When Michael Chandler signed with the UFC, he did so know he would have to prove himself despite his earlier success in Bellator MMA. Chandler critiques Makhachev’s premature praise and said he hasn’t truly engaged in combat.
All four of his wins were against opponents rated in the top ten, and he has knocked out two and earned three performance bonuses against three opponents who have held at least a share of the lightweight championship.
Chandler Understood He Couldn’t Take His Success for Granted
Chandler, realizing he could not rest on his laurels, has sought the UFC for the biggest bouts against the hardest opponents since signing with the company.
For the same reason, Chandler is not completely convinced by all the fuss surrounding lightweight contender Islam Makhachev, who will be pitted against Charles Oliveira in October at UFC 280 with the 155-pound belt at stake.
While Makhachev may be undefeated over his last ten bouts, Chandler may easily poke holes in that run by questioning the caliber of his opponents. In an interview with MMA Fighting.
Chandler said, “Nothing against Islam, you say he looks fantastic, you say he looks invincible at times, but he hasn’t fought anyone.”
That is true. He defeated both No. 14 and Dan Hooker, who had lost his earlier three or four bouts in a row. One of your victories was against Dan Hooker, so people would ask, “What are you talking about?”
Again, In A Different Situation
On another occasion, I engaged in combat with Dan Hooker. It had been 25 minutes since he had fought Dustin Poirier, the world’s second-ranked lightweight.
In reality, Makhachev has never shied away from facing the greatest of the best, and his February matchup with Beneil Dariush was no exception. When Dariush was injured, Makhachev was matched up with Bobby Green, who he easily knocked out in the first round.
Chandler guarantees that he will give Makhachev all the praise in the world if the Russian goes out and annihilates Oliveira in the same manner.
But he cannot make such a claim until he has more experience under his belt. Chandler emphasized, “I’m not suggesting that [Islam] not that good.” We do not know whether he is that talented yet.
Premature acclaim if you will. In contrast, Chandler had nothing but praise for Oliveira, who was his second opponent in the UFC and first in the promotion after he received his opportunity at the lightweight title in May 2021.
Later that night, despite seeming like the fight was finished when Chandler wounded Oliveira early, the Brazilian rallied for a second-round knockout and the vacant lightweight championship left by Khabib Nurmagomedov’s retirement.
Due to Oliveira’s consistent and predictable performance, Chandler had come to believe he had the Brazilian figured out. And “Do Bronx” completely disproved him. It was me,” Chandler said.
I Thought He Was Going to Give In, But He Didn’t
You may recall that before I fought Charles, I was under the impression that he was going to back down.
It was something we had seen before. We now knew that he was not as tough as he had made up to be. We knew from experience that he always found a way to escape sticky situations.
He has been in the fire against me, [Dustin] Poirier, and [Justin] Gaethje, and he is appeared victorious every time. He is shown that he can be tough under pressure. This proves his audacity.
He is the finest grappler in the UFC today, and he is also shown tremendous development in his striking. He is developed into a formidable long and rangy kickboxer with a solid foundation in the fundamentals.
He has done an excellent job at it. His ability to keep emotional distance is impressive. Whenever he takes damage, like in the Gaethje and Poirier bouts, he just falls on his back and pulls guard. It is a fantastic tactic since no one can rush into his guard.
In Oliveira’s current reign as champion, only Chandler has gone to the mat with the defending champion and come out alive. He credits their intense back-and-forth for turning him become a fan of the Brazilian.
Oliveira, like Chandler, has proved himself repeatedly throughout a four-year win streak.
The lightweight champion now has victories against many legendary opponents. Chandler just cannot claim that Makhachev is qualified to be included among the lightweights Oliveira has previously defeated.
From a purely stylistic perspective, he thinks his old opponent has a good chance of coming out on top here.
Our Finishing Line
Chandler predicted that Charles was “simply too smooth, too excellent,” and that the latter would cause the former trouble on the ground.
It will not be too tough to take Charles down, but I predict Charles will come out on top in the grappling exchanges. It seems a little strange to me to make Islam the underdog in that conflict.
I am just being biased since Charles is one of the finest fighters in the world at his weight class, but after seeing him go from a “couldn’t be depended on, up-and-down, win some, lose some, journeyman” to a “very dominating champion on a winning streak,” I have to agree.
His performance in the field has convinced me that he can be relied upon.