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UFC 257 - New Blood: Michael Chandler arrives ... finally

It’s always frustrating to see promotional differences keep tantalizing match ups from us, but once in a while, things work out. On this edition of “New Blood,” the series where my failure to properly keep up with other organizations comes back to bite me, we look at Bellator MMA’s former Lightweight main man.

“Iron” Michael Chandler

Weight Class: Lightweight
Age: 34
Record: 21-5 (9 KO, 7 SUB)
Notable Victories: Benson Henderson, Goiti Yamauchi, Patricky Freire, Eddie Alvarez, Marcin Held

After a full decade under the Bellator banner, where he enjoyed three separate reigns as Lightweight champion, Alliance MMA’s Chandler enters the Octagon. He does so on the heels of knockout wins over Sidney Outlaw and Benson Henderson, the latter of which lasted just 2:09 (watch it).

Chandler is a 5’8” tank of a Lightweight with the all the horsepower his build suggests. His stalking, surprisingly light-footed stand up revolves around his nuclear bomb of a right cross, which he’ll deliver as a lead, behind a left hook, behind a stiff jab he doesn’t use enough, and/or to the body. He also boasts plenty of pop in his left hand, as seen when he used an unexpected southpaw switch to floor Henderson with a straight left in their rematch, so he’s far from a one-hit wonder.

Like your standard wrestle-boxer, he’s not much for kicks, often relying on just the occasional body kick or leg kick.

Though terrifyingly powerful, Chandler is held back by a combination of linearity and overcommitment. His bouncy footwork disguises the fact that he largely fights in straight lines, advancing directly towards or retreating directly away from his opponents. He’s also very, very aware of how heavy that straight is, putting every inch of his squat frame behind it and thus leaving both his head and center of gravity too far forward. This is especially evident with his straight right to the body.

These issues make him very vulnerable on the attack, and while I wouldn’t call him “fragile,” he can definitely dish it out much better than he can take it. In addition to Patricio Pitbull flooring and finishing him with a cross counter over his jab, Brent Primus visibly got a read on him after getting dropped in the first round, repeatedly tagging Chandler with check hooks and cracking him with jabs every time he tried to lead with his left hook.

If the going gets tough, however, Chandler can always lean on his wrestling. He sports a terrific takedown arsenal, and his top game is damn potent. He not only willingly engaged the dangerous Primus and Goiti Yamauchi on the mat, but beat the stuffing out of them from full guard. He’s not constrained to just battering from guard, either, boasting solid passing and a vicious squeeze on his chokes. That ground game is what first propelled him to Bellator glory and it’s just as potent a decade later.

It’s a testament to the division’s depth that I don’t immediately tab Chandler as a top-five fighter. He’s certainly Top 10, but between his aforementioned weaknesses and monsters like Charles Oliveira and Justin Gaethje lurking at the top, I don’t see him earning UFC gold.

Opponent: He meets the ever-dangerous Dan Hooker, who seems perfectly equipped to give Chandler the sort of rough Octagon welcome that Eddie Alvarez “enjoyed.” Hooker’s indestructible chin, division-best knees, and constant low kicks look like major issues for Chandler. If “Iron” can power through that rough stylistic clash for a win, it’ll be a hell of a statement.

Tape: His Bellator run can be found on Bellator.com, though its archive lacks a search function. You’d be better served just Googling, “Michael Chandler vs. X.”


Remember that MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC 257 fight card right here, starting with the early ESPN+ “Prelims” matches online, which are scheduled to begin at 6:15 p.m. ET, then the remaining undercard balance on ESPN/ESPN+ at 8 p.m. ET, before the PPV main card start time at 10 p.m. ET on ESPN+ PPV.

To check out the latest and greatest UFC 257: “McGregor vs. Poirier 2” news and notes be sure to hit up our comprehensive event archive right here.