The Octagon leaves the comforts of “Fight Island” and UFC APEX this Saturday (May 15, 2021), heading down to Toyota Center in Houston, Texas, with a Lightweight title fight at the helm. In UFC 262’s pay-per-view (PPV) main event, Charles Oliveira puts his eight-fight win streak on the line against former Bellator king Michael Chandler, who demolished the ultra-durable Dan Hooker to announce his arrival with the promotion. In addition, Tony Ferguson attempts to break his current slump against the surging Beneil Dariush, while Edson Barboza meets Shane Burgos in a sure-fire “Fight of the Night” contender.
Four UFC 262 “Prelims” undercard bouts remain to be examined (check out the first batch here), so let’s get those squared away ...
185 lbs.: Ronaldo Souza vs. Andre Muniz
Ronaldo Souza (26-9) — who turned 41 this in Dec. 2020 — now finds himself just 2-5 in his last seven fights. His current three-fight losing streak includes a split decision loss to future Light Heavyweight champ Jan Blachowicz and a wild knockout defeat against Kevin Holland (watch it).
He gives up six inches of reach to “Sergipano.”
Though it took him two tries, the efforts from Andre Muniz (20-4) on “Contender Series” culminated in a UFC contract thanks to a 106-second submission of highly touted Taylor Johnson. He’s been similarly successful in the Octagon itself, most recently tapping Bartosz Fabinski with a bonus-winning arm bar in Sept. 2020.
Thirteen of his professional victories have come via submission.
It’s become clear that Souza can’t handle elite or semi-elite fighters anymore, but the jury’s out on whether he can handle middle-of-the-pack guys like Muniz. This may be nostalgia talking, but he should still be able to handle a straightforward grappling specialist, especially when his power gives him a considerable edge on the feet.
If Muniz were the sort of ultra-active, swarming ground artist that could sap Souza’s questionable gas tank, this would be the coffin nail for “Jacare’s” career. As is, Souza’s superior wrestling and heavy right hand should get him back in the win column.
Prediction: Souza via unanimous decision
125 lbs.: Matt Schnell vs. Rogerio Bontorin
Matt Schnell (15-5) went from losing his first two Octagon bouts to winning five of his next six and earning a post-fight bonus along the way. He was last seen in Jan. 2021, ending a year-long layoff with a split decision over Tyson Nam.
He stands three inches taller than Rogerio Bontorin (16-3) and sports a 5.5-inch reach advantage.
Bontorin followed his successful Contender Series bout with a massive upset of Magomed Bibulatov and wild cut stoppage of Raulian Paiva, punching his ticket into Flyweight contention. He’s since dropped a decision to an overweight Ray Borg and suffered a comeback knockout loss to Kai Kara-France.
He replaces Alex Perez on less than one month’s notice.
I underestimate Schnell often — I’ve picked against him in most (if not all) of his UFC fights, and I still think his iffy chin and limited defensive wrestling will keep him from ever touching contention. Unfortunately for my track record, I can’t convince myself to pick him here. Bontorin’s just too damn good a wrestler and submission artist, and Schnell’s chances of tapping him from his back are slim to none.
While that brutal loss to Kara-France has me worried, Schnell lacks that level of firepower and doesn’t have enough of a technical striking advantage to offset Bontorin’s superior ground skills. In the end, the Brazilian snaps his losing streak in a scramble-heavy effort.
Prediction: Bontorin via unanimous decision
125 lbs.: Andrea Lee vs. Antonina Shevchenko
After strong runs in Invicta and Legacy, Andrea Lee (11-5) started her Octagon career with three consecutive wins, including a “Fight of the Night” decision over Veronica Macedo. Three straight losses followed, as she dropped competitive decisions to Joanne Calderwood, Lauren Murphy and Roxanne Modafferi.
“KGB” has submitted four professional foes and knocked out another two.
Antonina Shevchenko (9-2) — sister of UFC Flyweight champion Valentina Shevchenko — demolished Jaimee Nievera with knees to graduate from “Contender Series” in 2018. She’s since alternated wins and losses in the Octagon, including a one-sided decision over Ariane Lipski last time out.
Though she stands two inches taller than Lee, she gives up 2.5 inches of reach.
I’m not prepared to write off Lee as a bust yet — the Calderwood and Modafferi losses were competitive, while the Murphy “loss” was a flat-out robbery that every recorded member of the mixed martial arts (MMA) media scored for Lee. She’s definitely got more than enough to beat Shevchenko, whose victory over an equally inept grappler in Lipski failed to convince me that she’s fixed the wrestling issues that let Modafferi and Katlyn Chookagian run roughshod over her. Lee’s a solid takedown artist in her own right, giving her an easy out if Shevchenko ever starts building momentum.
Shevchenko’s non-existent bottom game is just too big a weakness for me to pick her against anyone capable of exploiting it, which Lee certainly is. Expect a fairly even striking match that Lee regularly interrupts with takedowns and lengthy stretches of top control to secure the decision.
Prediction: Lee via unanimous decision
145 lbs.: Lando Vannata vs. Mike Grundy
It’s been a rough ride for Lando Vannata (11-5-2) since starting his Octagon career with a “Fight of the Night” against Tony Ferguson and a wheel kick finish of John Makdessi. The “Groovy” oneenters the cage this Saturday on a 2-4-1 skid, most recently falling to Bobby Green in a “Fight of the Night” rematch.
This will be his Featherweight debut.
Though a highly decorated wrestler, the hands of Mike Grundy (12-2) carried the day in his Octagon debut, which saw him stop countryman Nad Narimani late in the second round. Then came Movsar Evloev, who rode his own kickboxing to victory in a clash of rising prospects.
Eight of his professional victories have come by submission.
Yeah, dropping to 145 pounds may help Vannata avoid the sorts of grindfests Drakkar Klose and Marc Diakiese put him through, but it’s not a panacea. Unless his power jumps through the roof at the new weight, allowing him to decisively win the wild slugfests in which he’s enjoyed diminishing returns, his defensive lapses and shoddy cardio will still keep him well out of contention.
Plus, Grundy’s a good enough wrestler to school him on the mat anyway.
Winning this fight would require Vannata to either stuff the vast majority of Grundy’s takedowns or spark him out before he can get the ball rolling, and based on Vannata’s recent efforts, neither seems particularly likely. In short, Grundy racks up the top control en route to a one-sided decision.
Prediction: Grundy via unanimous decision
UFC 262 is unquestionably a fitting card to continue the promotion’s return to packed arenas. See you Saturday, 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.