Michael Chandler (aka “Iron”) was born April 24th, 1986 in Missouri, United States. The 35 year-old is the former 3-time Bellator Lightweight Champion and current, no.5-ranked UFC lightweight. His professional MMA record stands at 22-7 including 10 KO/TKO’s and 7 submissions.
Chandler’s combat sports journey started with wrestling at high school where he was the runner-up in his 2004 state championship. From there, he went on to captain the University of Missouri’s wrestling team between 2007 and 2009, capping it off by becoming an NCAA Division 1 All-American.
Although he currently trains at Sanford MMA under the tutelage of Henri Hooft, he initially joined Xtreme Couture, immediately after graduating university. Opting out of an amateur career to quickly turn pro, his MMA debut came around in August, 2009, which he won by first round TKO followed by two bouts in Strikeforce.
In September, 2010, Chandler made the jump to Bellator where he would accumulate the body of work that has led him to the top of world MMA.
Across 3 separate lightweight title reigns, “Iron” Mike claimed almost every possible Bellator record he could; to name but just a few; he has fought in the most title bouts (11), holds the most lightweight submission wins (6), and the most stoppage wins in Bellator history (13)!
Then in September 2020, Chandler found himself as a free agent from Bellator and secured a deal with the UFC. He came into the organization as an unknown wildcard and debuted in explosive style against Dan Hooker at UFC 257 (in January, 2021).
From here, he would fight for the vacant lightweight title against Charles Oliveira at UFC 262 (in May, 2021) but unfortunately came up short, losing by second round TKO.
Chandler most recently fought Justin Gaethje in a potential Fight of the Year barnburner at UFC 268 (in November, 2021).
Despite a decision loss, his stock certainly rose as he now moves into 2022 with a number of top lightweights lined up as potential opponents.
Who will “Iron” Mike stand across the cage from next? With Conor McGregor’s upcoming return, Tony Ferguson’s ongoing hiatus from competition, and the fallout of Islam Makhachev’s scheduled fight with Beneil Dariush still to come, Chandler is certainly not short of options in the upper echelons.
So, without further ado, let’s strike upon “Iron” Michael Chandler’s Top 5 MMA Finishes! (in descending order)
5. Vs. Rick Hawn – Bellator 85 (Jan. 17, 2013)
This fight marked Chandler’s very first title defence at Bellator, coming in as a moderate favourite with a flawless 10-0 record; Hawn was no slouch either, coming in with a 14-1 record.
Round 1 began with Chandler pressing forward, landing several leg kicks in a tense, cagey start to the fight.
A single leg takedown from “Iron” landed him in Hawn’s butterfly guard which he adjusted to full guard, keeping Chandler’s posture down to prevent strikes.
Hawn managed to scramble up against the cage with Chandler landing heavy knees to the thighs. Clinched against the cage, Chandler dug in two underhooks and sought for a suplex, but couldn’t complete it.
Still on his feet, Hawn attempted a harai-goshi (sweeping hip) throw, but Chandler was able to keep his balance.
Towards the end of the round, Chandler began feinting level changes to encourage his opponent to drop his hands in anticipation of a takedown. “Iron” Mike, however, used this setup to fire a knee and an uppercut up the centreline that both narrowly missed.
Round 2 started in a similar vein to the first with Chandler pressuring forward and shooting for a double leg takedown. He launched Hawn off his feet to complete the takedown and land in full guard.
After absorbing some short strikes on the ground, Hawn opened his guard to create an angle and stand back up, but Chandler dug in his first hook as they came to stand against the cage.
Taking up a power half nelson from the back, Chandler transitioned to a body lock and launched another takedown, this time landing on his opponent’s back to now sink in two hooks.
He quickly took up a rear naked choke using a modified gable grip as the two fell backwards and Hawn swiftly tapped giving Mike the submission win, at 3:07 of round 2.
Chandler’s finish in his first title defence was noted as the no.13-ranked Best MMA Submission of the Year for 2013, on Tapology.
4. Vs. Patrício Pitbull (2) – Bellator 157 (June 24, 2016)
This rematch of Chandler’s unanimous decision victory over ‘Pitbull’ at Bellator 44 (in May, 2011) saw the two fight for the vacant lightweight title. Considering that their first meeting was a title eliminator to fight Eddie Alvarez, the title itself was the only way to up the ante for their rematch.
Taking place in Chandler’s hometown of Missouri, he came into the fight at 14-3 whilst his opponent held a 16-7 experience record.
Round 1 began with Chandler managing range with his jab, and evading a Pitbull big left hook, sticking outside of striking distance.
Chandler found his range-finding jab countered with a rear uppercut that narrowly missed as he returned with a leg kick that also didn’t find its target.
“Iron” Mike shot for a single leg takedown but it was defended well by his opponent. He followed with a double jab and a cross that he found were just out of range.
Pitbull was also missing the mark with a winging left overhand before a sharp jab landed on Chandler’s head.
Nearing the middle of the round, Chandler stepped in with no setup to land a thunderous straight right across the jaw, rendering Pitbull limp and falling back to the canvas completely unconscious.
There was no need for follow-up shots as the referee stepped in, making it a KO victory for Chandler at just 2:14 of round 1.
This title-winning performance became the no.16-ranked Best MMA Knockout of the Year for 2016, on Tapology.
