Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) Lightweight sluggers Dustin Poirier and Michael Chandler will go to war this weekend (Sat., Nov. 12, 2022) at UFC 281 from inside Madison Square Garden in New York City, New York.
Though he did capture interim gold, Poirier’s quest for the undisputed crown has grown more challenging. The 33-year-old veteran’s second title bid ended similarly to the first, and now that Islam Makhachev is the champion, it doesn’t appear that anyone is clamoring for another Poirier title fight. Fortunately, “The Diamond” has made his bank by stopping Conor McGregor twice, and he’s also established a legacy as one of the most exciting and skilled Lightweights of all time. Chandler, meanwhile, has only been in UFC for four fights now and split them evenly between wins and losses, but he’s making up for lost time. “Iron” is embodying the old classic combat expression of come back with your shield … or leave the cage on it. The bottom line here is that Chandler has delivered three knockouts and a “Fight of the Year” contender in his walks to the Octagon, so he’s must-watch either way.
Let’s take a closer look at the keys to victory for each man:
CHAMPIONSHIP DOUBLE-DIP! Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) returns to “The Fight Mecca,” Madison Square Garden in New York, N.Y., on Sat., Nov. 12, 2022, featuring two highly-anticipated championship showdowns. In UFC 281’s pay-per-view (PPV) main event, Middleweight champion, Israel Adesanya, will look to settle the score with former kickboxing foe and No. 5-seeded contender, Alex Pereira. In the ESPN+-streamed PPV co-main event, women’s Strawweight champion, Carla Esparza, intends to defend her newly-won title for the first time against former champion and No. 2-ranked contender, Zhang Weili.
Record: 29-7 (1)
Key Wins: Conor McGregor (UFC 264, UFC 257), Max Holloway (UFC 236), Justin Gaethje (UFC on FOX 29), Eddie Alvarez (UFC on FOX 30), Dan Hooker (UFC on ESPN 12), Anthony Pettis (UFC Fight Night 120), Joseph Duffy (UFC 195)
Key Losses: Khabib Nurmagomedov (UFC 242), Charles Oliveira (UFC 269) Conor McGregor (UFC 178), Michael Johnson (UFC Fight Night 94)
Keys to Victory: Poirier is one of the best boxers in mixed martial arts (MMA). He can hang behind his straight shots at distance just as effectively as he trades in the pocket, and either way, “The Diamond” can CRACK! He’s a solid wrestler and grappler as well, but it’s long been Poirier’s hands that earn his money.
Boxing is the clear advantage for Poirier here. He’s the longer man, both in terms of physical build and how he fights. If we think back to his first fight opposite Eddie Alvarez, Poirier did an excellent job of simply popping his opponent with long left hands, occasionally followed by stiff jabs.
Chandler is his first true wrestle-boxer since “The Underground King.” Since then, he’s been fighting mostly rangy kickboxers, prompting Poirier to be the man closing forward and throwing hard. It’s time to revert back to the previous strategy, to be the sharper boxer and let Chandler walk into the biggest shots.
Key Wins: Dan Hooker (UFC 257), Tony Ferguson (UFC 274), Benson Henderson (Bellator 243, Bellator 165), Brent Primus (Bellator 212), Patricky Freire (Bellator 157), Eddie Alvarez (Bellator 58)
Key Losses: Charles Oliveira (UFC 262), Justin Gaethje (UFC 268), Patricio Freire (Bellator 221), Will Brooks (Bellator 120, Bellator 131)
Keys to Victory: Chandler is a powerhouse. An All-American wrestler with dynamite in both hands, Chandler doesn’t always make the safest decisions, and we’re all better off for it. Now, it’s time for me to be a sourpuss and really recommend Chandler make smart choices here.
I sound like a D.A.R.E. counselor — yuck!
More on a serious note, Chandler is an excellent wrestler. He has one of the best blast double legs in the business, and it’s damn hard to escape his top control. Anyone who followed Chandler’s Bellator career closely is well aware that behind all the highlights, Chandler also won plenty of rounds by laying on his opponents (and occasionally choking ‘em out).
Chandler won’t be able to outwrestle Poirier if that’s his sole offensive offering. Chandler has to be moving, feinting, landing punches, throwing kicks and wrestling. If he brings the full force of his skill set, there’s a real chance Poirier spends a lot of time stuck on bottom position, not scoring heavy punches.
The winner is in good position in the Lightweight title picture.
Poirier’s position is a bit tricky. He’s never fought Makhachev, but based on the Khabib result, there doesn’t feel like a huge demand for that match up, either. Since he’s lost two title fights previously and came up short last time out, Poirier likely needs at least two wins to really argue for a title shot.
Chandler is trying to make his claim. Does Beneil Dariush have a better claim regardless of Chandler’s performance this weekend? Yes. Will UFC overlook that fact in order to book a more marketable title fight? Maybe! Chandler has an opportunity to make a statement on a major platform that he’s the man for the job, regardless of whether his opponent turns out to be Makhachev or Alexander Volkanovski.
At UFC 281, Dustin Poirier and Michael Chandler will square off. Which man will remain standing when the dust settles?
Remember that MMAmania.com will deliver LIVE round-by-round, blow-by-blow coverage of the entire UFC 281 fight card right here, starting with the early ESPN+ “Prelims” matches online, which are scheduled to begin at 6 p.m. ET, then the remaining undercard (on ESPNEWS/ESPN+) at 8 p.m. ET, before the PPV main card start time at 10 p.m. ET on ESPN+ PPV.
To check out the latest and greatest UFC 281: “Adesanya vs. Pereira” news and notes be sure to hit up our comprehensive event archive right here.