The long awaited UFC 263: Chandler vs. Oliveira card is finally upon us. In addition to several highly anticipated bouts on the main card are another series of must-see matchups on the undercard. Be sure to watch the prelims this weekend to see the following three prospects in action.
The stars are beginning to align for 31 year-old André “Sergipano” Muniz (20-4 MMA, 2-0 UFC). The 2x Contender Series grad has silently emerged as a force to be reckoned with at 185 pounds. Brazil’s Sergipano is currently riding a 6-fight winning streak, including 2 wins on the Contender Series, and another 2 inside of the UFC. On Saturday night Muniz will encounter his toughest test to date, as he squares off against the legendary Ronaldo “Jacaré” Souza (26-9-1 MMA, 9-6 UFC).
The Age of the Lions
Of Muniz’s wins, 4 have come by KO/TKO, 13 by submission, and 3 by decision. Though he hasn’t fallen short in 5 years, all 4 of Muniz’s career defeats occured in the same fashion: KO/TKO. As the gifted pupil continues to answer questions early in his UFC career, he’ll now face his biggest obstacle yet.
At 41 years of age, Jacaré Souza has experienced nearly everything the jungle has to offer. With that in mind, we would be foolish to think Souza will simply roll over in the wake of another surging young contender. The tenured middleweight staple provided a statement during an interview ahead of his bout this weekend.
“I’m still alive. Sometimes young lions kill old lions. But sometimes, they die trying. I want to kill this guy, man. I’m ready to win.”
Now on a 3-fight skid, the credentialed veteran has competed with some of the best in the world. Not the least of whom was current light heavyweight champion Jan Błachowicz, in Souza’s second to last appearance. One look at Jacaré’s resume tells you exactly how dangerous and game of an opponent the elder Brazilian is. While its true that “Father Time” is undefeated, the question is, has that time arrived for Jacaré’s career?
This matchup goes one step further than “old vs. new”. In a sort of “Gemini Man” clash between two comparable fighters, some may go as far to say Muniz is the younger version of Souza. The two are similarly sized, each representing Brazil; at heart and in their Jiu Jitsu dominant styles which have led both men to victory by submission in the majority of their wins.
One hungry lion will seize his opportunity to make a name, while the other proudly and ademently stands his ground. Tune into the prelim headliner this weekend to witness 2 generations of the jungle collide.
Among some of the best fighters in all of England is none other than Mike Grundy (12-2 MMA, 0-1 UFC). The decorated freestyle wrestler will make his return to the cage after suffering his second career loss to undefeated Movsar Evloev in 2020. Grundy previously hadn’t lost in 5 years, and is eager to make an emphatic return against featherweight newcomer “Groovy” Lando Vannata (11-5-2 MMA, 3-5-2 UFC).
Master of the Mats
Liverpool’s Grundy cultivated a strong grappling foundation as a former olympic freestyle wrestler and No-Gi Jiu Jitsu world champion. The crafty purple-belt has proven to effectively blend the two styles of grappling, a combination that speaks for itself when glancing at Grundy’s record. Of his 12 wins, 8 have been earned by submission, 1 by TKO, and 3 by decision. Grundy has been defeated once by decision, and once by submission. At 34 years of age, Grundy has only been competing professionally for 7 years. Grundy has certainly come far, but considering the still greenish length of his career, it’s possible we haven’t even seen the very best of him.
It’s all Groovy
Mike’s comeback opponent may be new to the featherweight division, but he’s no stranger to the UFC. The former lightweight contender, Vannata, has shared the octagon with some of the best in his former division. Among that list is former interim champion and this weekend’s co-main event star, Tony Ferguson. Lando’s resume also includes scraps with Bobby Green (x2), Yancy Medeiros, Matt Frevola, and several others. For nearly a decade, “Groovy” Vannata has been fighting out of Albuquerque, New Mexico under the tutelage of Greg Jackson. The Brazilian Jiu Jitsu brown belt has won 5 of his competitions by submission, 4 by KO/TKO, and 2 by decision. Vannata has only been finished once in his career (SUB), has lost 4 bouts by decision, and has come to a draw on two occasions.
With so many exciting matchups, this a bout that is sure to create early momentum for an overall exciting card. Be sure to tune in early to watch these two battle to return back to their place in the winning column.
He feels the “need for speed” whenever he lets his fists fly. In another exciting featherweight bout, 2x Contender Series alum, Tucker “Top Gun” Lutz (11-1 MMA) will make his official debut against fellow Contender Series grad, Kevin “The Angel of Death” Aguilar (17-4 MMA, 2-3 UFC). At 26 years-old, Lutz has already accrued a near perfect record with 11 wins and only 1 loss. Riding a 10-fight winning streak, “Top Gun” hasn’t been defeated since suffering a KO in his professional debut.
With finishes in 8 of his wins, only 3 of Lutz’s fights have gone to the judges scorecards. As one of the new kids on the block, on Saturday Lutz will also embrace the unknown of an entirely new weight class as he moves from 155 pounds to 145 pounds in his UFC debut.
The Angel of Death
The lucky draw to welcome “Top Gun” will be “The Angel of Death” himself. At 32 years-old, Kevin Aguilar officially has 5 fights inside of the UFC. Having lost the last 3 of those bouts, there’s additional pressure for Aguilar to rise to the occasion this weekend. Of his wins, 10 have come by KO/TKO, 1 by submission, and 6 by decision. Of his losses, 2 have come by TKO, and 2 by decision. His three most recent losses were suffered to notable UFC contenders including Charles Rosa, Chechnya’s Zubaira Tukhugov, and Dan Ige.
Despite the losing skid of Aguilar, there’s something to be said for the experience he has accrued against elite level competiton. The question is, will the pressure to prove his worth fuel or forbid his ability to get the job done? Aguilar and Lutz each have something to prove, and regardless if their motives differ, the product of their encounter will undoubtably be worth the watch.
In case they weren’t previously, hopefully the athletes highlighted above are officially on your UFC radar. As “Uncle Dana” loves to quote the late Notorious Biggie Smalls, “If you don’t know, now you know.” Make sure to watch these prospects live on Saturday at 5:30 PM CST on ESPN+ or UFC Fight Pass.