The REAL Reason for Michael Chandler vs. Tony Ferguson
I think I speak for most of us when I say that this recent stretch of appearances from Tony Ferguson has been hard to watch.
I mean, look, the guy deserves the opportunity to compete - don’t misunderstand me. But the very clear decline that we’re seeing out of El Cucuy - coupled with the fact that he never had his opportunity to fight for undisputed gold - it just makes me wish things had panned out differently.
That 12-fight win-streak was truly as good as it gets when it comes to that perfect balance between operating at a high level and encountering enough adversity to truly make your character as clear as day.
He was by no means the perfect fighter - but my God was it enjoyable to watch him repeatedly find his way out of the uniquely crazy situations he found himself in.
Tony Ferguson is and will likely always be one of my favourite MMA fighters - and one of the personalities within the sport that you just can’t help but be enthralled by.
So again, these last three outings have been a tough watch - even if Tony’s toughness and his overall character were on display to their fullest.
And personally, I would have liked to have seen him getting an easier matchup than Michael Chandler next time around.
It’s not like the fight doesn’t make sense within the context of the lightweight top-10 - but man, this guy deserves a break.
Put through the Wringer
He’s gone from going to war with the UFC’s no. 1 war-machine in Justin Gaethje, to having his arm mangled by the sport’s greatest submission threat, and then, if that wasn’t enough - when it finally did seem like the promotion were giving him a step down in competition - he goes in there against a resurgent Beneil Dariush and finds himself in a truly horrific leg-lock.
And I think Michael Chandler is a pretty awful matchup for him - especially in his current state.
A part of me still believes that the freakish work ethic and determination of El Cucuy can drag him into a late-career rebound - but at 38, after all of those wars - I just don’t know.
In Michael Chandler, you have a guy who has the ability to find Tony’s off-switch in the very first exchange - a man capable of taking advantage of any wear and tear that may have been building up on Ferguson’s chin - just look at what he did to Dan Hooker.
And we all know just how often Tony gets hit - even in his prime, his ability to get his head out of the way of damage, his ability to avoid getting dropped - it wasn’t great.
Indeed, he was always able to recover - but Chandler hits like a truck so it’s hard to see this as anything but a favourable stylistic matchup for the former Bellator champion.
I like Michael Chandler a lot as well. I’ve been watching the dude for years as he singled himself out as one of the all-time great Bellator talents.
And if he does, in fact, win - I have a feeling that there’s a massive prize waiting for him.
In fact, my thoughts on this matchup’s very existence have shifted somewhat in recent times.
Originally, I didn’t like it at all - mainly for Ferguson’s sake. And that’s not meant as a dig at the former interim champ - but realistically, as far as managing his career goes - setting him up with a fighter like Chandler is just a move I wouldn’t make.
And look, who knows, maybe he proves me wrong on that front - but even now - I still don’t like the fight on that level.
But here’s where it all gets quite interesting.
What do both Tony Ferguson and Michael Chandler have in common?
Well, they’re both hanging around just outside of title contention - with each man coming off of a loss. Chandler is at number 5 and Tony is at number 7.
But the main thing that these two have within that top-10 that only the number 6 ranked Rafael dos Anjos also does is that, over the last year or so, at one point or another, they’ve both been linked to serving as the comeback opponent for Conor McGregor.
Most fans, whether they’re diehards or haters, would agree that the former two-weight world champion definitely needs a step down in competition - if you were looking to manage his career effectively coming into the next 12 months.
A Red Panty Elimination Fight?
And both Chandler and Ferguson - along with RDA - have been pointed to as ideal opponents that serve up a combination of name value and competitive intrigue for McGregor’s inevitable return.
And look, a lot of people go extreme in either direction when it comes to Conor’s prospects at 155lbs - but even if I think you’d have to favour Chandler in a fight against the Notorious - as I always say, I will never disregard a great fighter’s ability to be great - even if it seems like an uphill climb.
So yeah, I really do think that this May matchup is going to single out the opponent that will stand opposite the sport’s biggest star when he makes his next walk.
And though his own optimistic estimates have a return in mind for the summer - I think somewhere closer to the end of the year would be more likely.
As for the Usman nonsense - though I wouldn’t put it past Conor or the UFC - this, realistically, is the best route to take.
That said, I do believe that Rafael dos Anjos - of the three names I’ve mentioned - is actually the best fight of the lot.
But setting up this fight between Chandler and Ferguson allows the storylines to be set in a more natural fashion - and placing it on the same night as the battle for the lightweight title between Oliveira and Gaethje is the perfect way to do it.
It would be in line with the usual decision making process exhibited by Dana and his team over the years - and I would imagine that now, even if the Usman chatter has been floating around, there will be at least some understanding that must be sinking in about how a more cautious approach with Conor’s career would be better in the long-run.
He needs a win and the UFC would obviously prefer to keep their biggest asset at something resembling his highest level of value.
So yea, I do get the sense that this booking will have some real ramifications for the rest of the year at 155lbs.
And though I do strongly favour Chandler to get the win - probably by way of early finish - I won’t make the mistake of counting out one of the all-time great lightweights in Tony Ferguson.