Chandler had his first crack at reserving his place on the lightweight throne in just his second Octagon outing. Having signed with the UFC in 2020, “Iron” made his promotional debut in January this year against the always-resilient and entertaining Dan Hooker. Announcing his arrival in about as emphatic fashion as he could have, the former three-time Bellator Lightweight Champion finished “The Hangman” inside three minutes of the opening round.
With the division’s belt relinquished by the great Khabib Nurmagomedov, and top contender Dustin Poirier deciding to pursue a money trilogy fight with former two-division champ Conor McGregor, Chandler found himself opposite Charles Oliveira in UFC 262’s vacant championship clash. Despite a dominant opening round, the 35-year-old watched the gold slip away from his grasp when “Do Bronx” mounted an incredible second-round comeback.
Saturday, Chandler will return to the cage in the hope of rebounding back into contention immediately. In his way will be striking brute Gaethje, who hasn’t fought since his own title loss at UFC 254 last October. Ahead of the fight, Chandler described “The Highlight” as the “scariest” and “craziest” opponent he’s ever been matched up with.
Michael Chandler believes his Madison Square Garden contest with Gaethje will serve as a true title eliminator. Speaking during an interview with ESPN MMA’s Brett Okamoto, “Iron” hinted that he’s been told an impressive performance on November 6 will land him a second shot at UFC gold.
“If I win this fight, I think I’m right there back in title contention. Justin Gaethje is the number one contender, he calls himself, he’s said he’s already been told he gets a title shot with this win, you know, I may have heard that as well.”
If the winner of Chandler vs. Gaethje does secure another championship opportunity, they’ll be facing the winner of the UFC 269 main event between champion Oliveira and challenger Dustin Poirier. Despite falling to the Brazilian in May this year, Chandler believes his first-round performance against “Do Bronx” is grounds for a 2022 rematch.
“Either way, we’ll see what happens and how the fight on December 11 [Oliveira vs. Poirier] materializes. I think if Oliveira does find a way to beat Poirier, which, I do have Poirier winning that fight, but if Oliveira does win, he hadn’t lost a round since 2017 until Michael Chandler showed up and 10-8’ed him in the first round.
“So, I think there’s grounds for there to be a rematch between me and Charles Oliveira for the title,” added Chandler. “Conor’s gonna be coming back, he’s gonna be doing Conor things and he’s probably gonna want the Poirier fight… we’ll see what happens if Poirier’s holding the title. Who knows, it’s always an interesting landscape. All I know is, I plan to be holding UFC gold by the middle of next year. That’s the plan. That’s the goal. It starts on November 6 and knocking out Justin Gaethje.”
Do you think a victory for Michael Chandler at UFC 268 would earn him a second crack at lightweight gold?