A lightweight grudge match is nearly a done deal for the UFC’s return to Madison Square Garden.
Ariel Helwani reported on Wednesday’s edition of The MMA Hour that a matchup between former interim champion Dustin Poirier and former Bellator champion and one-time UFC title challenger Michael Chandler is “close and likely” to be finalized for UFC 281 on November 12th. This comes not too long after Poirier and Chandler’s heated confrontation was caught on video at UFC 276.
Poirier (28-7, 1 NC) hasn’t fought since losing by submission to Charles Oliveira for the lightweight title at UFC 269 last December. ‘The Diamond’ had previously scored consecutive high-profile wins over Conor McGregor, as well as a thrilling five-round decision over Dan Hooker. Dustin’s only losses over his last 11 fights have been in title matches against Oliveira and Khabib Nurmagomedov, and you have to go back to his shock first-round KO by Michael Johnson in 2016 for his most recent non-title defeat.
Chandler (23-7) is one of Bellator’s greatest ever fighters, having held the promotion’s lightweight title three separate times. He finally made his UFC debut in 2020, spectacularly knocking out Dan Hooker at UFC 257. That win earned him a title shot against Charles Oliveira for the vacant belt, but his bright start gave way to a second-round KO loss to ‘Do Bronx’ at UFC 262. A thrilling three-round decision defeat to Justin Gaethje followed at UFC 268 last November at MSG, but he bounced back with an unreal front kick KO of Tony Ferguson at UFC 274 in May.
As an aside, November 12th holds some historical significance as it’s the anniversary of the very first UFC show, the date of the first UFC card at MSG back in 2016 (UFC 205: Alvarez vs. McGregor), and the date of the UFC’s debut on FOX television in 2011 (Dos Santos vs. Velasquez I). We’ll see what’s in store for this year’s big occasion.