoring entertaining decisions over Rick Glenn and Enrique Barzola. Subsequent efforts proved less successful, as a June 2020 loss to Charles Rosa capped a three-fight losing streak.
“The Angel of Death” will have a one-inch reach advantage over “Top Gun.”
Tucker Lutz (11-1) put a debut loss behind him to win nine straight en route to the Contender Series, where he defeated Chase Gibson by unanimous decision. The win failed to produce a contract, though his sin over Sherrard Blackledge on the program two months later did the trick.
His eight professional stoppage wins include six by submission.
Aguilar’s recent form has been worrying, to say the least. While there’s no shame in falling to killers like Dan Ige and Zubaira Tukhugov, losing a pure striking battle to Charles Rosa raises all sorts of red flags. Before his current slump, I’d have picked him to punish Lutz’s lack of head movement for a dramatic finish. Now, I can’t trust his accuracy or durability to carry him past an active, well-rounded, and fundamentally sound fighter.
The power’s presumably still there, so a knockout isn’t out of the question, but I trust Lutz to take Aguilar’s punches a lot more than vice-versa, and “Top Gun” also has a strong wrestling game to lean on. The occasional knockdown or takedown should carry Lutz to victory in a back-and-forth battle.
Prediction: Lutz via unanimous decision
155 lbs.: Christos Giagos vs. Sean Soriano
The first Octagon run for Christos Giagos (18-8) came to an end when a knockout from Josh Emmett capped off a 1-3 skid, and though he fought his way back into the big show two years later, Charles Oliveira spoiled his return with a second-round rear-naked choke. “The Spartan” has since put together a solid 3-1 run, the sole loss a competitive one against Drakkar Klose.
His resume includes seven knockout wins and three submissions.
Sean Soriano (14-6) initially went three-and-out in UFC before losing two of his next three on the regional circuit. He bounced back in a big way with wins in five of his last six, including a knockout of fellow Octagon vet Noad Lahat in March 2021.
He replaces Joel Alvarez, who ran into visa issues, on less than two weeks’ notice.
Giagos has done an excellent job of addressing the wrestling issues that torpedoed his first UFC run, to the point where he’s leaned heavily on his own takedowns in his recent victories. I’m not convinced Soriano’s improved to the same extent, especially since his most recent defeat came by rear naked choke. Though he might have the edge on the feet, he’ll have all sorts of trouble staying there against a naturally larger man with the tools to exploit his longstanding weaknesses.
Overcoming this many hurdles on short notice just seems beyond Soriano’s capabilities. Unless he can clip “The Spartan” early, Giagos puts him through the wrestling wringer for a wide decision win.
Prediction: Giagos via unanimous decision
Four more UFC 262 “Prelims” undercard bouts remain to preview and predict, including a Middleweight crossroads match and an intriguing Flyweight battle. Same time tomorrow, Maniacs.
Remember that MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC 262 fight card right here, starting with the early ESPN+ “Prelims” matches online, which are scheduled to begin at 6:15 p.m. ET, then the remaining undercard balance on ESPN/ESPN+ at 8 p.m. ET, before the PPV main card start time at 10 p.m. ET on ESPN+ PPV.
To check out the latest and greatest UFC 262: “Oliveira vs. Chandler” news and notes be sure to hit up our comprehensive event archive right here.