The UFC lightweight title, recently vacated by Khabib Nurmagomedov, will be up for grabs on May 16 when Charles Oliveira and Michael Chandler collide at the Toyota Center in Houston, Texas. UFC 262 odds have already been published for this upcoming fight.
The pair will headline UFC 262, which will be the second UFC event – after 261 in Florida a few weeks ago – to allow a full capacity crowd in several months. The area holds roughly 18,000 fans, and sold out incredibly quickly, adding further anticipation to an already stacked card.
The fight already had a lot of intrigue even prior to this news, given that the winner will take over from the recently-retired Nurmagomedov as the best 155lb fighter in the UFC. Those are big shoes to fill. Plus, the winner of the upcoming trilogy fight between Dustin Poirier and Conor McGregor will almost certainly get a shot at the new champion, adding even more to the stakes.
At 31 years old, Oliveira enters the fight as the younger man with a record of 30-8-0 (1 NC). A veteran of the UFC, having fought within the organisation for 11 years, the Brazilian finds himself in the finest form of his career to date, racking up eight wins in a row.
The most recent of those, which came in December of last year, was Oliveira’s coming out moment as he upset the odds to handily defeat Tony Ferguson on points. It is that win, coupled with the submission victory over Kevin Lee before it, that earned Oliveira this title shot.
A master of submissions, Oliveira has proven himself a very well-rounded fighter and is expected by bookmakers to leave Houston with the title. If you’re betting on UFC with DraftKings, for example, you’ll find him as a -135 favorite.
Ferguson is the only person to have taken Oliveira the distance in his recent eight wins, and in that fight Charles completed three successful takedowns, the most he’s achieved in one fight since 2016.
Five of those eight wins came via submission, proving just how dangerous Oliveira is on the ground. That being said, his overall takedown accuracy is 44%, while his takedown defence is 57%. His striking is notable, a healthy mix of punches, kicks and knees, but he’s happy to ship punishment in order to close distance on opponents.
Oliveira’s grappling and jiu jitsu is where he excels the most, though that’s not to say he is always dominant on the mat; three of his eight career losses have come via submission. While he is undeniably tough, he can also be hurt – ‘Da Bronx’ has been stopped via strikes four times in total.
That will be encouraging for Chandler, whose record currently sits at 22-5-0. Though he’s also an excellent grappler, the Missouri native seems to hold the slight edge in power, which was on full display in his UFC debut earlier this year.
Having proven himself in Bellator as a championship fighter, the 35-year-old was a major signing for the UFC. On the Poirier-McGregor 2 undercard, Chandler wrecked Dan Hooker inside a round to make a clear statement to the rest of the division. Giving up advantages in height and reach, Chandler moved inside on Hooker to finish him with explosive strikes.
A pressure fighter who likes to take the centre of the octagon, Chandler lands 4.29 significant strikes per minute compared to Oliveira’s 3.22, however his accuracy is slightly lower; 49% compared to Charles’ 52%.
Chandler can also be vulnerable on the feet, with three of his five career defeats coming via stoppage, the most recent of which came in 2019 at the hands of Patricio ‘Pitbull’ Freire. With 10 stoppages and seven submissions to his name, ‘Iron’ Chandler is a versatile fighter though his lack of UFC experience means he is still a relatively unknown quantity at this level.
The caliber of Bellator contenders does not stack up with those in the UFC, and we haven’t seen enough of Chandler to know just how far he can go in the organisation.
However, he was the underdog against Hooker and made a mockery of those odds. It’s unlikely he’ll want much of the fight to take place on the ground, given how adept Oliveira is in most positions there. If Chandler does choose to go to ground, it will be in an attempt to assert top position and reign down strikes.
It’s likely that, at some point, the fight will move to the mat and it’s here that the entire contest could be won or lost. Whoever can claim control in the grappling will set themselves apart.
Oliveira’s advantages in height and reach will prove problematic for Chandler on the feet, though. The underdog will need to close the distance and, while he did so successfully against Hooker, he is more comfortable waiting for his opponents to come to him so he can counter. That will be difficult to do against the bigger man.
Khabib’s legacy is secured, yet his shadow still lingers somewhat over the UFC’s lightweight division. When Oliveira and Chandler meet, they’ll not only be fighting for the belt but also control of the weight class, opening the doors to some potential huge fights down the line.