Michael Chandler has been in the same position as Tony Ferguson ahead of their fight at UFC 274.
It was just under eight years ago that Chandler suffered his third loss in a row and it suddenly appeared that the luster around the ex-Bellator lightweight champion had been dimmed in dramatic fashion. Of course, Chandler bounced back rather emphatically with a 9-2 record over his next 11 fights before eventually signing a lucrative deal to join the roster at the UFC.
Now Chandler is approaching a fight with Ferguson where the one-time UFC interim lightweight champion is also looking to get back on track after three straight losses including a TKO suffered against Justin Gaethje and a pair of lopsided decisions with Charles Oliveira and Beneil Dariush.
“I would say his track record thus far would indicate that maybe he has lost a step but you can’t just look at records and say he’s lost his last three fights,” Chandler told MMA Fighting. “Those guys you mentioned, Charles Oliveira, Justin Gaethje, Beneil Dariush, these are the top guys in the world. When we’re fighting up at the top of the division doing this round-robin against the best guys on the planet at 155 pounds, you’re going to win some, you’re going to lose some and every now and again, you’re going to lose a couple in a row just like I have.
“Have I lost a step because I lost two in a row? Dropped one to Charles Oliveira and then one to Justin Gaethje? I don’t know, it remains to be seen but I will say this, we’re fighting the best guys in the world. I think any of us inside that top five, top seven could fight anyone else on any given night and become the world champion. That’s how close a lot of these guys are.”
While Chandler has dropped two in a row, his loss to Oliveira came after he nearly finished the reigning UFC lightweight champion in the first round and then he engaged in MMA Fighting’s 2021 Fight of the Year with Gaethje.
Meanwhile, Ferguson absorbed 143 significant strikes against Gaethje before suffering a fifth-round stoppage. Oliveira nearly tripled Ferguson in strikes landed and he maintained over 11 minutes of control time with three submission attempts while Dariush totaled over 12 minutes of control time in a three round fight.
All told, Ferguson has lost his last 12 consecutive rounds while absorbing a total of 305 strikes in three fights.
Still, Chandler is hesitant to declare Ferguson past his prime but he’s more than ready to pour on the punishment when they clash on May 7 to find out for certain.
“You go back to the Justin Gaethje fight, obviously Tony took a lot of damage there,” Chandler said. “But I will say from a damage standpoint, he did get dominated by Oliveira, he got beat pretty bad by Dariush, but he didn’t take a ton of damage, which is great for Tony. But yeah, when you’re talking about me, I’m slinging leather and I’m trying to separate you from consciousness. I am trying to do maximum amount of damage with every single punch and kick that I throw.
“I think it’s a recipe for Tony Ferguson having a pretty rough night. It’s a recipe for me going out there, getting a finish or putting on a dominant performance but you can never count Tony out. He’s a scary, scary man. He doesn’t really have an off switch. Even Justin Gaethje couldn’t really shut the off switch off. He was still conscious, he was still moving. Tony Ferguson is just that dude.”
Even if Ferguson is still capable of taking a punch, Chandler realizes that there are still defensive deficiencies that have haunted the 38-year-old lightweight long before now.
“I think I am a very dangerous opponent not just for anybody but definitely a guy like Tony Ferguson, who’s there to be hit,” Chandler explained. “I think the difference with some of these other guys is they do move a little bit more than Tony. Tony just comes straight forward to take one to give one, takes a big shot to land a slicing elbow. He’s going to fighting with razor blades trying to cut me open but I’m fighting with a sledgehammer trying to knock him out.
“Guys take shots and some of them get timid. Guys get hit pretty hard, they start to second guess things. They pull themselves out of the fire instead of pushing themselves into those exchanges. That’s one thing about Tony Ferguson. He’s never once shied away from the battle.”
It all adds up to another possible Fight of the Night for Chandler, who embraces those expectations in every performance, and he expects nothing different from Ferguson but an absolute war.
“It’s a fight that scares me a little bit because Tony’s a little bit crazy but those are the guys I want to fight,” Chandler said.
“It doesn’t matter if Tony Ferguson is on a 10-fight win streak or a 10-fight loss streak, I am preparing like he is Superman. Preparing like he is the best Tony Ferguson we’ve ever seen.”