A lightweight bout with heavyweight implications kicked off the UFC 268 main card at Madison Square Garden on Saturday. No. 2 ranked Justin Gaethje and No. 5 ranked Michael Chandler met in a highly anticipated match that guaranteed fireworks.
Gaethje, a former interim UFC lightweight champion and former World Series of Fighting lightweight titleholder, and Chandler, the former three-time Bellator lightweight champion, did not disappoint.
The two immediately engaged and started throwing bombs. Gaethje connected with leg kicks but Chandler’s right hand round a home early. He wobbled Gaethje with it. The pace was furious. Gaethje bloodied Chandler with a left hand and finished the round strong.
In the second frame, Gaethje dropped Chandler with an uppercut. He let Chandler to his feet moments later. Once back on their feet, Chandler connected with an uppercut. Gaethje connected with a thunderous right hand. In the closing moments of the round, Chandler accidentally poked Gaethje in the eye but landed a hard right hand to follow. The referee stepped in for the poke. The fight quickly resumed and the few seconds remaining the the round ran off the clock.
In the third round, Chandler pressed forward on a badly damaged leg. Gaethje continue to target Chandlers lead leg when the opportunity presented itself. Chandler was forced to change stances. Gaethje landed hard punches and Chandler put his hands down and walked forward. Gaethje met him with a right hand that send Chandler backpedaling.
In the closing moments of the fight, Gaethje didn’t pursue Chandler. Chandler zigged and zagged looking for an opening but wasn’t able to find one. The fight ended and the two embraced in the center of the cage.
The judges scored the fight for Gaethje by unanimous decision in a bout that has Fight of the Year written all over it.
“He’s a warrior,” said Gaethje following the fight. “We’re living in the wrong times. Let me tell you. Me and him should have been fighting to the deal in a f*cking colosseum.”
“The winner in December, I will be stepping in there and I will be pushing you everywhere and anywhere,” Gaethje said. “Hopefully it’s Oliveira in Brazil or Poirier down in Louisiana. I don’t give a f*ck.”