For a few fleeting moments, it appeared as though Michael Chandler was on his way to adding an Ultimate Fighting Championship belt to his trophy case.
On two separate occasions, the former University of Missouri wrestling standout rocked Charles Oliveira with punches in the opening round of their UFC 262 headlining bout at the Toyota Center in Houston on Saturday night. In both instances, the Brazilian managed to survive, which ultimately set the stage for “Do Bronx” to claim the vacant 155-pound belt with a second-round technical knockout.
“He showed that he had the gall to get through that,” Chandler said at the UFC 262 post-fight press conference. “He got dropped, got hurt. I was on top of him. He’s really long and he did a really good job of tying me up so I couldn’t rain down too hard of punches or elbows. He definitely got through some adversity tonight.
“He showed tonight that he is tougher than a lot of us thought he was. Hats off to him. He is our champion now at 155 and I’m coming for that belt again.”
Chandler had to survive his own moment of adversity in Round 1, as he allowed Oliveira to take his back during a scramble. It was hardly the ideal scenario to be in against the promotion’s all-time submission leader, but the former Bellator title holder was able to explode out of the predicament and turn into top position.
“I loved it. I loved to be able to show that I could stay composed against the best grappler on the planet,” Chandler said. “I somewhat kind of let him take my back. I like to let guys take my back, get that one-on-one, I spun around and got into his guard just like I always do in a lot of positions. One of those deals where I didn’t feel I was in danger at all — but that was kind of dumb because you’re always in danger if Charles Oliveira has your back — but I feel comfortable in that scenario.
“Should I have let it get there? Probably not. But it’s part of it and fought through it, we wrestled through it, we anti jiu-jitsu’d through it. Turns out I lost on the feet and not on the ground.”
Oliveira dropped Chandler with a left hook at the outset of the second stanza and then swarmed with more punches, flooring his foe once more before the finish arrived 19 seconds into the frame. Chandler is confident he will rebound from his latest defeat, as he has in previous setbacks against the likes of Patricio Freire, Eddie Alvarez and Will Brooks.
“It’s the fight game, man,” Chandler said. “It’s four-ounce gloves. You zig when you should have zagged and before you know it, Charles Oliveira is getting the belt wrapped around his waist instead of yours. Here we are. I’ve been here before, after losses. This sport moves quickly.
“I am still world class. Anybody next to get me into line for the title again, I believe I can beat them and beat anybody in the top five so we’ll see what happens.”
Chandler plans to return to the gym quickly, and the 35-year-old Sanford MMA representative remains determined to climb to the top of the mountain before his UFC career is through.
“I will be champion. I will be UFC champion by the time my career is up. I got a taste of it tonight. Fell short. But as I said, every young man falls but every young man gets back up.”
« Previous Five Thoughts: UFC 262 Next Dana White: Time, Accumulated Damage Has ‘Definitely Hit’ Tony Ferguson »