‘Iron’ Michael Chandler has had one of the most instant impacts in the UFC that the promotion has ever seen. After stopping Dan Hooker in the first round of his octagon debut, Chandler found himself fighting for the vacant belt after many expected he would never fight in the UFC. After an incredible back and forth opening round, Charles Oliveria got the TKO finish to halt Chandler’s storybook arrival. Now forced to go back to the drawing board, a whole division of new and exciting opponents for the former Bellator fighter await him.
Following his immediate impact on his arrival, Chandler was extremely impressive inside the cage and outside of it. This will surely guarantee him a fight against another top contender as he promised after the fight that he will wear UFC gold in the next 12 months. With that in mind, four names stand out that would get Chandler right back into the title picture with just one fight.
The first of which is number two ranked Justin Gaethje. Being the last man to challenge Khabib Nurmagomedov before he retired and vacated the belt, Gaethje proved himself as the second best lightweight on the planet before the fight with the champion. Rebounding from back-to-back losses to Eddie Alvarez and Dustin Poirier with four consecutive wins, Gaethje is yet to fight this year. A fight with Gaethje would be incredibly high stakes due to Justin’s position in the division but it would guarantee Chandler a top spot if he emerged the victor.
Another potential avenue for Chandler could be waiting to see how the trilogy fight between Dustin Poirier and Conor McGregor plays out. Though the winner will surely go on to challenge for the belt, whoever loses that fight would present another high risk/high reward fight for Chandler that would see him shoot right back to the top with a win. This may bring some waiting around with it depending on who loses and in what fashion. The other two opponents that make sense for Chandler are arguably more immediate opportunities but do not have that same big fight feel that a Gaethje or Poirier/McGregor loser would.
Beneil Dariush and Rafael Dos Anjos are both very respected contenders in the lightweight division. Whilst Dos Anjos sits at the number seven spot following his win over Paul Felder last November, Beneil Dariush makes a lot more sense. With his win over Tony Ferguson in the co-main event of UFC 262, he is now ranked one spot above Chandler in the top 15. Competing on the same card as Chandler would likely allow their time frames in mind for their next bouts to line-up nicely. A win over Dariush isn’t as big a statement as a win over Justin Gaethje, but given his place in the rankings, it would put Chandler in pole position over Gaethje if he got his hand raised.
The lightweight division has always had a reputation for being one of the most talented stacked divisions in the UFC and with a brand new face right at the top of it, the new and exciting match ups for Chandler are not hard to come by.