UFC is taking their next pay-per-view event down to Houston, Texas at the Toyota Center to turn a new chapter in the lightweight divisions that was dominated by Khabib Nurmagomedov since 2018. While a handful of fights have already been postponed, including the original co-main event that featured a five-round battle between Nate Diaz and Leon Edwards, this is still an event that will hold a lot of history. Ethan Hartley and Frank Bartunek give their expert opinions and predictions on who will come out on top in the main card.
Matthew Christopher Schnell vs. Rogerio Bontorin
Matt “Danger” Schnell holds a pro record of 15-5, but lost his last back in January. Currently not in the top 15 of the UFC Bantamweight rankings, Schnell is trying to work his way up, and a win here over Bontorin could help establish himself in that lower part of the division. However, Bontorin holds a 16-3 pro record and has roots in Brazilian Jiu-jitsu, and this could spell trouble for Schnell, who is known for his ability to induce tapouts. I do not think this fight can end on the ground, because of the games of both fighters. Also, Bontorin will be more aware on his feet after the destruction he suffered against Kara-France in his last fight.
Official Prediction: Rogelio Bontorin wins
Frank’s Bet: Bontorin by KO/TKO
Two flyweight submission specialists clash off to start the main card. However, it is worth noting that both have agreed to fight one weight class up at Bantamweight. These two are currently ranked eight and nine in the flyweight division. These two also combine for 19 total submissions and you can absolutely expect another one on Saturday. Rogerio Bontorin is coming off of back-to-back losses against Ray Borgos and Kai Kara-France. While Matt Schnell is coming off of a recent split decision win against Tyson Nam. I think Schnell will roll with the momentum over his last win and earn his ninth career submission on Saturday. Bontorin also came in one pound overweight and I also believe that will throw off his focus to try to get back on track.
Prediction: Schnell by Round 2 Submission
Shane Burgos vs. Edson Barboza
Burgos is 13-2 in his pro career, while Barboza sits at 21-9, so two fighters who have a good amount of experience. Barbosa, especially, is a seasoned veteran in the fight game, but losses to some of the best the UFC has to offer in Justin Gaethje, Khabib Nurmagomedov, and Tony Ferguson have held him back from reaching the top. Shane “Hurricane” Burgos has the nickname “hurricane” for good reason. He is an offensive powerhouse, finishing off 10 wins out of 15 fights, 5 knockouts and 5 submissions. Burgos’ quick firepower offense could always land him in trouble when facing someone like Barboza, who Joe Rogan proclaimed “the best kicker in MMA.”
Official Prediction: Shane Burgos wins
Frank’s Bet: Under 2.5 rounds
Shane Burgos is coming off a loss against UFC veteran Josh Emmett back in June after being much more active in 2018 and 2019. It will be almost a year since that fight. But that same momentum hasn’t stuck around for Burgos since the loss. Edson Barboza is 35 and most would think this is a gatekeeper fight to excel Burgos’s career, who is the younger and much newer fighter to the UFC. But honestly, I don’t see this as a gatekeeper fight, Barboza is coming off of a win against Makwan Amirkhani. Before that, he had two split decision losses to Dan Ige and Paul Felder. This will be Barboza’s 25th UFC appearance and he’s recently earned a new six-fight contract with the promotion. I also think Barboza’s versatility will be a major advantage on Saturday night.
Prediction: Barboza by Unanimous Decision
Katlyn Chookagian vs. Viviane Araujo
This is a big fight with the number 2 ranked women’s flyweight division in Chookagian taking on the number 7th ranked in Araujo. Both women need to win this fight. Araujo needs a win over a formidable opponent to climb the rankings, and Chookagian needs a win to be in the conversation for a title fight. Neither women are known for explosive offense, with 5 combined knockouts in 31 pro fights. I think this fight will have to go the distance because of this. This is where the difference lies. Chookagian is 5’9 compared to Araujo at 5’5.
