UFC newcomer Michael Chandler is currently without an opponent for his UFC debut. After he was signed to the UFC, the promotion made it clear that they had big plans and high admiration for Chandler when they assigned him to be a replacement fighter should either Khabib Nurmagomedov or Justin Gaethje fall out of their UFC 254 main event. The bout went ahead as planned, but that doesn’t mean Chandler can’t still face one of those two men according to former interim lightweight champion Dustin Poirier.
“I would think it would probably be him and Gaethje before him and Hooker,” Poirier told MMA Junkie. “If you’re going to toss him into the top of the division and giving him this push, give him the former interim champ who jut came off a title fight. That’s a great measuring stick to see where he’s at.”
Even after being on the winning end of the contest, Dustin Poirier knows all too well what it’s like to be in a fight with Justin Gaethje. He could surely confirm that Justin Gaethje is not your typical litmus test. But given how both Michael Chandler and the UFC seem eager for Chandler’ss UFC career to begin with an opponent at the very top of the division, Poirier’s booking makes sense. The only other top-5 fighter besides Gaethje who does not have a fight booked is Dan Hooker. And ironically, Hooker would love a fight with Gaethje as well.
So far, all of Michael Chandler’s potential opponents would have been in short-notice fights. After Rafael dos Anjos was forced to withdraw from UFC 254 due to the coronavirus, Islam Makhachev and his team wanted Chandler to step in as a replacement. When the tables turned and it was Makhachev who pulled out from the rescheduled bout against dos Anjos, dos Anjos proposed Chandler should fill in, and Chandler swiftly dismissed the idea. Most recently, Tony Ferguson proposed fighting Michael Chandler at UFC 256, but Chandler said that December was too soon. A fight against Justin Gaethje would finally be a fight that Chandler would have proper time to prepare for, and it would see how the former Bellator champion stacks up against the UFC’s elite.
Do you think a fight between Justin Gaethje and Michael Chandler makes sense for Chandler’s UFC debut?