Justin Gaethje vs Michael Chandler UFC 268: UFC stars rocking each other in crazy first round

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Justin Gaethje and Michael Chandler both came flying out the gates to open the main card of UFC 268 on Saturday night at Madison Square Garden.

Both men levied huge shots against one another in the opening few SECONDS of the lightweight fight, with Chandler dazing Gaethje following a jumping knee strike, before the latter fought right back with a damaging uppercut while backed up against the cage.

That same uppercut almost won Gaethje the fight in the second round, knocking down Chandler for what seemed like the final blow, only for him to survive somehow.

The exhilarating fight ended up going the distance with neither man giving an inch, in what has been called an all-timer of an opening fight.

Gaethje scored the victory by split decision, though, with final scores from the judges of 29-28, 29-28 and 30-27.

The respective win and loss represents a shift in trajectory for both fighters, with Gaethje likely in line for a UFC lightweight championship fight in the future, while Chandler slips down the rankings following his own previous championship loss.

Perhaps the real story came in the aftermath of the fight, though, with the pair embracing each other in the Octagon following the 15-minute time limit expiry.

The pair received a standing ovation from the New York crowd too after they had their lofty pre-fight expectations met by the thrilling battle.

Both skipped their post-fight media obligations in favour of a visit to the hospital, valiantly walking out of the fight before getting in their respective ambulances, with a touching moment seeing Gaethje checking on Chandler before the pair made their way.

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Safe to say at the end of UFC 268, both men had earned each other’s respect, as well as that of the audience, media and fighters alike.

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