UFC 281: Dustin Poirier Overcomes Early Adversity, Subs Michael Chandler in Wild Fight

Dustin Poirier and Michael Chandler, UFC 281
NEW YORK, NEW YORK - NOVEMBER 12: Michael Chandler battles Dustin Poirier during the UFC 281 event at Madison Square Garden on November 12, 2022 in New York City. (Photo by Cooper Neill/Zuffa LLC)

Nearly every UFC Pay-Per-View card these days winds up with a fight fans refer to as the “people’s main event,” and UFC 281 was no different in that respect.

It certainly begs the question, why not hold back these hotly anticipated fights? Why not have them anchor some of the unquestionably underwhelming Fight Night cards of late? Regardless, Michael Chandler vs. Dustin Poirier certainly fit the “people’s main event” billing on Saturday, with the lightweight showdown on paper being the most dazzling bout on the docket.

It played out as advertised at UFC 281 in New York City on Saturday, with a Fight of the Year candidate unfolding at Madison Square Garden.

The feeling ahead of Poirier vs. Chandler was electric, and that carried right into the fight. Chandler fanned on a low kick in the opening minute; Poirier returned one of his own moments later. A right hand was followed by several kicks to the body by Chandler; those had Poirier retreating, but not for long. Poirier then checked a low kick; Chandler moved in, firing lefts and rights. A right hand, then another, landed for “Iron” Mike. He had Poirier up against the fence, unloading, as Poirier covered up and survived.

After more back-and-forth at center, Chandler pressed forward swinging heavy leather again. Chandler then ate a right hand, followed by an outside leg kick. The pair clashed heads, and Chandler went on the attack, landing lefts and rights, battering Poirier then landing a takedown! Poirier began working his way up, and Chandler briefly threatened to take the back. Poirier however posted up only for Chandler to pull him back down. In the final minute Poirier made it up, then began landing on Chandler! Chandler returned fire, hurting Poirier, but Poiirier rocked Chandler! Chandler looked ready to fall over, and he was bloodied, with Poirier lighting him up! Poirier looked to be seconds away from the win, especially after a nasty elbow, but the horn sounded to end the round!

Round two had a tough act to follow. Chandler was unlikely to have recovered in just 60 seconds, but he pressed forward early and landed a slam takedown, planting Poirier on his back! A smart call, giving Chandler some much-needed recovery time, though Poirier was active on bottom, landing an elbow. Chandler, meanwhile, was leaking blood from the nose, a heavy stream. Poirier then threw up a triangle, but the blood made that futile. Chandler transitioned to the back, and got one hook in by the fence. He could not get under the neck however. And when he did, somewhat, Chandler was too high up the back.

That said, Chandler had again got out to a strong lead, as he had in round one. Two minutes remained, as Poirier got his back to the fence. Chandler was in guard; Poirier was unable to use a kimura to free himself. Chandler then unloaded hammer fists, most of which were to the back of the head. Chandler then corrected his aim and landed several punches to the ear.

The second was clearly Michael Chandler’s round. The first, with the late surge, likely went to Poirier. That left the third frame as potentially the decisive round. Poirier, perhaps with that in mind, went on the attack early. Chandler appeared to be slowing, as his first level change was badly telegraphed. Then, a single leg, a slam takedown, but it was Poirier on top in a scramble. Poirier took the back! He had a triangle in place, and went looking for the rear-naked choke — and he had it! Chandler tapped, and Poirier was back in the win column.

After the win, Poirier could be heard telling Chandler that “I was scared to fight you,” adding “without fear, there’s no greatness.”

Official Result: Dustin Poirier def. Michael Chandler by submission (rear-naked choke), Round 3, 2:00