The anticipated UFC debut of multiple-time Bellator lightweight champion Michael Chandler is set for January 23 during UFC 257. The event will host two massive fights in the lightweight division, with Chandler taking on No. 6 ranked Dan Hooker and No. 2 ranked Dustin Poirier fighting No. 4 ranked Conor McGregor.
The state of the division is unclear as champion Khabib Nurmagomedov, who announced his retirement in October, has not been stripped nor has he vacated the title. UFC president Dana White is set to meet with “The Eagle” later this month to speak about his fighting future.
A win is crucial for the lightweights competing at UFC 257 as they could line themselves up for a shot at the lightweight strap, especially if Nurmagomedov vacates the belt. With a victory over Hooker, Chandler, who signed with the promotion last year and has yet to compete, will instate his name in the top of the lightweight rankings. Should McGregor defeat Poirier, Chandler could find himself fighting the Irishman next, possibly for the UFC lightweight title.
With a win, the UFC will likely offer McGregor (22-4) a shot at the belt due to his stardom. Although there are other names at the top of the division who could be slotted in against “Notorious,” specifically No.1 ranked Justin Gaethje or No. 3 ranked Charles Oliveira, Chandler (21-5) could create a compelling case for himself with a dominant victory over Hooker.
And while speaking with ESPN’s Brett Okamoto recently, Chandler said that if the fight with McGregor does come to fruition, he will be a “nightmare” for the Irishman. He said that if he earns an impressive victory on January 23, and McGregor gets past Poirier on the same night, their names may be sewn together.
Chandler said, “You have to be real with the stakes at hand when you talk about being in the same weight class and the same organization, fighting on the same night as Conor McGregor. Your name being right next to his on the bill.”
“Of course, I want my name in that storyline,” Chandler said. “Of course, I want my name attached to his. Of course, I want that possible fight. Do I think I match up extremely well against Conor? Absolutely. With my wrestling background plus the power in my hands, plus my ability to mix up the striking with the takedowns, plus my ability to push the pace, I think I’m a nightmare for Conor.”
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Chandler Believes the ‘Best Version’ of McGregor Will Show Up at UFC 257
While speaking with ESPN, Chandler said that he doesn’t believe Notorious receives as much credit as he should and that the Irishman will be the “best version” of himself walking into the Octagon on January 23.
I will say, my view of Conor McGregor has changed over the years. I always said he’s better than what we thought he was, but he’s not as good as he thinks that he is. I think that’s still the case but that’s only because he thinks… he’s one of the most mentally strong, most devastatingly confident men in the entire world, definitely across this sport. And we as fans, or we as his fellow competitors, we don’t give him as much credit as is due. I think he’s motivated, he’s going to go out there and we’re going to see the best version of Conor McGregor.
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Chandler Predicts That McGregor Will Defeat Poirier
Chandler respects the abilities of both Poirier and McGregor, however he told ESPN that if he has to make a prediction, he’s picking McGregor to come out on top.
Chandler believes that Poirier will have the advantage in the later rounds with his experience and volume striking.
“I think you’ve got to give the deeper waters, the later rounds and the close volume punching exchanges to Dustin Poirier,” Chandler said. “We’ve seen Conor go five rounds once, maybe twice… [once] against Diaz. But we’ve seen Poirier do it numerous times or at least keep a very high pace, tons of volume punching.”
He said that Poirier will have to be on his game during the first few rounds to avoid McGregor’s powerful and precise striking. He said that Poirier needs to establish to McGregor right away that he is a different fighter than when they fought in 2014. McGregor and Poirier fought in the featherweight division at UFC 178 and Notorious won via first-round TKO.
“If I had to be a betting man, my money would still lean towards Conor McGregor,” Chandler said.
Regardless, Chandler is excited to watch the fight as a fan of the sport. “I think it’s going to be a 95% on the feet battle, which is going to be fun for all of us to watch,” he said. “I’m going to collect my paycheck and then run back to the stands and hopefully go catch that fight.”