Michael Chandler: A Shot at Solidifying His Championship Status
Two years ago, Michael Chandler was in the middle of a championship rematch with Will Brooks when in the fourth round he shockingly turned away, swept up in a concussed confusion. Rocked, stunned and shaken.
Chandler instinctively almost waved the fight off himself, his worrying response to the trauma left the referee with no choice but to stop the fight. Suddenly, Chandler had lost again to Brooks and was now on a three-fight losing streak.
Though both he and his career were still young, some questioned if those brutal Alvarez fights had already added up as only three fights ago, he was the undefeated champion. This loss was the first stoppage defeat he’d suffered too. Things had changed in a quite rapid and violent fashion.
After seven months away from the Bellator cage Chandler returned, fighting against Derek Campos in Chandler’s home state of Missouri. Campos was coming of a 31-second finish win over Estevan Payan and was 4-1 inside the Bellator cage.
Chandler was still the favourite though and a loss would’ve spelt disaster for the former champion’s future as an elite MMA fighter. Nonetheless, on fight night Chandler received a hero’s welcome and performed perfectly, dropping Campos early before submitting him with a rear-naked choke after just over two minutes of action.
Michael Chandler was back in a big way and he’d done it in front of his own roaring crowd.
Chandler’s comeback would continue in that very arena too, as he returned in November 2015 to take on longtime Bellator contender David Rickels. The two had fought over two years prior for the title when Chandler was champion, that time around Rickels was quickly finished but he now had a shot at redemption with little to lose.
Though Chandler wouldn’t end things as soon this time, his skillset just seemed to be too much for Rickels as he used his wrestling to control him before stunning him with a right hand and eventually finishing the fight in the second round. However, whilst Chandler was definitely a top contender once again, his two prior losses to the champion Will Brooks limited his options slightly.
That wouldn’t be an issue for much longer though as Brooks was released from the promotion due to his disinterest in extending his soon expiring contract. The news broke just after Chandler’s planned bout with Josh Thomson fell through, meaning he was in a position to fight for the now-vacant title.
The location: once again, St Louis, Missouri. His opponent would be the always dangerous Patricky ‘Pitbull’ Freire, a man he had beaten via decision five years ago. After just over two minutes of fighting, Chandler would land a violent sharp right hand that left Freire stiff and unresponsive almost immediately.
In an instant, Chandler had reclaimed his Bellator title and he’d done it in highlight-reel fashion. Almost exactly a year after his first comeback win, Chandler had rebounded back to his spot as champion.
As impressive as that is though, some will still question the legitimacy of that championship that Chandler currently owns, with the only two men that have beaten him currently fighting in the UFC.
He may not be the lineal champion but that’s not his fault and in fairness, there’s no reason to suggest that Chandler hasn’t improved since those defeats. Either way, this Saturday Chandler gets the chance to prove his credibility as champion when he takes on former UFC champion Benson Henderson.
Whilst Henderson hasn’t been at his best as of late, he is a consistent and proficient elite fighter. With a win Chandler takes a big step towards solidifying his spot as a truly great champion, he may not be able to control the belt’s history anymore but he can certainly control its future. We know he can but the question now is will he?
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