Charles Oliveira, Michael Chandler ready for main event at UFC 262

Jan 22, 2021; Abu Dhabi, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES; Michael Chandler poses on the scale during the UFC 257 weigh-in at Etihad Arena on UFC Fight Island on January 22, 2021 in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Bottari/Handout Photo via USA TODAY Sports

A lightweight title fight few would have predicted just a year ago headlines UFC 262 on Saturday night, as Brazil’s Charles Oliveira (30-8, 1 no contest) and Nashville’s Michael Chandler (22-5) square off for the vacant belt at a sold-out Toyota Center in Houston.

A year ago, Khabib Nurmagomedov was the UFC’s 155-pound titleholder, and there was no indication his reign would end any time soon.

Oliveira was a perennial contender on a hot streak, but not quite in the elite tier. Chandler, who was long regarded as the world’s best lightweight outside the UFC, was still in his decade-long run in opposition promotion Bellator.

Blame Nurmagomedov for UFC 262

So how did we end up with Oliveira vs. Chandler? Nurmagomedov shocked the MMA world by retiring at age 32 with a 29-0 record following an October win over Justin Gaethje. Obvious top contender Dustin Poirier, who defeated Conor McGregor in January at UFC 257, opted for the big bucks that will come from a trilogy fight with McGregor, which is slated for July 10 in Las Vegas.

Oliveira, who has been with the UFC since 2010, just kept winning, with a one-sided victory over popular Tony Ferguson in December marking his eighth straight win, seven via finish.

Chandler completed his Bellator contract this past summer and became the UFC’s highest-profile free agent signing of 2020. He debuted with a sensational first-round knockout of Dan Hooker on the same card as Poirier-McGregor in January, putting the three-time former Bellator champ in the right place at the right time.

The lethal left hand of Michael Chandler

Michael Chandler
Jun 24, 2017; New York, NY, USA; Michael Chandler (red gloves) fights Brent Primus (blue gloves) during Bellator NYC at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports

While few would have anticipated this bout going down for a UFC championship not long ago, there’s also little disputing this is an excellent matchup. Oliveira boasts the slickest jiu-jitsu in the sport’s deepest division.

His 14 UFC submission wins long since left MMA founding father Royce Gracie’s promotional record in his dust.

Chandler, for his part, has a lethal left hand, one he can utilize as a one-punch knockout or use to wear opponents down and win in another manner.

While both fighters are well-rounded and well-conditioned, the man who can best pursue his bread and butter is the one most likely to take home the gold.

–Field Level Media

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