Renato Moicano believes Michael Chandler is tailor-made opponent to let Conor McGregor ‘shine’

In the words of Conor McGregor, Renato Moicano predicts these things.

As his UFC 300 showdown against Jalin Turner looms, Moicano stopped by The MMA Hour for a wide-ranging conversation about the latest comings and goings in MMA. Included in that chat was a round of predictions for some of the biggest matchups on the fight calendar in 2024, and in that regard, Moicano is confident the sport’s most famous star will have a successful return when McGregor finally steps into the cage against Michael Chandler this summer.

“I like McGregor in the fight,” Moicano said on The MMA Hour. “I could be wrong, right? McGregor, [for a] long time he didn’t fight, we have the leg injury and stuff. But at the same time, I think Chandler is the opponent to make McGregor shine, right? Because I don’t think he’s going to take McGregor down, just because he doesn’t shoot for wrestling. He’s a wrestler, but we don’t see him [use it]. We see him brawling. And because he’s so short and McGregor was so precise, I think he could get the knockout against Chandler.”

McGregor told MMA Fighting earlier this month that his long-discussed but oft-delayed comeback fight against Chandler is finally set to happen in the summer. Chandler echoed that claim, however both men declined to reveal whether their previously declared date of June 29 remains the official target for the bout. The two have been linked to a tentative UFC matchup since coaching opposite one another on The Ultimate Fighter 31 in early 2023. McGregor has not competed since breaking his leg in a July 2021 loss to Dustin Poirier.

While Moicano sees a successful night in the future for McGregor, he doesn’t foresee the same for one of MMA’s other big stars.

UFC bantamweight champion Sean O’Malley announced this past week that his next title defense will indeed come against Merab Dvalishvili, the Georgian winning machine whose wrestling skills and seemingly superhuman cardio have carried him to a division-best 10-fight win streak. Moicano said he gained a newfound respect for O’Malley after watching him dismantle Marlon Vera at UFC 299, but he thinks the American’s title reign ends here.

“I don’t think he beats Merab,” Moicano said. “Stylistically [it’s a bad fight for O’Malley], right? We never know. He got [past] Aljamain Sterling — Aljamain Sterling is a good grappler, a tall fighter for 135, he is heavy. But at the same time, the pressure that Merab has [is dangerous for O’Malley]. But at the same time, [Henry] Cejudo got Merab [good] one time, right? Marlon Moraes, other fighters got [Dvalishvili with] the left hook, so the left hook is going to be over there. But I think the pressure of Merab is going to be too much.

“But right now, I don’t know, you have to respect Sean O’Malley for what he did to Chito Vera and you have to respect Chito Vera for hanging with him for five rounds, even with a broken face and stuff. So respect to him. And the thing that got me more [respect for O’Malley], that I think it’s amazing by Sean O’Malley, is the way he strikes. Very [good] flow. So he can definitely beat everybody in the 135 [division], but Merab is a tough fight for him. If I would have to bet, I would bet on Merab, for sure.”

Moicano also weighed in on a potential welterweight bout that, if booked, could be one of the UFC’s most polarizing matchups made in 2024. Undefeated up-and-comer Ian Machado Garry and three-time UFC title challenger Colby Covington continue to trade shots on social media over a potential bout, and Moicano sees that one as an advantage for the old guard.

“I think Colby [wins],” Moicano said. “The wrestling, the wrestling, yeah, the pressure. A lot of people are giving s*** to Colby Covington, but he’s still — he’s not young, but I think he still can [compete]. I think Ian Garry, I didn’t like his last fight against Geoff Neal. I don’t think it was a competitive, exciting match to watch.

“I think he would have trouble against Colby.”