Official Prediction: Kaitlyn Chookagian wins
Frank’s Bet: Katlyn Chookagian moneyline
Katlyn Chookagian is 2-1 since her title loss to Valentina Shevchenko in February of 2020 at UFC 247. Her one loss comes to Jessica Andrade via knockout in the first round. Her most recent win came against now number five contender, Cynthia Calvillo, which she dominated, sweeping the scorecards. But Viviane Araujo is not one to overlook. She’s won two in a row and her most recent win came against Roxanne Modafferi where she also dominated, even scoring a 10-8 round by one judge. As long as Chookagain can keep this fight on the feet, I think she takes this one with ease, considering her major height and reach advantage.
Prediction: Chookagian via Unanimous Decision
Tony Ferguson vs. Beneil Dariush
Tony Ferguson is 26-5. He is one of the best to ever do it. Unfortunately, he is on a 2 fight losing streak. He is also one of the hardest fighters to break down because of how free and loosey goosey his offense is. He can knockout almost anyone at any time because of how difficult it is to get a grasp on him. His opponent, Dariush, is certainly no easy matchup for Ferguson, with Dariush even favored to win the fight by Vegas. Dariush is 20-4-1 for a reason, after all. He has not lost since March of 2018, and is extremely well rounded. He can fight on his feet, on the ground, and does not tire easily. I am very tempted to say “oh there’s no way Tony Ferguson can lose 3 in a row,” but Dariush might be too good for a 37 year old Ferguson.
Official Prediction: Beneil Dariush
Frank’s Bets: Beneil Dariush moneyline’
To go the distance? Yes.
Tony Ferguson hasn’t won a round since the doctor stoppage win against Donald Cerrone in 2019. This is a crossroads fight for him in whether he can keep up with the top fighters at 37 years old. Beneil Dariush is still a tough cookie in this division. He’s on a six-fight win streak and recently defeated Diego Ferreira via split decision in a brawl back in February. Dariush’s momentum is high right now and I think defeating a guy like Ferguson can elevate Dariush to become a top contender in an already stacked division. Ferguson is biting a little more than he can chew but I don’t think he will be dominated like he was against Charles Oliveira. I give Dariush a slight favorite going into this one.
Prediction: Dariush vis Split Decision
Charles Oliveira vs. Michael Chandler
“THE MOMENT YOU’VE ALL BEEN WAITING FOR………IIIIIIIIIITTTTTTTSSSS TIIIIIIIMMMMMMMEEEE!!!” Main event. Title fight. It doesn’t get much bigger than this. Oliviera sits at 30-8, Chandler at 20-5. These guys are both the real deal. Chandler has 1 UFC fight, which he won with a first round knockout. Oliveria has a legit ground game. He can very well submit Chandler in this fight. Then again, go watch UFC 254, and see what Chandler did to Dan Hooker. He can knock out anyone. This is the main event. This is title time. This is time to have fun. I HAVE to take Michael Chandler based off the fun metric.
Official Prediction: #ANDNEW Michael Chandler wins
Frank’s Bets: Michael Chandler moneyline Under 2.5 rounds Michael Chandler to win by KO/TKO
I simply can’t buy into the idea that Michael Chandler should earn a title shot after only one fight. Not to mention that that one fight came against someone he was barely favored against and was coming off of a loss. This is no disrespect to Dan Hooker, but if Chandler won against Justin Gaethje or Dustin Poirier in his debut, I wouldn’t have an issue with this. It also should be mentioned that Chandler lost his Bellator belt in 2019 to Patricio “Pitbull” Freire, the now double-champ in Bellator. Charles Oliveira’s last loss came to Paul Felder in 2017 and has since gone on an eight-fight win streak that includes seven finishes and an absolutely demolishing performance against Tony Ferguson. I like Chandler’s confidence, but that will only take him so far. I think Oliveira will overwhelm Chandler when the fight likely goes to the ground.
Prediction: Oliveira via Round 3 Submission