One of the most highly anticipated fights on this weekend’s UFC 274 fight card is a lightweight clash between Michael Chandler and Tony Ferguson.
Chandler is now ranked #6 after consecutive defeats against Charles Oliveira and Justin Gaethje. He’s now 1-2 in the promotion following his brilliant first-round knockout victory against Dan Hooker at UFC 257 and then later falling short in his title challenge against Oliveira in May 2015. He’ll now defend his #6 spot in the rankings against the man ranked one spot below him, Tony Ferguson.
Like Chandler, Ferguson has failed to secure a victory in his most recent fights. Ferguson is now winless since June 2016, when he defeated Donald Cerrone via doctor stoppage. His latest defeats came at the hands of Justin Gaethje, Charles Oliveira, and Beneil Dariush.
This Saturday night, Chandler vs. Ferguson is a featured bout on the UFC 274 PPV main card. Fight fans can watch Chandler vs. Ferguson live stream online by ordering the event via the official ESPN+ website.
The latest Michael Chandler vs. Tony Ferguson betting odds show Chandler as a significant betting favorite before UFC 274. Ferguson, a huge underdog, will enter at odds of +290.
- Chandler: -380
- Ferguson: +290
At the current points in their careers, this is a very high stakes fight for both Chandler and Ferguson, who desperately need a win. Michael Chandler came into the sport just three fights ago ready to prove he was both one of the most exciting and the highest level of talent yet to grace the UFC, and while he has obviously proved both, it’s the record that eludes him. He has to be prepared to sacrifice some excitement in this matchup, after all three of his UFC fights so far no one is questioning his star potential, but in order to even out his 1-2 UFC record he has to lean on his wrestling and minimize risk.
Michael Chandler is one of MMA’s best examples of carrying the fundamentals to the highest levels. He sticks to the basics, two to three punch combinations, rarely throws anything flashy like high kicks and he is an explosive power wrestler who doesn’t engage in overly complicated grappling transitions chasing submissions other than scrambles. However, it’s his insane physical talents, namely his explosiveness, that allows him to ride this strategy so far, although sometimes becoming predictable, he makes up for it because even when his opponents know what to expect, it’s a totally different animal to stop. On the feet, Chandler uses explosive in and out movement, he uses his jab to make reads on how and where his opponents slip and weave in order to set up his power shots, namely his overhangs and hooks. By comparison, Ferguson is anything but predictable, he does not have the same power or speed that chandler does but an awkward flow allows him to hide his shots behind movement and his weapons come from far more angles and directions. For Ferguson, the elements of his game that he has to highlight in this matchup are his leg kicks, as Chandler explodes off the front leg so often, his elbows and jab, he doesn’t have the same power but Ferguson is a master at cutting and opening up visual damage on his opponents with slicing shots and accuracy. The third is his volume, although Ferguson does not necessarily have a major cardio advantage over Chandler, the difference is in the length of combinations, because Chandler is such a quick and explosive fighter, his punches come in short bursts, while Ferguson’s pace allows for 6-7 strikes at a time. Chandler has been clipped on the end of exchanges because while he retreats his opponent is continuing on, and so it’s imperative that Ferguson looks for the final shots when they engage.
Seemingly in Ferguson’s last two fights, Charles Oliveira and Beniel Dariush set up a blueprint to beating Tony Ferguson with top control. In order for Chandler to get Ferguson to this area, he has to look to pin Ferguson with a tight waist, chest or high double leg before taking him down as given space as with the case of single legs, Ferguson scrambles and rolls out of positions in unusually chaotic ways. However, best exemplified by Dariush, by taking Ferguson down with techniques where he could land immediately controlling Ferguson’s upper body and avoiding butterfly hooks or high guard allowed him to solidify control over Ferguson safely. On top, rather than posturing up and giving Ferguson room to play his rubber guard, elbow from the bottom or set up submissions and/or sweep, Dariush dug his head into Ferguson’s chest and punched over his shoulder. It’s more awkward and isn’t as offensively effective but it negates Ferguson’s guard and strikes from the bottom to a degree where it’s extremely frustrating and a safe bet.
Ferguson is always dangerous, but the game plan required to beat him has been highlighted recently. It’s going to take massive discipline in order to follow it as any opportunity to create space offers Ferguson a chance to win. In order to come out on top, Chandler has to maintain mental composure and not entertain the idea of a war as he has in the recent past, but it’s absolutely in the cards for him.
Prediction: Michael Chandler to win
Once a champion in Bellator, Michael “Iron” Chandler entered the UFC at a high level and has faced only the top of the division. In those three fights, Chandler is 1-2 with a finish win, a finish loss, and a decision loss in an absolute war. I bring up his record to demonstrate Chandler as a fighter. He is gifted and fundamental. On the feet, Chandler has enormous power and sets his big shots up with a carefree style. Said another way, Chandler is willing to eat a heavy shot to land one of his own. He has 4 knockout losses on his record, but I wouldn’t categorize him as “chinny.” Instead, the reason for his knockout losses is his unwillingness to ever stop. Chandler has elite cardio and a desire to get into a fight. He will continue moving forward, throwing heavy strikes, and forgoing defense in favor of his own offense even if taking a strategic break is the right move. This style makes him a fan-favorite but has cost him in some fights. Beyond his strike for strike style on the feet, Chandler is a highly credentialed and successful wrestler. He was a D1 All-American wrestler in college and has translated that success into the octagon. While he has only attempted 2 takedowns in the UFC, in Bellator, Chandler found success exploding into a double leg attempt, aggressively getting the fight to the mat, and mauling his opponent for the finish. Then, once on the mat, Chandler has shown the intelligence and defense awareness that his standup striking sometimes lacks. He rarely gives up position and has never been submitted. No matter where the fight happens, Chandler will use his power, athleticism, and constant offense to relentlessly hunt the finish.
