After falling short of the 155-pound mountaintop at UFC 262 in May, where he suffered a TKO loss at the hands of Charles Oliveira, Chandler hoped to bounce straight back to the title in his third promotional outing earlier this month. In his way was Gaethje, a brawler who also failed to capture the belt in his prior outing. “The Highlight,” who held the interim strap in 2020, became the latest beaten name added to Khabib Nurmagomedov‘s perfect record last October.
After 15 minutes of thrilling action in front of a sold-out Madison Square Garden, it was Gaethje who left the Octagon with a likely title shot secured. But his unanimous decision victory certainly didn’t come easy. The pair threw hard for the contest’s duration, rocking each other with some brutal shots. Even in defeat, Chandler’s stock certainly didn’t drop in New York City.
Chandler: I Could Have Finished Gaethje In 4th Or 5th Round
As with most Fight of the Year contenders that only ran for three rounds, many wish the clash between Michael Chandler and Justin Gaethje had been scheduled for five frames. However, the former three-time Bellator Lightweight Champion doesn’t share that sentiment.
During an appearance on Ariel Helwani’s The MMA Hour, Chandler was asked what he’d have thought about a further 10 minutes with Gaethje. Despite suggesting he could have finished “The Highlight” with the extra time, “Iron” said the damage both men took in 15 minutes was enough.
“I don’t know, I’m glad it wasn’t. At the pace we were going… Truthfully I would’ve had just as good a chance of maybe finishing him in the fourth or the fifth, because the fight was going like that. I think both of us were landing big shots. He was landing big shots, I was landing big shots. We both got hurt, we both got wobbled. I’m glad it wasn’t a five round fight. We both took as much damage as we needed to take in 15 minutes. He gets to go off and hopefully gets that title shot. I think he goes and beats Dustin Poirier, or Charles Oliveira, middle of next year. Then maybe we’ll set up a rematch when I get a win or two. We’ll see what happens. I’m glad it was only 15 minutes,” Chandler said.
Chandler also suggested that a three-round clash made more sense for the kind of fast-paced brawl we saw on November 5. The 35-year-old believes a 25-minute distance would simply have enforced energy conservation tactics.
“In a lot of ways, I think 15 minutes is better than 25 because there was no governor, there wasn’t a break pedal in sight. Neither of us touched a break pedal whatsoever. We wanted to go as hard as we possibly could for 15 minutes. 25 minutes you start venturing into the realm of your body shutting down and having to conserve energy.”
While Gaethje targets a championship fight against the winner of Dustin Poirier vs. Charles Oliveira, a bout that’s set to headline UFC 269 next month, Chandler will be looking to make his way back to title contention in 2022. If both men have successful years, perhaps we could see the pair go five rounds for gold in the not-too-distant future.
Would you like to see Michael Chandler and Justin Gaethje run it back at some point down the line?