Dan Hardy picks Conor McGregor to beat Michael Chandler: ‘He’s got that refinement in his game’

Dan Hardy warns fans not to bet against a Conor McGregor comeback.

McGregor makes his return to action at UFC 303 in what will be his first fight following a 35-month injury layoff. He fights Michael Chandler in the June 29 main event and seeks just his second win in nearly eight years.

Hardy, a veteran analyst who currently provides commentary for PFL, is going with “The Notorious” to beat Chandler, based on how well McGregor has typically performed in big fights.

“I can’t underestimate McGregor’s ability,” Hardy said on The MMA Hour. “He’s done very special things in very tense, and high-pressure moments in his career. Headlining in Dublin with [Diego] Brandao, he just commanded that space so well. What he did to [Jose] Aldo was an absolute masterpiece. I mean, it hurt as an Aldo fan to watch it go down so quickly because I wanted to see some more of the fight, but he has an ability to control and manage and create illusions with range.

“I broke it down on Inside the Octagon a few years ago where you look at him when he was fighting Eddie Alvarez and he throws a jab and hangs his hips back to make it appear from Eddie Alvarez’s perspective like he’s at the length of his reach. So Alvarez then, ‘Oh, I’m OK. I’m safe here.’ And then [McGregor] steps through that reach and knocks him down. That’s a very, very high-level operating system and that’s not something that you lose by hanging out on a yacht and enjoying your life. I still feel like he’s got that refinement in his game.”

McGregor will be just shy of his 36th birthday when he steps into the cage with Chandler, but his history of memorable victories precedes him. He has won three UFC title fights, including an interim clash with Chad Mendes, and famously out-dueled Nate Diaz in their rematch at UFC 202. He has lost three of his past four fights though, including his UFC 264 encounter with rival Dustin Poirier that ended when McGregor broke his leg in the first round.

Chandler is no stranger to stepping up to the challenge though, having held the Bellator lightweight title three times and put on two Fight of the Nights in just five UFC appearances. His newfound all-offense style has further boosted his popularity, but Hardy is concerned that it could also lead to his downfall.

“Michael Chandler’s not the guy who he was in Bellator when he was cautious and picking his shots,” Hardy said. “If he plays the game that he did against, say, Sidney Outlaw, where he was poised and ready and waiting to land that clean shot, then that Chandler can beat anybody with that speed off the mark and that power. But he’s become a lot more reckless recently and that just plays into McGregor’s game.

“McGregor made Aldo reckless and then punished him for it. Chandler comes in reckless. He’s coming in for a payday and a show. He’s not thinking, ‘Right, I’m going to beat Conor McGregor and I’m going to do it in this particular way.’ He’s coming to fight.”

There is also the matter of McGregor’s injury to consider, as his recovery from a broken leg is one of the reasons that he hasn’t competed since July 2021. While that injury could hinder him on fight night, Hardy trusts that not only will McGregor figure out how to work through it, he might even use it to gain a psychological edge.

“I think it maybe potentially changes his approach,” Hardy said. “It might change his stance slightly. But I also think that he’s going to be aware of that vulnerability and his fight IQ is going to allow him to turn that into a positive. You might even see him leaving that leg out there as a target so he can punish Chandler for attacking it. Use it as bait.”