Next month at UFC 280, Makhachev will have his first shot at UFC gold as he competes for the vacant lightweight title, which was most recently held by his October 22 opponent Charles Oliveira.
But while many expecting Makhachev to complete what the likes of Khabib Nurmagomedov have branded his destiny at the Abu Dhabi-held pay-per-view, one of Makhachev’s fellow contenders believes that his dominance is being oversold.
“Nothing against Islam, you say he looks great, you say he looks unbeatable at times, but he hasn’t really fought anybody,” Chandler said. “That’s really the truth. He beat No. 14 and then he beat Dan Hooker, who was on a three or four-fight losing streak.”
Makhachev was quick to respond to Chandler’s doubts. The #4-ranked lightweight brought up the American’s 2-2 UFC record, urging him to “stay in line.”
While some have looked to downplay Chandler’s Octagon stint and pair of stoppage victories, he was recently defended by Sonnen, both on accounts of his remarks about Makhachev and the Dagestani’s response.
Sonnen: ‘Chandler Said Nothing Out Of Bounds’
During a video uploaded to his YouTube channel, former middleweight and light heavyweight contender Sonnen insisted that Chandler’s comments were not harsh.
“The American Gangster” also brought up Chandler’s past willingness to face Makhachev when Oliveira appeared keen to avoid a showdown with the fast-rising Russian. For that, Sonnen believes that Chandler has the right to speak out like he did.
“Michael Chandler was spouting off about Islam Makhachev, and Chandler’s taken a little bit of heat for this,” Sonnen said. “I don’t think that’s a bad statement. And you wanna know one thing where I want defend Michael Chandler here? If anybody has the right to stick his finger in Islam’s chest, there’s one guy. There’s only one guy and that’s Michael Chandler. I’m giving him that pass because Chandler called Islam out. Nobody’s ever called Islam out.”
Sonnen also went on to assess Makhachev’s response. Whilst he admitted to being glad that the 30-year-old has found his voice, especially if it goes towards setting up a future clash with “Iron,” he did suggest that Makhachev was wrong to only mention Chandler’s brief UFC tenure.
The fighter-turned-analyst also made note of the competition Chandler has faced in the Octagon, even stating that he ‘whipped Oliveira’s ass’ when they collided for the vacant 155-pound belt last May at UFC 262.
“Islam fired back at Chandler and talked about the two wins that he’s got. Well, I’ve gotta stop your fight there,” Sonnen stated. “Chandler doesn’t have two wins. I’ve watched Michael Chandler whipping ass since 2013… you go look at Oliveira… Michael Chandler whipped his ass! You’re saying Chandler’s down here, Oliveira’s up there; Chandler whipped his ass!”
Sonnen concluded his defense of the #5-ranked contender by insisting that nothing he said about Makhachev was “out of bounds.”
“I didn’t hear any insults to Islam,” Sonnen said. “I hear an observation from a fellow contender who’s the one guy that stepped up and wanted to do the fight, that he thinks that the competition could have been a little more stiff. That doesn’t sound bad to me… There was nothing about that statement that was out of bounds from Michael Chandler.”
While Makhachev will look to ascend to the top of the lightweight mountain at UFC 280, Chandler will be hoping to secure his place opposite the next champ soon enough when he returns to action a few weeks later.
“Iron” will lace up the gloves to settle his rivalry with Dustin Poirier at UFC 281 on November 12. Having rebounded from a FOTY defeat to Gaethje last November by knocking Tony Ferguson out at UFC 274, Chandler will be hoping that a victory over the #2 man in the division is enough to cement the spot next in line.
Do you agree with Chael Sonnen’s assessment of Michael Chandler and Islam Makhachev’s back and forth?