The highly-anticipated Lightweight clash between all-action contenders Justin Gaethje (No. 2) and Michael Chandler (No. 4) kicked off one of the most highly-anticipated UFC pay-per-view (PPV) events of the year, UFC 268, which took place tonight (Sat., Nov. 6, 2021) inside Madison Square Garden in New York, N.Y., streaming online via ESPN+.
Both fighters are essentially mirror images, boasting fantastic wrestling skills and super heavy hands. Their combined talent, fan-friendly styles and jaw-dropping finishing capabilities were the reason(s) the promotion decided to have them at the the tip of the PPV spear. And, true to form, the two delivered the goods, with one of the most incredible, action-packed bouts in the history of the promotion.
Gaethje came out missing with a low alf kick, then another, seemingly going after his pegs. Chandler missed with a big hook and Gaethje countered with a short left. Jab is working for Gaethje as Chandler began to avoid the low kicks. Gaethje backed him up against the cage and started to pressure Chandler, but he countered well off the fence. Gaethje seemed a little stunned, with Chandler getting the better of the chaotic exchange. Gaethje got out of danger and back to the center of the Octagon, with Chandler using the jab and drilling him with hard overhand rights. Gaethje was taking insane punishment, but Gaethje started swinging for the fences and Chandler now seemed stunned. He tried to line up Gaethje along the cage, but Gaethje was able to get out of danger. Gaethje’s chin is incredible — Chandler was throwing everything but the kitchen sink at him and he was able to remain upright. Gaethje went back to the low kicks and the action finally started to slow down with 30 seconds remaining in the first round. Chandler went for a takedown, but abandoned quickly when it wasn’t there. Gaethje’s head must be spinning, while Chandler’s head and leg were also seriously compromised. What a round!
Chandler was bloodied up, with Gaethje pumping his fists in the air before coming out for the second round. Chandler with a nice left jab stung Gaethje early, then followed it up with an overhand right. Gaethje scored with a hard shot down the middle, with Chandler ripping the body. Low kick from Gaethje put Chandler into a corner, with him seemingly slowing down considerably. The pair made it back to the center of the Octagon and Gaethje dropped him with an insane uppercut. Chandler hit the ground and Gaethje pounced, it looked like it was over, but Chandler rolled to his belly and somehow survived. Chandler was cut bad, blood pouring from his face with Gaethje angling for an anaconda choke. Chandler eventually got back to his feet and his face was a bloody mess.He tried to mount some offense, including another failed takedown attempt, and Gaethje continued to pour it on. Another uppercut from Gaethje, then a shovel hook had Chandler wobbling. He still continued to move forward though, with Gaethje taking his foot off the gas pedal with one minute remaining in the round. With 10 seconds left, Chandler poked him in the eye, but the referee didn’t stop the action and Chandler decked him with a hard cross at the bell. Holy smokes, what a crazy 10 minutes!
Round three of what is easily a “Fight of the Year” candidate just two rounds in the books. These two are inhuman. Gaethje starts with another low kick, then another that had Chandler spinning away in agony. Chandler landed a hard right cross that, then a hard body shot that Gaethje absorbed well. Gaethje looking for another uppercut, with Gaethje Chandler going crazy on the body shots. Gaethje responded with a low kick and another hard uppercut. Chandler then scooped up Gaethje and tossed him in the air, but in the ensuing scramble, Gaethje landed on top and started boxing the ears from behind. He quickly got back to his feet and went back to body shots. Chandler then scored withj an uppercut that wobbled Gaethje, but he stormed back with several hard shots that had Chandler out on his feet. Chandler tried to bounce around and regain his composure, with Gaethje content to take a breather and watch him as seconds melted off the clock. Gaethje scored with a front kick late, in one of the most insane fights you will ever see.
That was simply incredible — there are no words to describe how awesome that fight was.
With the big win, Gaethje is now one step closer to a title shot headed into 2022. Islam Makhachev and Beneil Dariush are still floating out there, but there ground-based styles are so similar it would make sense to have them fight each other to rule out of them out of the immediate 155-pound title chase.
Gaethje more than earned his title shot ... and a well-earned rest.
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