On Saturday, May 15, at 7pm PDT, a new UFC world lightweight champion will be crowned. Khabib Nurmagomedov’s reign at the top will be over, with his retirement officially accepted by the promotion – and one of these two men will take his place.

Charles Oliveira is in the middle of an incredible run, winning eight consecutive fights on the way to the Octagon inside Houston’s Toyota Centre. But the Brazilian fighter is the underdog next to his imposing opponent, who is still new to the UFC.

Michael Chandler signed a contract with the promotion in September 2020, and made his debut against Dan Hooker in January. There, he defeated his opponent in one round, lasting two minutes and 30 seconds – a performance that may have been overlooked due to that night’s headline fight between Dustin Poirier and Conor McGregor.

For those looking to bet on UFC 262, Chandler is the one to watch. According to the latest odds, he’s by far the favourite to win the fight, although Oliveira’s recent winning streak suggests it could be closer than many predicted.

The 35-year-old striker makes for a tough opponent to the Brazilian jiu jitsu star. His background in wrestling has formed the foundation for his fighting style, and his transition from wrestling to MMA instantly made him one to watch.

In 2009, he opted out of amateur bouts to instead compete as a professional. And it was one of the most sensational debuts of all time – a first round TKO victory against Kyle Swadley, just three months after graduating from the University of Missouri.

This shouldn’t have been a surprise considering his achievements on the University’s wrestling team. He was a four time NCAA qualifier, two time runner up at BIG XII Championships, and was team captain for two years – and this was in addition to amassing 100 career wins.

After that career defining MMA debut, he was quickly in demand from the world’s biggest promotions. He signed with Strikeforce in 2009, a short lived partnership where he won both fights – his second, against Sal Wood, was a win by submission in a match that lasted under a minute.

From there, he made his way over to the Bellator promotion. After defeating his opponents in all of his first major fights, he was selected to compete in the Bellator Season Four Lightweight Tournament in 2011.

Here, he utilised his wrestling skills to take down Patricky Friere, and become the judges’ unanimous favourite to win $100,000 and a shot at the Bellator lightweight world championship. Later that year, he defeated Eddie Alvarez to win his first world championship title.

Two years later, in 2013, he lost his title in a rematch with Alvarez. He would go on to claim the title for a second time in 2016, once again against Patricky Friere, who he knocked out in the first round.

His third title reign began in 2018, in a rematch with Brent Primus, who he lost his title to in mid 2017. But outside of these title wins, he’s racked up an impressive amount of accomplishments.

In the Bellator lightweight division, he has the most submission wins (six), most stoppage wins (13), and most wins overall (15). He’s tied with David Rickels for most fights in Bellator history (23), and is tied with Patricio Friere for most overall wins (18).

His professional MMA record currently stands at 22-5-0, and he still ranks high on the worldwide rankings. He’s currently ranked as the third best MMA fighter in the world, behind Max Holloway and Dustin Poirier, and elsewhere, is ranked as the fourth best lightweight – interestingly, one spot below his upcoming opponent, Charles Oliveira.

As one of the most successful MMA fighters in recent history, Chandler is undoubtedly one of the most dangerous opponents any fighter could face. A quick look at some of his most decisive knockouts is clear proof of that.

But he’s also on unstoppable form, with the upcoming fixture taking place more than two years after he faced his last loss, against Patricio Pitbull. Since then, he’s cruised to victory with three consecutive first round defeats.

His penultimate Bellator fight was against Sidney Outlaw, who he knocked out with a Right Cross in 2:59. His final fight in the promotion, back in August 2020, was a 2:09 win against Benson Henderson, who he beat with a left cross to ground and pound.

In his first UFC match back in January, he grabbed attention by knocking out Dan Hooker 2:30 into the first round. He used the left hook to ground & pound maneuver.

His second fight in the UFC is his most profile bout for quite some time – and the three time world champion is looking to make his mark on a new promotion. With one of the most dominant UFC fighters of all time stepping down, it only makes sense that a fighter as dangerous as Michael Chandler would succeed him.

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