Returning to the Octagon in November at UFC 268 — ‘Iron’ Michael Chandler is tasked with rebounding from his first UFC blemish, and believes the most difficult outing of his professional career is awaiting him when paired with former interim lightweight titleholder, Justin ‘The Highlight’ Gaethje.
Chandler, who returns for the first time since May, clashes with his fellow returner, Gaethje, attempting to re-enter title contention following a second round knockout defeat to Charles Oliveira in a vacant title tilt back at UFC 262.
The former three-time Bellator lightweight champion debuted in the UFC back in January of this year, co-headlining UFC 256 on ‘Fight Island’. Landing in the promotion with a staggering knockout victory — Chandler exploded with an overhand shot, knocking down Dan Hooker before following up with ground strikes, finishing the City Kickboxing mainstay.
For Gaethje, the Arizonian striker is set to return to the Octagon for the first time since October of last year, where he failed to successfully unify the lightweight crowns, dropping a second round triangle submission loss to Khabib Nurmagomedov. The defeat snapped a four-fight run of knockout wins for the ONX Labs mainstay.
Speaking with The MMA Hour host, Ariel Helwani ahead of his outing against Gaethje at Madison Square Garden, Chandler explained how he is preparing for the most difficult fight of his life against the former interim lightweight champion.
“I think you always prepare for a long-drawn-out war,” Chandler said. “I think you always prepare for a guy that you just can’t finish. A guy that just continues to come forward with everything you hit him with. And Justin Gaethje is that. You’re kidding yourself if you don’t think Justin Gaethje is not just violent and not just skilled, but man, the guy has cardio and heart in droves.“
“So, I’m preparing for 15 hard minutes, the hardest fight of my life,” Chandler continued. “But, I think best-case scenario, I land one pretty darn hard on his temple or his chin and put him out. But, that’s what every fighter wants.“
Chandler, a staple of Sanford MMA in Deerfield Beach, Florida — has explained how he plans to score a knockout triumph over Gaethje, however, maintains realistic that a lengthy showdown could be likely on November 5.
“You want the knockout, you want the quick, easy paycheck of course,” Chandler said. “But, you’ve got to be ready for that 15-minute war. If I had to guess, I think if there’s a finish it’s happening, later on, second or third round. Because I think both of us are just not going to get hit with anything too crazy clean in order to get finished.“
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