Former UFC fighter Josh Thompson says there is huge pressure on Michael Chandler ahead of his Bellator 243 meeting with Benson Henderson.
The former lightweight champ in the promotion is facing the final fight of his contract, and could be headed towards free agency. As the 34-year-old plots his next move, a big win over Henderson would bolster his negotiating hand.
“I think it adds a ton of pressure to him,” Thompson said to Sky Sports.
“Fighting is already hard enough as it is.
“Do I think he has a good shot of getting what he wants, if he has a dominant performance? Probably.
“It didn’t help his stock that Patrício [Freire] came up from 145 to 155 and took his title. That didn’t help his argument, losing to a 145 champion. Patrício is definitely no slouch, we’ve seen that. So I don’t know where he goes from there. There’s a lot of things that only Michael Chandler can answer.”
Thompson: Henderson needs a quick start
Chandler’s opponent will be looking to hit the ground running once he steps into the cage, and Thompson fears it’s a weakness in the former UFC 155lb champ’s game.
“That’s always been my sense with Ben,” he said. “That’s the one thing when I fought Benson that I said for sure 100 per cent he needs to make the adjustment. When I watched the tape on him, I knew that he was a slow starter, so I needed to come out and be aggressive in the first two rounds, and I did.
“Since he signed with Bellator, he’s been telling me ‘I’m going to start fast this fight, I’m going to start fast this fight’. He never does. But he needs to understand, this is a three-round fight. Michael Chandler proved in the first fight that he can get through three rounds, and can squeak through and win two of the three rounds without over-exerting energy, and still be able to bite down on his mouthpiece and save himself in the third.
“Benson needs to get on him quickly, get him to use a ton of energy in the first round. And if he does that, I think there’s a good chance that Ben could beat him.
“But will he do it? He’s been saying it for years he was going to start fast and I haven’t seen him do it yet. Until he proves to me that he’s going to start fast, I’m leaning towards Chandler. As much as I’d like to see Benson get after him, it’s hard because he’s fought his whole career one way…being a slow round starter.”
So what could Henderson change to ensure he gets a fast start?
“I don’t know. There’s a couple of things,” said Thompson. “It could be physical. Maybe he doesn’t warm up as well. For years, a lot of guys would warm up for 35, 45 minutes in the back. I know guys and girls who just like to hit the pads for one or two minutes and they’re done. So it really depends. Maybe he could get a better warm-up in the back, and get the juices flowing. And maybe that could help him physically to keep going once he gets out there.
“But I think with him it’s more mental. He wants that feeling-out process, so he doesn’t get clipped. He wants to see things in front of him. He wants the fight to develop in front of him. But that’s what a smart fighter does. But in a three-round fight, that’s hard to do. Especially against Michael Chandler who is fast, explosive and who has the power as well as the ability to win the first round against anybody.
“But can he then push him to the point where he uses so much energy that he’s able to take over the fight halfway through, to win the rest of the fight? That’s yet to be seen.”
Watch Bellator 243 on August 7, live on Sky Sports.