Updated: Jan 14, 2022
Khabib’s retirement is official. No matter what, we will hear Bruce Buffer announce a new champion in the men’s lightweight division after a main event fight between Charles Oliveira and Michael Chandler.
For this post, we will focus on the main card and provide early previews and picks. Circumstances, including weigh-ins and other health concerns during this pandemic, can greatly impact not only each fight on Saturday, but where they end up on the card. We will keep all of you up to date with relevant information through our social media accounts and then in our Game Picks on Saturday. Picks mentioned in this post are NOT our final picks.
Starting with the main event, Oliveira will enter the octagon as the betting favorite (-135) and is on an eight fight winning streak after his most recent win over Tony Ferguson, who is also fighting on this card. We will get to Ferguson in time, but Oliveira’s other opponents on his win streak really do not jump off the page. He beat Christos Giagos, who is fighting on the undercard on Saturday, an aging Jim Miller, Anthony Pettis who is now losing fights in the PFL, and Kevin Lee who has won 2 of his last 6 fight. Oliveira has been in the UFC since 2010 and this will be his first title shot.
Thanks to what Tony Ferguson called his “Dana White privilege”, Oiliveira’s opponent, Michael Chandler, is fighting in only his second fight in the UFC after a successful run in Bellator, where he rose to champion. Chandler won his first UFC fight with a very impressive knockout over a very tough and durable Dan Hooker. Chandler is also one of only two fighters to knockout former UFC Champion Benson Henderson. Chandler’s power is truly unmatched at the division, and far beyond that of any of the grapplers Oliveira has fought lately, which gives him a chance to beat anyone. All this, and we haven’t even mentioned Chandler’s wrestling success as a NCAA Division I All-American. We will happily jump in at that plus number (+115).
In the co-main, we have another lightweight bout, this time between Tony Ferguson and Beneil Dariush. Ferguson, now 37 years old, is coming off a loss to Oliveira in which he did not look like his old self. The level of competition Ferguson has fought lately is nothing short of impressive, but with losses in some long wars, they may ultimately prove to be costly. On the other side of the octagon, Dariush has just recently emerged as a top contender in the division. Dariush is the more polished striker, better at avoiding strikes, and seems to hit with way more power than Ferguson, who is largely a volume fighter. On the ground, we give a massive edge to Dariush as well. Even though we were surprised to see Dariush as the betting favorite (-185), the odds-makers seem to have got this one right.
The “co-co” will be a bantamweight fight between Matthew Christopher Schnell and Rogeiro Bontorin. Schnell seems to be the better striker of the two and really uses his length to his advantage, but Bontorin, who likes to close distance, is the far better fighter from the ground. Bontorin will be moving up a weight class after his controversial TKO loss Kai Kara France. We are not excited to get involved with this fight, but it does seem like another spot where you can lean towards the underdog, Bontorin, at plus money (+140).
Next, we have a women’s flyweight bout between the UFC’s newest heel, Kaitlyn Chookagian, and Viviane Araujo. Recently, Chookagian thought it was a good PR plan to say how “fans don’t pay [her] bills”. We don’t really see that as the savviest of business decisions, but we will also add that we have never raced back from the fridge to make sure we saw her fight. That is not to say that Chookagian isn’t talented, because she is, and only seems to lose to the best in the division. To her credit, she has also improved tremendously on the ground, an area that was a weakness at the start of her career. Her opponent, Araujo, is a powerful striker who will come at Chookagian hard for a round or two, but has yet to fight well late in fights. For that reason, we like the veteran Cookagian to find a win here (-140), even with some expected booing.
To start the main card, we have what looks to be a potential fight of the night in a men’s featherweight bout between Shane Burgos and Edson Barboza. Burgos is one of many Tiger Schulman fighters who has found success in the UFC. If Barboza was in his prime, we would say he runs away with this one, but those days are far gone. Like Ferguson, Barboza has taken significant amounts of damage in his career, but he is a tough figther and a true entertainer. No pick from us on this one, except that this clash should make for an exciting fight.
*Please do not confuse our opinions expressed here as our picks for the card. We will post all picks for this event and all UFC events in the Game Picks section of the website.
**Also, let us know if you like this UFC preview! Would you want to see a full card breakdown in the future?