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Michael Chandler quickly TKOs Dan Hooker in stunning UFC debut

Kevin Iole
·Combat columnist
·2-min read
ABU DHABI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES - JANUARY 23: Michael Chandler reacts after his knockout victory over Dan Hooker of New Zealand in a lightweight fight during the UFC 257 event inside Etihad Arena on UFC Fight Island on January 23, 2021 in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. (Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC)
Michael Chandler reacts after his knockout victory over Dan Hooker of New Zealand in a lightweight fight during the UFC 257 event inside Etihad Arena on UFC Fight Island on January 23, 2021 in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. (Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC)

Michael Chandler’s UFC debut went better than he could have even hoped for on Saturday in the co-main event of UFC 257 at Etihad Arena in Abu Dhabi.

The former Bellator champion dreamed for years of fighting in the UFC, but it wasn’t until Saturday that he made his UFC debut. No one who saw it will forget it soon, though.

Chandler caught Dan Hooker with a crushing left hook midway through the first round that sent Hooker to the seat of his pants. Chandler, who was stalking him throughout, didn’t give Hooker a chance to breathe. He landed a series of punches on Hooker and forced referee Marc Goddard to stop it at 2:30 of the first.

The victory thrusts Chandler directly into the mix for the title in the lightweight division. He couldn’t have done much better against an opponent who had been one of the toughest, and most successful, lights of the last several years in the UFC.

“This has been a long road ... a lot of ups, a couple of downs,” Chandler said in the cage after the bout. “Everything has led me to this.”

It was a remarkable performance, exceeded perhaps, only by his effort on the microphone after the bout. He pulled out a promo that former pro wrestling superstar Ric Flair used and called out the elite of the lightweight division, including champion Khabib Nurmagomedov, Conor McGregor and Dustin Poirier.

He was aggressive in his call-outs as he was in the fight, where he never gave Hooker an opportunity to get set.

“I have to get something off my chest,” Chandler said. “I tell you all this: This is the greatest moment in my professional life. Conor McGregor: Surprise, surprise. There’s a new king in the lightweight division. Dustin Poirier, your time is coming.

“And Khabib, if you ever do see fit to grace us with your presence back here in the UFC Octagon, you have to beat somebody, so beat me, if you can. God bless. See you at the top.”

That is where he seems to be headed after a remarkable debut.

More UFC 257 coverage from Yahoo Sports: