While his return has not been given a concrete date just yet, plans already seem to be in place for Conor McGregor’s comeback to the UFC. One opponent who has been mooted for ‘The Notorious’ is Michael Chandler.
Chandler has quickly become a bankable and exciting star for the UFC, making him a good opponent for Conor McGregor, but would this be a bad match for the Irishman?
While it’s impossible to count a fighter as talented as ‘The Notorious’ out of any fight, it seems safe to say that ‘Iron Mike’ would definitely hold a lot of advantages in this potential battle.
Here are five reasons why Michael Chandler would hold the edge over Conor McGregor in a potential clash between the two.
#5. Michael Chandler has been far more active than Conor McGregor
While former UFC bantamweight champion Dominick Cruz would often scoff at the idea of ring or cage rust being a major issue, the truth is that even the best fighters often struggle for traction inside the octagon if they haven’t been all that active.
There are some exceptions to that rule, of course, but they’re few and far between. Based on what we’ve seen in the past, Conor McGregor is not really one of them.
Sure, he looked excellent in his 2020 comeback fight against Donald Cerrone, but both other times that he returned from lengthy layoffs, he looked badly rusty and fell to Khabib Nurmagomedov and Dustin Poirier.
It’s highly likely that McGregor’s comeback fight will take place in 2023, nearly two years after his most recent bout. In that sense, if it’s against Michael Chandler, then ‘The Notorious’ could be in trouble.
Chandler has been extremely active since joining the UFC in 2021. While his record of 2-2 doesn’t sound that great on paper, he’s fought four of the best lightweights in the world during that time in the form of Dan Hooker, Charles Oliveira, Justin Gaethje and Tony Ferguson.
Essentially, Chandler is likely to come into a fight with McGregor razor-sharp, while ‘The Notorious’ might be rusty. If that’s the case, then the Irishman is likely to be in trouble.
#4. Nobody really knows how Conor McGregor will return from his leg injury
Perhaps the biggest question mark hanging over Conor McGregor right now is how well he’ll return from the major leg injury he suffered at the hands of Dustin Poirier last summer.
‘The Notorious’ saw his lower leg basically snap. While the injury wasn’t quite as visually bad as the infamous one suffered by Anderson Silva in 2013, it was definitely a very serious one with the potential to change a career.
Given that at his peak, McGregor relied so heavily on his fleet-footed movement and timing for success, quite how he’ll deal with a surgically rebuilt leg is anyone’s guess. Will he have the same footwork that he once possessed? It’s a fair question to ask.
Even at McGregor’s peak, Michael Chandler would’ve been a very tricky opponent for him. Coming off a horrendous injury like the one ‘The Notorious’ suffered in 2021, though, he seems like an almost insurmountable challenge.
#3. Michael Chandler might be tough enough to eat Conor McGregor’s best shots
Even against extremely tough opponents such as Chad Mendes, Jose Aldo and Eddie Alvarez, Conor McGregor has always had a major equalizer in his arsenal in the form of his insane punching power.
‘The Notorious’ not only possessed phenomenal timing and counter-punching abilities, but any time he could catch someone cleanly, it seemed like their lights would switch off instantly. His left hand, in particular, was the very definition of a coffin nail punch.
However, whether McGregor has the power to knock out Michael Chandler is another thing entirely. Sure, ‘Iron Mike’ was put away by Charles Oliveira in their fight last year, but prior to that, he’d suffered just one knockout defeat since 2014.
More to the point, he was somehow able to absorb an insane amount of punishment from Justin Gaethje in their fight. It’s also arguable that ‘The Highlight’ has even more punching power than McGregor, particularly at 155 pounds.
If Chandler could absorb McGregor’s best shots in a fight between them, then, it’s arguable that ‘The Notorious’ would have no realistic way of winning the fight, giving Chandler a huge advantage.
#2. Michael Chandler is capable of taking Conor McGregor down
While Conor McGregor’s takedown defense is not as bad as his biggest detractors would like to make out, it’s probably safe to say that the weakest part of the Irishman’s game overall is his ground skills.
Sure, he’s excellent with ground-and-pound if he can secure top position against an opponent, but from his back, he doesn’t seem to have much in his arsenal. He was clearly outworked there in his losses to Dustin Poirier and Khabib Nurmagomedov.
This weakness wouldn’t matter if he were facing a pure striker in his comeback fight, but if he ends up against Michael Chandler, then it could well return to the forefront.
Chandler prefers to strike with his foes, but he’s also a hugely credentialed amateur wrestler, and competed at an NCAA Division I level with the University of Missouri in his collegiate days.
Could ‘Iron Mike’ take McGregor down if he needed to? There’s probably no question that he could. We also saw his willingness to do this when he was being outgunned by Tony Ferguson in the early going of their fight.
That means that Chandler has more options to come out on top of this potential fight, giving him a definite edge over ‘The Notorious’.
#1. Conor McGregor’s chin is now questionable, and Michael Chandler hits hard
If you rewind a few years, it would probably have been safe to say that Conor McGregor’s chin was up there with the best in the game. ‘The Notorious’ didn’t often take heavy hits, but the shots he absorbed from Chad Mendes could’ve destroyed plenty of other fighters. He also ate a big shot from Jose Aldo before turning his lights out with a counterpunch, too.
More recently, though, it might be safe to say that ‘The Notorious’ no longer possesses the durability that he once did. He was stopped by Floyd Mayweather in their 2017 boxing match, suffered a knockdown at the hands of Khabib Nurmagomedov, and was famously stopped by strikes in the octagon for the first time by Dustin Poirier.
If McGregor’s durability is waning, then it’s probably understandable. He’s been competing at a high level in MMA for well over a decade, and he made his UFC debut nearly 10 years ago now, too. And of course, that isn’t mentioning the shots he’s probably taken in sparring sessions.
However, put simply, Michael Chandler is not the kind of opponent that a fighter with a questionable chin should look to take on. ‘Iron Mike’ possesses scary knockout power, as we saw when he took out Tony Ferguson and Dan Hooker in the octagon.
Could Chandler knock out McGregor? Based on the fact that Poirier managed it, the answer is probably yes – and given ‘The Notorious’ probably won’t have improved his durability in the time he’s been away from the octagon, ‘Iron Mike’ could have a major advantage in a potential bout between them.