Michael Chandler fought with a purpose and did a little record breaking along the way.
The two-time Bellator MMA lightweight champion choked Brandon Girtz unconscious with an arm-triangle in the first round of their Bellator 197 main event on Friday at the Family Arena in St. Charles, Missouri. A fill-in for the injured Brent Primus, Girtz went limp 4:00 into Round 1 to the delight of the pro-Chandler crowd.
The two men traded barbs -- and fouls -- on the feet before Chandler changed levels, executed a takedown and advanced to the mounted crucifix position. After a brief burst of ground-and-pound, the 31-year-old Hard Knocks 365 representative locked in the choke, cleared his legs of the Girtz guard and waited for his squeeze to do the rest.
Chandler has gone 6-1 since enduring a three-fight losing streak between Nov. 2, 2013 and Nov. 15, 2014. He now owns more Bellator wins (15) than any other fighter.
In the aftermath of Bellator 197 “Chandler vs. Girtz,” here are four matches that ought to be made:
Michael Chandler vs. Brent Primus: These two have unfinished business with one another. Recovering from a knee injury that prompted his withdrawal from their rematch, the unbeaten Primus has not fought since he laid claim to the Bellator lightweight championship with a second-round technical knockout against Chandler in June. The encounter lasted a little more than two minutes and ended when an ankle injury left Chandler unable to continue. In the 10 months that have passed since, “Iron Mike” has looked as dominant as ever in back-to-back wins against Girtz and Goiti Yamauchi.
A.J. McKee vs. James Gallagher: McKee improved to 11-0 in the featherweight co-headliner, as he picked up a clear-cut unanimous decision against former Resurrection Fighting Alliance champion Justin Lawrence. All three judges scored it 30-27 for the Team Bodyshop standout. McKee used his advantage in the reach and quickness departments to outstrike “The Ultimate Fighter 15” graduate across three rounds. Afterward, the confident 23-year-old set his sights on a showdown with Gallagher, a man with whom he has engaged in a war of words for more than a year. The undefeated Gallagher, now 7-0, has submitted six of his seven opponents, five of them inside one round.
Logan Storley vs. Brennan Ward: While he may not have pleased the masses with his rinse-and-repeat approach, Storley took the surest path to victory in a unanimous decision over Joaquin Buckley in their welterweight showcase. The four-time NCAA All-American wrestler swept the scorecards with 30-27, 30-26 and 30-26 marks from the judges. Storley, 25, executed repeated takedowns, maintained positional control and applied occasional ground-and-pound, even as the boos cascaded down upon him. The Hard Knocks 365 prospect will carry a perfect 8-0 record into his next appearance. A Bellator staple at 170 pounds, Ward owns wins over Saad Awad and Curtis Millender.
Juliana Velasquez vs. Anastasia Yankova-Kate Jackson winner: Team Nogueira’s Velasquez kept her unblemished resume clean and moved toward a more prominent role in the women’s flyweight division, as she cut down Rebecca Ruth with a third-round body kick. Ruth bowed out 19 seconds into Round 3. The 31-year-old Velasquez, 7-0, has finished four of her last five opponents and holds an April 2015 decision win over Ultimate Fighting Championship veteran Talita Bernardo. Yankova and Jackson will face one another at Bellator 200 on May 25 in London.