TNT Sports Reload - Episode 11Sep 26
The post-Khabib era begins in earnest on Saturday night as his successor to the lightweight throne will be crowned during the main event at UFC 262.
It’s a fascinating clash of styles to top an incredible bill of fights in Houston, Texas, as jiu-jitsu beast Charles Oliveira faces a high-level wrestler in promotional newcomer Michael Chandler.
And with a host of other entertaining clashes to look forward to at the Toyota Centre, there are no shortage of reasons you should stay up for what promises to be another memorable night inside the Octagon.
You can watch it all unfold on Saturday night, live on BT Sport 1 HD, or as ever the whole card will be available completely spoiler-free on the BT Sport app on Sunday morning.
A new lightweight king will be crowned
The 155lb division has lived under the rule of one of its most dominant champions since 2018 with Khabib Nurmagomedov forging a historic lightweight legacy during an incredible UFC career.
But having confirmed – and then double, triple and quadruple confirmed (thanks Dana) – his decision to head for shock early retirement after defeating Justin Gaethje in a career-best performance at UFC 254, the division is finally ready to move on.
Dustin Poirier had been offered the chance to challenge for the undisputed title for the second time in his career but instead, ‘The Diamond’ elected to settle his rivalry with Conor McGregor in this summer’s upcoming trilogy bout.
Instead, fight fans will be treated to a mouth-watering clash between two first-time title challengers as Brazilian contender Oliveira, aiming to cap his eight-fight win streak with a ninth straight victory that would secure UFC gold, takes on Chandler in only the American’s second UFC fight.
Who will seize their chance to become the 11th man to reign in UFC lightweight history?
Chandler – the real deal?
That’s all it took for Michael Chandler to secure a lightweight title shot in the UFC after a stunning debut performance against Dan Hooker at UFC 257.
Granted, there were mitigating factors that helped forge a fast-track towards the 155lb title but few can argue that Chandler should make for an intriguing opponent against a man of Oliveira’s credentials.
A three-time Bellator 155lb champion, the 35-year-old former NCAA Division I wrestling standout has relied heavily on his explosive power in recent times rather than resorting to his elite-level grappling.
I am the man that has been called to become the next UFC champion
- Michael Chandler
But it’s likely he’ll be tested in every facet of his game against a fearsome opponent in the surging 31-year-old Oliveira – a man who can lay claim as one of the most dangerous men on the ground in UFC history.
Speaking to BT Sport’s Adam Catterall this week, the Missouri man said: “I believe you could not have scripted this run I’ve had in the UFC – granted it’s been very short – but you could not have scripted it any better.
“It almost seems as if there is no other way to move into the next chapter without me winning the title. I believe it is ordained, it has been predestined.
“It’s not to get over-spiritual or anything like that but I just truly believe I am the better man, and I am the man that has been called to become the next UFC champion.
“I believe that with all heart, I believe that in my spirit, I believe that in every ounce of my being.”
Charles, the killer
The man earmarked last year by BT Sport’s very own Fight Week pundits Adam Catterall and Nick Peet as the UFC’s next lightweight champion will have the chance to realise that spectacular vision on Saturday night.
It’s been a long road to this point for the 27-fight UFC veteran; a look at Oliveira’s record almost suggests a career of two halves with the Brazilian struggling to find a home encountering weight struggles at both featherweight and lightweight.
But since committing to a future in the 155lb division in 2017, Oliveira has gone 9-1 on a ferocious tear that has seen him become a UFC history-maker.
The man can bang, he’s got excellent skills and he’s very aggressive
- Michael Bisping
The proud executor of the most submission wins ever in the UFC (14), Oliveira has become known as one of the most lethal finishers in the game, claiming 90% of his victories inside the distance.
But, speaking on BT Sport’s Fight Week UFC 262 preview show, former middleweight champion Michael Bisping warned against pigeon-holing ‘Do Bronx’ purely as a jiu-jitsu competitor.
“The man is dangerous, certainly in the clinch,” Bisping explained.
“If Michael Chandler is planning on clinching with this guy he has to be careful because Oliveira has fantastic Muay Thai, excellent knees and elbows and at range too.
“He’s kind of tall and long for the division, he knows how to use his length too.
“To label the guy as a jiu-jitsu guy would be very, very inaccurate. The man can bang, he’s got excellent skills and he’s very aggressive. Once he gets his hands on you, the man really goes to work.”
The end of the road for El Cucuy?
For more than a decade, Tony Ferguson has been the gift that keeps on giving to UFC fans.
But in recent times, the man nicknamed ‘El Cucuy’ – the Bogeyman – has frightened fans for all the wrong reasons.
Outclassed, outgunned and beaten pillar to post during a bruising defeat to Justin Gaethje at UFC 249, the 37-year-old was subsequently dismantled by Charles Oliveira on his last performance and bares all the hallmarks of a rapidly aging fighter.
Defence was never where Ferguson excelled, instead relying on his offensive weaponry to counter his opponents while continuing to absorb punishment himself.
But with his striking failing to bail him out of difficult situations like it may once have, there appears to be little standing between Ferguson and another beating.
Perhaps recognising this in himself, the veteran fighter has enlisted the help of legendary boxing coach Freddie Roach to brush up before what could be a pivotal night in the former Ultimate Fighter winner’s career.
A dominant victory in the co-main would go some way to answering concerns thrown up by his recent woes; defeat to Beneil Dariush would leave the California man staring at a bleak future in the promotion.
Watch UFC 262 from 1am on Saturday night, live on BT Sport 1 HD, or catch up on the BT Sport app on Sunday morning.