On paper, the fight between Dustin Poirier and Michael Chandler was bound to be a slugfest. The two heavy-handed lightweights did not disappoint, going back and fourth in a wild fight that came to an end when Poirier was able to lock in a fight-finishing rear-naked choke in the third round inside Madison Square Garden at UFC 281.
The momentum of the fight swung wildly in the opening frame. Chandler came out with a kick-heavy attack, which was slowed when Poirier perfectly checked a leg kick, causing Chandler's lower leg to immediately swell. Poirier then got rolling with sharp, technical punches before Chandler took over the action with some wild punches and takedowns that had Poirier visibly hurt.
It was Poirier who ended the round with the statement, however, having Chandler on the verge of a knockout before time ran out on the round.
Chandler quickly engaged his wrestling roots in the second round, scoring a takedown only to be further bloodied by an elbow from Poirier as the Louisiana native was trying to lock up a triangle choke. Despite the damage, Chandler dominated the round by keeping Poirier on bottom and landing some short punches.
The wrestling game would backfire in Chandler in the third round. Visibly fatigued, Chandler was slower to engage as he ate a few punches from a fresher Poirier. Chandler eventually shot for a big slam takedown and try immediately move to the back, but Poirier was able to scramble for top position, eventually taking the back and sinking in a rear-naked choke for the tap in the last dramatic momentum swing of the bout.
After the fight, Poirier admitted that he was nearly finished in the first round.
"Of course [I was hurt], over here against the wall I couldn't see," Poirier said. "Good thing he throws looping. If he threw straight he probably would have gotten me out of here."
The fight was Poirier's first since losing a bout for the lightweight title against Charles Oliveira by rear-naked choke in December 2021.
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