Despite only joining the promotion at the end of 2020, Chandler has already been in a host of memorable affairs inside the Octagon. While two first-round finishes against Dan Hooker and Tony Ferguson marked standout wins for the former multi-time Bellator champion, his defeats haven’t come in emphatic fashion either.
As well as coming inches from winning gold against Charles Oliveira last May before becoming the victim of a memorable second-round comeback, “Iron” played his part in 2021’s consensus Fight of the Year, trading bombs with Justin Gaethje at UFC 268.
Given the quality of competition he’s faced on MMA’s biggest stage, you’d perhaps expect Chandler to pluck his toughest opponent out of that limited opponent pool.
Chandler Names Hardest Test & It’s Not Oliveira/Gaethje
During a recent appearance on the PBD Podcast, hosted by Patrick Bet-David, Chandler discussed a multitude of topics surrounding his ongoing career inside the cage, including his hardest opponent to date.
Interestingly, despite sharing the Octagon with names many would consider the best in the world, Chandler named former UFC champion and current Bellator contender Benson Henderson as the toughest to strategically break down.
“I think the hardest fight from a strategic standpoint, from a ‘everything you try to do you couldn’t hurt the guy,’ was a guy named Benson Henderson, former UFC champion, came over to Bellator and I fought him twice,” Chandler said. “I passed out between the fourth and fifth round the first time I fought him. That was the big suplex that happened, and I beat the tar out of him for two, three rounds.
“The guy didn’t have a red mark. He didn’t have a scrape. And I’m looking at him and he’s throwing his big hair up, and I’m just like, ‘Dude, are you a robot?’ So I mean, there’s nothing worse than that,” Chandler added.
Chandler has shared the cage with Henderson on two occasions, both under the Bellator banner. They first collided in 2016 in what was only Henderson’s third outing in the promotion.
After going the full five rounds, Chandler fell on the right side of a split decision verdict. But despite emerging victorious on the scorecards, it was certainly far from an easy night at the office for the then-champion, whose first win over Henderson marked the sole defense of his second reign.
“I’ve gone back and watched that fight and just thought, ‘Man, I hit him with everything but the kitchen sink and the guy just flipped his hair back.’ He had a very, very good poker face,” Chandler noted. “And even though you knew he had a poker face, that poker face still got to you. And you’re just like, ah, ah, going at him. And he was good on the ground. He was Gumby on the ground. I slammed him on his head with probably one of the greatest suplexes in mixed martial arts history, and he gets up like, ‘I’m good.’”
Chandler did go on to note that both Oliveira and Gaethje prevented different challenges that would put them above Henderson in some other areas, namely pure savage offense.
While he was forced into a war of attrition the first time around, the pair’s rematch didn’t quite play out the same way. Appearing under the Bellator banner for the final time in August 2020, Chandler knocked Henderson out in one round, breaking his four-fight win streak in the process.
While Chandler has gone on to thrill the UFC fanbase in four Octagon appearances, Henderson has recently begun a resurgence in Bellator.
After losing two further fights following his second defeat to Chandler, “Smooth” rebounded by stalling the rise of Islam Mamedov, who had amassed 19 straight wins before colliding with Henderson at Bellator 273.
And returning to the headlining spotlight in Dublin last month, Henderson made it consecutive victories for the first time since 2019 by outpointing Peter Queally.
Are you surprised that Michael Chandler named Benson Henderson as his toughest opponent?
Please provide transcription credit with a link to this article if you use any of these quotes.