Chidi Njokuani did what was expected of him and barely broke a sweat in doing so.
Armed with six-inch height and eight-inch reach advantages, the former Tachi Palace Fights champion systematically dismantled Melvin Guillard, cemented his place near the top of the Bellator MMA welterweight division and cruised to a unanimous decision in the Bellator 171 headliner on Friday at the Kansas Star Arena in Mulvane, Kansas. Six of the possible nine rounds were scored 10-8 for Njokuani (17-4), as he earned 30-25, 30-24 and 30-26 nods from the cageside judges.
Guillard (32-17-2) was never competitive. Njokuani blasted him with kicks while standing and wrecked him with ground-and-pound whenever they spilled onto the canvas. He nearly finished Guillard with a liver kick in the closing seconds of Round 2, where the bell gave “The Young Assassin” a brief reprieve. It mattered not. Njokuani followed a knee to the head with a takedown inside the first minute of the third round and assaulted the New Orleans native with punches and elbows from top position before denying his bid for a Hail Mary choke.
Njokuani, 28, has won seven fights in a row.
In the co-main event, Bellator Season 8 tournament winner David Rickels steamrolled the returning Aaron Derrow to a third-round stoppage at 170 pounds. Derrow (14-9) succumbed to punches 44 seconds into Round 3, his two-fight winning streak snapped in decisive fashion.
Rickels (18-4) ripped apart the Glory MMA and Fitness representative from start to finish. “The Caveman” decked Derrow with a short left hand in the first round and pounced with punches. He moved in and out of guard, applying his ground-and-pound with savage elbows, standing-to-ground punches and even double hammerfists. The scene repeated itself in the middle stanza, where Rickels connected with a lunging left hook, assumed top position and resumed the beating with elbows, punches and forearm strikes.
After absorbing a ridiculous amount of punishment over the first 10 minutes, Derrow had nothing left for the third round. There, Rickels forced him to retreat to the mat and finished it with unanswered punches. Derrow’s first fight since October 2014 could not have gone much worse.
Meanwhile, Team Bodyshop prospect A.J. McKee kept his perfect professional record intact with a hard-fought but well-earned unanimous decision over Brandon Phillips in a three-round featherweight showcase. All three cageside judges scored it for McKee (7-0): 29-28, 29-28 and 30-27.
Phillips (6-3) provided a surprisingly difficult test for the Long Beach, California, native. He troubled McKee with multi-punch bursts, often bullying him to the cage and imploring him to come forward. It was not enough. McKee controlled distance with side kicks and front kicks to the body, along with the occasional jab. Though he threw mostly single strikes, he avoided damage, frustrated Phillips from the outside and mixed in a pair of beautifully timed takedowns in the third round.
Phillips, 27, has lost three of his last four fights.
In other action, Tyrell Fortune (2-0) disposed of Will Johnson (0-1) with punches 4:27 into the second round of their heavyweight confrontation; Jarod Trice (2-0) knocked out Kevin Woltkamp (0-3) with a left hook 3:17 into the second round of their heavyweight clash; Jessica Middleton (2-0) took a unanimous decision from Alice Smith Yauger (4-5) in their three-round women’s flyweight pairing, prompting 29-28, 30-26 and 30-26 scores from the judges; Jordan Young (6-0) was awarded a unanimous verdict against Chris Harris (8-1) in their three-round catchweight affair at 187 pounds, earning 30-26, 30-27 and 30-27 marks on the scorecards; Justin Overton (4-2) submitted Gaston Reyno (6-2) with a rear-naked choke 34 seconds into the second round of their featherweight tilt; and Bruna Ellen (3-1) captured a unanimous decision over Carmella James (0-1) in a three-round women’s flyweight battle, drawing 29-28, 30-27 and 30-27 nods from the judges.