Former Bellator kingpin, Michael Chandler, will dual with submission master, Charles Oliveira, this Saturday (May 15, 2021) at UFC 262 inside Toyota Center in Houston, Texas.
“Iron Mike” has been one of the best Lightweights in the world for a very long time.
Of course, it’s hard to prove that definitively without stepping into the Octagon; that’s just how hype and promotion works. Still, there was a good couple years there around 2012 that I would have happily placed money on a young Chandler over the then-UFC champ. Not long, afterward, however, Chandler ran into some losses, and though he did rebound, those defeats stayed with him in the eyes of doubters. A single left hook to the jawline of Dan Hooker helped eliminate such bad memories. If nothing else, Chandler destroyed at least one Top Five-ranked Lightweight. Now, he has a chance to fully prove himself and score UFC gold in the process.
Let’s take a closer look at his skill set:
Chandler has 10 knockout wins on his record, and a majority of them came via his right hand. However, in his last couple fights, Chandler has shown some new tricks, proving the 34-year-old veteran is still improving.
First thing is first: Chandler’s right is an absolute fastball. “Iron” can close distance with a shocking quickness, and if you’ve ever checked out his Instagram, you know just how much effort Chandler puts into being an explosive athlete. All that speed and power funnels directly into his cross, which is more than capable of shutting the lights off ... anyone.
Really, if there’s one thing Henri Hooft — Chandler’s head striking coach — excels at, its fundamentals, at that approach fits Chandler well. He’s no longer the over-aggressive slugger (GIF) that took out Eddie Alvarez mostly via wanting to win really badly. Instead, Chandler smartly lines up his right behind the jab and double jab, and he puts together basic combinations very well.
In his last two knockout wins, Chandler has scored the knockout with his left hand off the threat of his right. That’s a simple enough concept — watch that right hand above again and immediately understand why no one wants to get hit by it — but Chandler has now done so in two different manners.
Against Benson Henderson, Chandler backed his opponent into the fence with a 1-2, and his right kick afterward (Chandler is a solid kicker in general) brought him into the Southpaw stance. Rather than shift back, Chandler attacked, stepping deep into a leftie 1-2, and his cross put Henderson down hard. If Chandler’s left cross can land half as hard as his right, that’s a serious improvement.
Opposite Hooker, Chandler’s strategy in finding the left seems more clear, whereas his knockout of Henderson seemed opportunistic. The bout didn’t last all that long, but Chandler still manager to repeatedly flash his jab high and throw his right hand to the body. Chandler was finding his timing, and when he eventually followed up that cross with a left hook to the chin, it landed perfectly (GIF).
Defensively, it should be noted that Chandler’s athletic style of kickboxing certainly carries some risk. For one, that wide stance is a bold chance in the calf kick-heavy era we currently reside in (though, Chandler did well avoiding Hooker’s low kicks). In addition, Chandler steps deep with his punches and therefore commits a lot of weight to his punches, meaning that if he’s interrupted with a counter, it’s going to hurt.
An All-American wrestler, Chandler’s takedowns are similarly power-heavy to his kickboxing. Historically, Chandler tends to turn to his wrestling if the early knockout fails to materialize.
There is a reason why the right hand and double leg are a classic combination. Chandler’s penetration step forward for either technique is similar-looking for his opponents, and that right hand is tremendous motivation to cover up. If Chandler can get his opponent back up with a high guard, the shot is going to succeed.
Chandler is more refined then in this clip from 2014, but it still gets the point across well-enough.
Chandler’s athletic double leg is very often enough to overwhelm opponents, but he’ll also move up the body into the clinch. Again, it’s all about strength and physicality, as Chandler really looks to power through his opponent’s defense with a big lift. It’s not complicated, but if an opponent’s feet leave the canvas, he’s likely going to hit the mat!
Strength aside: this is a beautiful suplex.
Defensively, Chandler’s issues come when he fatigues. Against crafty scramblers like Ben Henderson and Will Brooks, Chandler has found himself reversed when trying to muscle takedowns. That’s a really bad situation: Chandler is already a bit tired, tries his max-effort takedown, then winds up on his back.
Chandler may not be officially ranked in BJJ, but he’s always been an excellent opportunistic on the mat, and he’s secured seven tapout wins without ever getting strangled himself. There are two moments that distinctly come to my mind when considering Chandler’s jiu-jitsu abilities, and admittedly, they’re both older references.
Way back in the day, Chandler became the first — and a decade later, still the only! — man to submit Marcin Held. Chandler was not and is not a better grappler than the Polish leg lock prodigy. However, Chandler showed his grit, surviving some unpleasant leg torqueing to land in a dominant position. Immediately, Chandler went on the attack with an arm triangle of his own, putting Held to sleep!
A couple years later, Chandler absolutely manhandled Rick Hawn, a highly talented Judoka with a lot of hype behind him at the time. Chandler threw his opponent around, and when Hawn turned his back in an attempt to stand, Chandler damn near ripped his head off.
Sure, these fights are pretty old, but throughout Chandler’s career and other submission wins, the same lessons apply. The wrestler is quick to jump on the neck with both the rear naked choke and arm triangle, particularly if his opponent is hurt. It doesn’t have to be complicated to work!
A fair portion of the MMA community (justifiably) believed that Chandler would end his career — or at least his prime — without ever stepping into the Octagon. He’s already defied such expectations, but capturing the title in his second UFC fight would truly be the ultimate answer in proving himself.
Remember that MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC 262 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 262: “Oliveira vs. Chandler” news and notes be sure to hit up our comprehensive event archive right here.
Andrew Richardson, a Brazilian jiu-jitsu brown belt, is a professional fighter who trains at Team Alpha Male in Sacramento, California. In addition to learning alongside world-class talent, Andrew has scouted opponents and developed winning strategies for several of the sport’s most elite fighters.