Michael Chandler has a wild rationalization for why he wasn’t hitting the back of Dustin Poirier’s head

Dustin Poirier confronted Michael Chandler about his use of dirty tactics in the cage before the winner was announced. Poirier was quite displeased with both the ref and Chandler and how the obnoxious amounts of fouls was handled.

In the fall out from the event, the brunt of the attention was on the fish hooking incident – considering that’s the most egregious foul on paper. Fishhooking is considered so severe that it was even banned during UFC 1 during which you could eye poke or groin strike.

Fish hooking refers to insertion of fingers into the mouth of your opponent.

Chandler was first questioned on the fouls at the presser after the event to which he responded:

“The back of the head thing, did one or two of those punches catch his head? Yes, after he turned his head, but I was catching his ear with every single one of them.”

“That’s why the referee was there watching the entire time. He said, ‘Watch the back of the head.’ As soon as he did, I said, ‘I caught the back of his ear.’ After that, was there anymore punches to the back of the head? No.”


Chandler was once again confronted by the allegations he was ‘dirty’ during UFC 281 event against Poirier by ESPN’s Brett Okamoto. Okamoto lobbed softballs at Chandler and what’s perhaps more surprising he let some wild explanations go unchallenged.

Chandler told Okamoto:

“The referee was right there. I was catching his ear with every single shot, maybe one shot punched him in the back of the head. But that happens every single fight and he turned his head into me. So the referee is right there and the onus is on the fighter to not punch in the back of the head. But even bigger onus is for the referee to be there.”

“And they tell you this in the back locker room, hey, if you’re doing something illegal or something I don’t like, I will warn you. First you wait for the warning and then you change your course of action. How many punches did you see to the back of the head? Am I missing something here, Brett? You want a suspension opinion?”

“And they always say this is the back, this is the illegal part right here. If you notice, I’m not touching the ear. So you can actually technically touch the ear or punch them in the back of the ear. And it’s not technically the back of the head as long as and these are also Hammerfest. So you got to remember, too, the striking the striking apparatus is this long, right?”

“So the hand and the wrist or the hand or the wrist was catching the the ear. So, I mean, as soon as he said something, obviously I stopped. It wasn’t like I was like, yeah, screw you and punch him in the back of the head. And he also did turn his head. So you also can’t if if an opponent turns his head to make you punch him in the back of the head, you get one free strike while they tell you to change.”

“And then if you continue to do it, then they they’re going to stop the fight or start to take a point away. So back of the head, I’m not worried about ”

But the video of the event tells a different story. As a part of our ongoing series examining all the dirty tactics in popular events we took a closer look at what Chandler actually did.

In round 2 things got really gritty. After Chandler landed a monster slam of Poirier he proceeded to try and guard pass all while landing shots to the side of Poirier’s head – potentially towards the back of his head.

For these two argument can be made that Poirier was turning his head to the side so Chandler was landing to the back of his head.

Chandler was ear to ear in this next one with Poirier and the argument can be made it’s technically not a foul though it’s doubtful he was hitting the back of the ear like he explained.

For those of us keeping count, that was at least 4 strikes to the back of Poirier’s head.


For a lot of these shots to the back of the head, Poirier’s head was actually resting on Chandler’s bottom arm – ie he had control of the head.

Right after these, Poirier would try to blow his nose in Poirier’s eyes.

Poirier would end up scrambling out of closed guard and attempt a diamond choke – at which point Chandler transitioned to back control.

From there he would land a major blow to the back of Poirier’s head (though he still appeared to be aiming for the side of the head).

At which point referee Dan Miragliotta could be heard saying “Watch the back of the head” during the match.

Poirier would then end up slowly recovering closed guard but was still arguably mounted by Chandler. The two are next to the fence at this point, and Poirier was successful in defending from an RNC and that fish hooking attempt.

At this point Chandler was visibly frustrated and landed several heavy handed strikes to the back of his head.

Chandler was somewhat frustrated by Poirier defending and had freed his arm to finally land couple of major hammerfists.

And this time they weren’t even theoretically on the side of the head. They appeared pointed at the back of the head/neck if anything.

At this point we can see ref interfering and smacking at Chandler’s hand.

Daniel Cormier, on commentating duty, could be heard saying: “Those are all behind the head”, he chuckled and added “Seems like every shot was at the back of the head”.

Joe Rogan remarked “A couple of them were near the ear, a bunch of them were not.”

At this point Chandler was talking back to the ref, ostensibly to talk back. Nevertheless he ended up landing a number of clean shots to Poirier’s head but without a finish in sight. The two went on to round 3- in which Poirier submitted Chandler after scrambling to his back.