3. Vs. Dan Hooker – UFC 257 (Jan. 24, 2021)
This fight marked “Iron” Mike’s highly anticipated UFC debut, coming in as the outsider with a 21-5 record and looking to make a splash on the biggest stage. Also, for one of the only occasions in his entire career, Chandler was a slight underdog on the betting lines.
Round 1 saw Chandler immediately take the centre of the octagon with Hooker circling the outside. Hooker invested in low calf kicks early, looking to stunt Chandler’s movement as he bounced in and out of range in a low stance.
However, Chandler had his own investments planned with straights to the body. Chandler lowered his level to simulate a takedown attempt but used it to disguise a right hook that landed upstairs.
Chandler pressured forward, piecing together straights to the body mixed with strikes to his opponent’s head.
Hooker found some success with a low calf kick that stumbled Chandler, but did nothing to deter him. Continuing forward, “Iron” Mike lowered his level and fired a right hand to the body before following up with a left hook to the head that dropped Hooker to the canvas.
Hooker turtled, trying to cover up, but Chandler shifted back to create distance between them on the floor then to land relentless ground and pound before the referee stepped in, making it a TKO victory for Chandler at 2:30 of round 1.
For his show-stopping UFC debut, Chandler earned a $50K Performance of the Night bonus as his finish became the no.8-ranked Best MMA Knockout of the Year for 2021, on Tapology.
2. Vs. Benson Henderson (2) – Bellator 243 (Aug. 7, 2020)
This fight marked another rematch for Chandler as he previously defeated Benson Henderson at Bellator 165 (in November, 2016) by split decision. Both fighters entered this main event bout with far more experience this time; Chandler with a 20-5 record and Henderson at 28-8.
Round 1 saw both athletes favour kicking as their primary mode of attack, with Chandler catching a low kick from Henderson but not returning with a counter yet. Henderson blocked a head kick from Chandler before pushing forward with a right hook to the body.
Chandler cited after the fight that this was the hardest body shot he had taken since his first meeting with Henderson, but he maintained a staunch poker face.
Chandler waded into range, switching through to southpaw to land a counter left jab. Back to orthodox, he threw a body kick and two jabs that missed, but finished his combination with a powerful straight right.
Henderson blocked a body kick from Chandler who switched through to southpaw again with a Ketchel shift. He then landed a jab-straight combination that dropped Henderson against the cage.
Following up, “Iron” Mike found a looping right hand that grazed the forehead of his grounded opponent, sending Henderson’s head jolting back, rendering him unconscious.
Chandler crammed in three follow-up shots before the referee stepped in, making it a KO victory at 2.09 of round 1.
So what was particularly impressive about this finish? Benson Henderson hadn’t suffered a KO or TKO loss in over 6 years!
From here, Chandler was signed to the UFC the next month (in September 2020), following the end of his contract with Bellator.
1. Vs. Eddie Alvarez – Bellator 58 (Nov. 19, 2011)
This fight was Michael Chandler’s first shot at the Bellator Lightweight title at 8-0, whilst Eddie Alvarez was seeking his first title defence in the organization with a greater wealth of experience at 22-2.
Round 1 started with a bang as Chandler bundled forward with a lead overhand and a right to follow, backing Alvarez up against the cage. A flurry of hooks sent Alvarez to the canvas before he stumbled back up, still eating shots and returning a right hand to get his back off the cage.
As the round progressed, Chandler looked for takedowns but Alvarez was able to evade. Towards the end of the round, Chandler countered a jab with a big straight right, sending his opponent to the canvas again only for the bell to prevent the finish from happening.
In round 2, Chandler returned to his takedown attempts, finding some success but ultimately being unable to hold Alvarez down.
From a stuffed takedown, Alvarez took up an anaconda choke grip from the front headlock position, threatening the submission but Chandler slipped out to land a right hand and an uppercut counter upon separation.
At the end of the round, Alvarez chained a right straight onto a head kick that wobbled Chandler, but the bell sounded, saving the finish again.
Round 3 saw the tide turn in favour of Alvarez as he found early success with his jab. After stuffing another takedown, Alvarez delivered a head kick that led to a flurry of strikes that kept Chandler on the cage.
“Iron” Mike tried desperately for a takedown and Hail Mary uppercuts but found himself under more fire. He finally managed to chain wrestle onto a takedown and sit Alvarez down against the cage towards the end of the round, looking completely exhausted.
In round 4, Chandler came out sharper, stinging his jab out at range. He shot under a jab for a takedown but Alvarez managed to spin out. On the separation, Chandler delivered a right straight to the jaw and followed up with single shots as he backed his opponent up.
A massive overhand right dropped Alvarez to the canvas as Chandler followed him down, crushing him with top pressure. “Iron” Mike passed Alvarez’s single butterfly hook into side control before swiftly transitioning through knee on belly into mount.
A flurry of ground and pound forced Alvarez to turn his back as Chandler locked in a rear naked choke with his tried-and-tested modified gable grip.
Eddie tapped to the submission, giving the victory to “Iron” Mike via rear naked choke at 3.06 of round 4.
After Chandler was crowned Bellator Lightweight Champion, the fight became the no.6-ranked Best MMA Fight of the Year for 2011, on Tapology.