Prime Tony “El Cucuy” Ferguson and current Tony “El Cucuy” Ferguson are, unfortunately, not the same fighter. In his prime, Tony was lethal in all areas of the fight, never stopped coming forward, was impossible to finish, weaponized his weirdness by attacking from odd angles and off-beat rhythms, and was thought to be the fighter that would give Khabib the closest fight. Now, at 38, since his ACL tear and countless wars, Tony simply isn’t the same fighter. He is still talented in all areas, continually moves forward, is one of the toughest fighters in the division, and finds odd attacks at odd times; but, he seems to have taken a step back in all areas. Most notably, Ferguson has been controlled on the mat for extended minutes of a round in back to back fights. Historically, Ferguson was a brilliant wrestler and grappler who was as difficult as he was dangerous to hold down. Now, Ferguson has struggled in scrambles and has not found a secured a submission win since 2017. On the feet, Tony will bounce in and out of range, look to land an unorthodox shot on the off-beat rhythm. Historically he would land with heavy power and razor sharp elbows. Now, implementing the same attacks, his power has lessened and his elbows have dulled. The best version of Tony Ferguson was a world beater and the fighter no one wanted to fight. Unfortunately, now, his best remaining attributes are his top-notch cardio and toughness, he doesn’t have an ounce of quit in him.
Prime vs prime, I take Tony in this fight. But, in 2022, Chandler is the faster, more dangerous, and more consistent fighter. He should be able to tag Tony on the feet, eat the counter shots, land takedowns regularly, and control long periods of the fight on the mat. Ferguson will relentlessly look for submissions from his back, but, Chandler has the experience and intellect to negate them. Because of Ferguson’s cardio, output, and toughness, I don’t think Chandler will find the finish but I do anticipate a one-sided affair.
Prediction: Michael Chandler to win by decision
Tony Ferguson is the most unorthodox fighter in the UFC. This statement rationalizes the danger he still possesses at this stage of his fight career, as although he is perceived to be well past his prime, he still has the ability to land creative strikes that land from an unusual angle – a recipe for damage and fight-ending potential.
Knowing Tony will have unusual strikes is a key component when breaking him down as a fighter, as his uniqueness correlates to not knowing precisely what he plans on doing. With this preface made, there are some fundamental components that consistently show up each time he enters the octagon. Firstly, Tony has razor-sharp elbows that are thrown from a variety of angles that net him the largest chance of landing cleanly. If indeed his elbows land cleanly, the probability that the elbow strike will create a severe cut is quite high. Secondly, Tony has a renowned wrestling background that has seamlessly translated to him having sound offensive grappling that is accompanied by an elite submission game. This second point of wrestling is important to note, as Tony has brought in his former collegiate wrestling coach to aid in his training leading up to this fight. Moreover, Tony often neglects his wrestling given he loves to fight in brawl-type wars, so, knowing he is training wrestling now more than ever, it is likely that he will look to wrestle the former Missouri All-American.
Knowing his opponent is an elite wrestler himself, the anticipatory success for Tony is likely minimal, so, he will likely have to chain his grappling off of his striking. Although the striking game of elbows and unorthodox combinations is a major asset, the speed, power, and success Tony has had in the stand-up game has greatly dissipated in his recent fights. So, similar to other recent bouts against elite contenders, Tony may once again find himself a step behind throughout the duration of the fight.
Michael Chandler embodies danger. The muscle-packed 155’er combines elite athleticism with severe power that makes him a challenge for any, yes, any, lightweight. To see the severe threat Chandler brings to the octagon, one need not look any further than the title fight against Charles Oliveira. In that fight, Chandler clocked Oliveira in the first and nearly secured a KO finish to win him the belt. Although Chandler fell just short of becoming champion, he showed not only does he have the power needed, but also, the defensive ground game as he used a next-level athletic burst to get out of a choke Oliveira nearly secured. This fight, in conjuncture with his decision loss to Justin Gaethje combating the chin concern of Chandler, results in him being viewed as a fighter who has all the tools necessary to contend for the belt in the near future.
Personally, Tony Ferguson got me into the UFC and I will forever be in his metaphorical corner, but, in this fight, Chandler should have no trouble winning the fight. Chandler’s elite power, strong grappling, and being more “in his prime” rationalizes my belief in him winning the fight quite convincingly. So, I expect Chandler to explode at the heavy-pressure Tony will put on, and knowing Tony’s movement is not what it once was, I expect Chandler to land his heavy, explode-type strikes with efficiency and damage. Moreover, I do not expect Tony to find success wrestling the former All-American, so I believe Tony will become frustrated and find it difficult to find a sustained tactic to net him success. With all that said, Tony has shown an out-of-this-world chin, even against the hardest-hitting lightweight in Justin Gaethje. So, although the damage will be there from Chandler, I still believe Tony will stay standing and I know he will never quit in the octagon. Thus, I am picking Chandler by decision.
Bet: Michael Chandler to win by decision
Braeden Arbour is an aspiring journalist out of Ontario, Canada. He is a recent graduate of Trent University, with a black belt in Karate and a blue belt in Judo. He has also been an avid fan of MMA for the last decade.
Michael Pounders is a high school English Teacher, a boxer himself, and is a fan who loves, gambles on, and nerds out about all things MMA.