Conor McGregor returns vs. Michael Chandler at UFC 303

Conor McGregor returns vs. Michael Chandler at UFC 303

Conor ‘The Notorious’ McGregor will make his long-awaited return to the Octagon on June 29 when he faces Michael Chandler in the UFC 303 headliner at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas. The five-round bout will be contested in the welterweight division.

The 35-year-old McGregor (22-6 MMA, 10-4 UFC) hasn’t competed since suffering a broken tibia late in the first round of his third bout against Dustin Poirier, who was declared the winner by TKO (doctor stoppage) at UFC 264 on July 10 of 2021.

McGregor hasn’t tasted victory since scoring a 40-second knockout win over Donald ‘Cowboy’ Cerrone in the UFC 246 main event on Jan. 18 of 2020. He’s 1-3 in his last four fights, losing by fourth-round submission against Khabib ‘The Eagle Nurmagomedov at UFC 229 in October of 2018 and to Poirier via second-round KO at UFC 257.

As of April 15, FanDuel had McGregor installed as a -122 favorite vs. Chandler, who was priced at -104. Caesars had the bout as a pick ’em (-110 either way).

The 37-year-old Chandler (23-8 MMA, 2-3 UFC) agreed to be a coach opposite of McGregor in Season 31 of The Ultimate Fighter that began filming in February of 2023. Therefore, he’s also had a long stretch on the sidelines since losing to Poirier by third-round submission at UFC 281 on Nov. 12 of 2022.

Chandler enjoyed a spectacular promotional debut on Jan. 24 of 2021 when he dusted Dan Hooker by first-round knockout (punches) at UFC 257. That victory earned him a shot at the vacant lightweight title against Charles ‘Do Bronx’ Oliveira at UFC 262.

Chandler dropped Oliveira in the first round and had him badly hurt. At one point, it seemed as if Chandler was only one shot away from getting the referee to stop the contest.

However, Oliveira was able to survive the opening frame and win the bout with a KO only 19 seconds into the second stanza.

Nearly six months later at UFC 268, Chandler and Justin Gaethje put on a three-round war that earned 2021 Fight of the Year honors. Gaethje prevailed via unanimous decision (29-28, 30-27, 29-28).

In May of 2022 at UFC 274, Chandler garnered a Performance of the Night bonus with a second-round KO win (front kick) over Tony Ferguson. The finish was similar to other epic front kick KO victories like Anderson Silva’s against Vitor Belfort and Lyoto Machida’s vs. Randy Couture.

Chandler is the former three-time Bellator lightweight champion. He’s only fought at welterweight twice, but he had three scraps that were at a 165-pound catchweight.

Chandler went 5-0 in those contests, but they were the first five fights of his career in 2009 and 2010.

McGregor has fought at 170 pounds three times, going 2-1. He has the win over Cerrone and split a pair of meetings against Nate Diaz.

Back at UFC 196 in March of 2016, Diaz took a fight against McGregor on less than two weeks of notice. Diaz got dominated for most of the first round, only to rally in the second round and hand McGregor his first UFC loss via submission with 48 seconds left in the stanza.

Diaz and McGregor ran it back at UFC 202 in August of 2016, with McGregor capturing a majority-decision win (48-47, 47-47, 48-47).

According to MMADecisions, 14 media members scored the bout for McGregor, while one had it in favor of Diaz. Four others scored it a draw.

PREDICTION: I’ve been saying for years that McGregor will never win another UFC fight again. He’s coming off a brutal injury and when he steps into the Octagon in June, it will have been 1,084 days since his last fight.

The best price on the board for Chandler (as of April 15) is +100 at DraftKings. Give me Chandler +100 for two units.