Justin Gaethje finally has a fight and it is against exactly who all MMA fans were hoping for, former Bellator lightweight champion Michael Chandler. The fight is scheduled to take place on the UFC 268 card scheduled for early November. Both fighter’s most recent loss was an attempt to become champion in one of the top divisions in the sport, the lightweight division.
Gaethje’s championship loss came to undefeated UFC legend Khabib Nurmagomedov via triangle choke in the second round. Chandler’s loss as well came in the second round but was by TKO and from a different opponent, current light-weight champion Charles Olivera.
First reported by ESPN’s Brett Okamoto, it was stated that the bout between Chandler and Gaethje had not been officially signed but verbally agreed upon for the November date. UFC 268 is shaping up to be quite the card, with earlier last week a welterweight rematch between champion Kamaru Usman and number one contender Colby Covington was announced to headline the card. Now with a lightweight bout that presumably will outline the next title contest, this card could end up contending for the card of the year.
Justin Gaethje vs. Michael Chandler: The Matchup We Needed
Justin Gaethje (22-3, 5-3 UFC) is a fan favorite with his violent style inside the cage and honest dialogue outside the cage. When he fights, Gaethje says himself that he will either be knocking someone out or be getting knocked out. When he came into the UFC, he often talked about how due to his style of fighting, he will only have so many fights in his career. These quotes about fighting won over fans and Gaethje would stick to his words inside the Octagon.
He would go on to have a five and three record in the UFC, with not one of his fights going to the judges. He has had highlight-reel knockouts against opponents such as Donald Cerrone and Michael Johnson, but his breakout performance came last year against Tony Ferguson in the first UFC event during Covid-19. Gaethje filled in for Khabib Nurmagomedov when travel complications caused him to pull out of the fight. Gaethje put on a five-round master class that would end by TKO and would see him claim the interim lightweight championship.
As previously mentioned, what would come after this was a submission loss to Nurmagomedov and then followed by a confusing few months of attempting to see what fight was next. If Gaethje wins, it will be tough to argue that anyone other than him should be fighting for the lightweight strap.
Michael Chandler (22-6, 1-1 UFC) is the hero story that every up-and-coming mixed martial artist should be thrilled about. Chandler legitimized a competing promotion in Bealltor when he was signed by the UFC as a free agent. Chandler was a dominant champion in Bealltor who ended up becoming undeniable in the MMA community, regardless of the argued difference in competition present at Bellator.
When signed by the UFC, Chandler did not wait around to make his presence felt. His first agreement was to be the backup fighter for the aforementioned title bout between Gaethje and Nurmagomedov. While he did not end up fighting, he made his name known and fell into good faith with UFC brass.
Chandler would make his official debut in the UFC against top lightweight contender Dan Hooker, finishing him in the first round via TKO. Chandler had hit the ground running and many wondered what was next for the fighter who had taken one of the most unorthodox paths to title contention. What would come next was a title shot against Charles Olivera which had many bettors flipping a coin. After dominating Olivera in round one, defeat would come early in the second round halted the seemingly unstoppable train that was Michael Chandler.
This was not all bad news, Chandler would win over fans with his candor and openness post-fight. Many praising his class and willingness to fight quickly turn around and fight. After the fight, fans quickly pointed to Gaethje as the next opponent and after many rumors, seemingly the fans will get their wish.
This fight will be a pivotal moment in both fighter’s careers one way or another and looks to add to a night of already high anticipation at UFC 268.