Khabib Nurmagomedov’s retirement left a hole at the top of the 155lbs division – a hole that Oliveira filled with an impressive stoppage victory on Saturday night
The belt had been vacant following the recent retirement of undefeated champion Khabib Nurmagomedov, with Oliveira and Chandler booking their spots in the title bout in starkly contrasting manners.
Oliveira (31-8, 1 NC) entered the contest – his 28th in the UFC – on the back of an eight-fight win streak, while Chandler (22-6) only made his UFC debut in January, knocking out Dan Hooker in the first round.
Chandler, a former three-time Bellator lightweight champion, was peppered with leg and body kicks in the opening exchanges, but the American responded by landing a clean left hook to Oliveira’s jaw, forcing the Brazilian to shoot for a takedown.
Oliveira was successful in taking Chandler to the mat but was immediately tasked with fending off a guillotine choke attempt by the former All-American wrestler.
Jiu-jitsu specialist Oliveira escaped the hold, however, and took Chandler’s back.
With a remarkable 19 of his previous 30 wins having come via submission, it seemed as though Oliveira would be able to finish a desperate Chandler, but the American twisted out of his opponent’s grasp before exploding to his feet.
As soon as Oliveira had joined Chandler in standing in the centre of the Octagon, the former Bellator champion wobbled the Brazilian with a right hand.
Oliveira staggered to the mat and a stoppage seemed inevitable, but the 31-year-old was able to survive until the buzzer.
Then, just seconds into the second round, it was Oliveira who dropped Chandler, a precise left hook sending the 35-year-old scrambling.
Oliveira swarmed Chandler with strikes along the fence to force a stoppage, extend his win streak to nine and leave the packed-out Toyota Center in Houston, Texas as the new UFC lightweight champion.
Former titleholder Conor McGregor was quick to congratulate Oliveira while also sending a warning, tweeting: “Congrats to Olivera on becoming the 11th UFC lightweight champion. Wonder who Twelve is…”
Former interim lightweight champion Dustin Poirier, who knocked out McGregor in January and is set for a trilogy bout with the Irishman in July, wrote: “Congratulations @CharlesDoBronxs you earned that the hard way! Head up @MikeChandlerMMA highest of the highs and lowest of the lows.”