UFC 262 is a massive card, period. In the main event, the company will determine the successor to Khabib Nurmagomedov’s crown when Charles Oliveira and Michael Chandler battle for the UFC lightweight title. However, the card also contains an intriguing featherweight contest that is flying under the radar. With contrasting fight styles and a place at the top end of the 145-pound division at stake, Mike Grundy and Lando Vannata square off during the evening’s preliminary card.
Grundy is one of the greatest freestyle wrestlers England has ever produced. He won a bronze medal at the 2014 Commonwealth Games and used his wrestling pedigree as his base when transitioning into MMA. Grundy compiled an 11-1 record prior to signing with the UFC in 2018. This included wins in BAMMA and an Aspera FC title reign in Brazil.
Grundy made his UFC debut in March 2019 and got off to a flying start. He scored a second-round TKO victory over Nad Narimani in London. Using his superior ground game, Grundy was able to control his opponent and drop Narimani before swarming his foe with a relentless onslaught to force the referee to intervene.
The Brit’s last fight came last July, when he suffered a unanimous-decision loss to Mosvar Evloev. Despite nearly gaining the finish via first-round D’arce choke, Grundy was outworked by Evloev, who now resides inside the division’s top 15. The competitive nature of this bout highlighted Grundy’s own place in this division.
Vannata may have one of the strangest UFC runs to date. “Groovy” is 3-5-2 since joining the promotion in 2016. His most famous moment came in his debut, a “Fight of the Night” classic against top lightweight Tony Ferguson. On short notice, Vannata brought the fight to Ferguson and even dropped him in the second round. Although he eventually succumbed to Ferguson’s pressure, Vannata made a splash.
Since then, Vannata has added promotional wins over Yancy Medeiros and John Makdessi. His first-round knockout of Makdessi is infamous and came courtesy of a wheel kick to Makdessi’s face. Vannata is a prominent kickboxer who likes to control the range and pace of the contest. Moreover, he has shown his ground game in the UFC with his first-round submission of Marcos Mariano.
These fighters have had contrasting UFC runs. Vannata has had 10 fights in the company, whereas Grundy is set to make only his third appearance on Saturday. Grundy has actually had more UFC bouts cancelled than come off, though, with the most recent being a scrapped fight with Nik Lentz in January. A key factor for Grundy is activity, and this starts with the Vannata contest.
This fight feels somewhat like a homage to the old days of the UFC, with the company pitting a striking specialist against a ground expert. Vannata will look to keep the fight standing and counter strike Grundy from the outside. Conversely, the British wrestler will hunt for takedowns and try to impose ground control to subdue Vannata’s offense. Given that Vannata is moving down from lightweight for this fight, Grundy may look to test his opponent’s gas tank and drag Vannata into deep waters with his wrestling.
A win here for either man is a huge scalp in the loaded featherweight division. With so many names vying for a spot in the top 15 of the weight class, the victor could land in a massive fight before the end of 2021. For these reasons, this fight is one to watch.
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