Michael Chandler has designs on reclaiming the Bellator MMA lightweight throne for an unprecedented third time.
Chandler cleared his latest hurdle with room to spare, as he choked Brandon Girtz unconscious with a first-round arm-triangle in the Bellator 197 headliner on Friday at the Family Arena in St. Charles, Missouri. A replacement for injured Bellator lightweight champion Brent Primus, Girtz (15-8, 7-6 Bellator) passed out 4:00 into Round 1.
After a stalemate developed on the feet, Chandler (18-4, 15-4 Bellator) swooped in for a takedown, moved to the mounted crucifix position and softened the Trevor Wittman protégé with ground-and-pound. He then made a lightning-quick transition to the arm-triangle, tightened his squeeze and waited for Girtz to go limp.
Chandler, 31, has won six of his last seven fights. His 15 victories inside the Bellator cage are the most in the promotion’s history.
Related » Bellator 197 Round-by-Round Scoring
In the featherweight co-main event, A.J. McKee took a significant step forward in his development from prospect to contender, as he claimed a unanimous decision over former Resurrection Fighting Alliance champion Justin Lawrence. McKee (11-0, 11-0 Bellator) swept the scorecards with matching 30-27 marks from the judges.
Lawrence (11-5, 4-3 Bellator) had considerable difficulty with the Team Bodyshop star’s length and speed. McKee left nothing to chance, blasting “The Ultimate Fighter 15” graduate with everything from side kicks to the body, hook kicks to the head and shovel uppercuts to basic two-punch combinations, penetrating jabs and leg kicks. Once the tone and pace were set, Lawrence had little recourse. McKee struck effectively from his southpaw stance and enjoyed success moving forward and backward.
Afterward, McKee again set his sights on SBG Ireland’s James Gallagher. The two unbeaten featherweights have engaged in a cold war across social media platforms for more than a year.
Meanwhile, four-time NCAA All-American wrestler Logan Storley kept his perfect record intact with a rinse-and-repeat unanimous decision over Joaquin Buckley in a three-round welterweight showcase. All three cageside judges scored it for Storley (8-0, 3-0 Bellator): 30-27, 30-26 and 30-26. The outcome was never in doubt.
Buckley (8-2, 3-2 Bellator) had no answer for the Hard Knocks 365 prospect’s skills. Storley struck for repeated takedowns, navigated the guard with ease and applied effective ground-and-pound while maintaining dominant positions. The 25-year-old advanced to mount in the first and second rounds, as he methodically broke down Buckley across the 15-minute encounter.
The loss snapped Buckley’s two-fight winning streak.
Elsewhere, Kevin Ferguson Jr., son of the late “Kimbo Slice,” submitted Devon Brock with a rear-naked choke in the first round of their catchweight feature at 160 pounds. Brock (1-1, 1-1 Bellator) bit the dust 34 seconds into Round 1, as he felt the sting of defeat for the first time as a professional mixed martial artist.
Ferguson (3-1, 3-1 Bellator) tracked down his counterpart with winging hooks, threatened a takedown and floored him with an overhand right. He moved to full mount on the dazed Brock, dropping elbows, punches and hammerfists before transitioning to the back. Ferguson threaded the choke, arched his hips and prompted the tapout.
In preliminary action, A.J. Siscoe submitted Justin Robbins with a rear-naked choke 4:34 into the second round of their catchweight pairing at 140 pounds; Jordan Dowdy tapped Jeff Crotty with a rear-naked choke 29 seconds into the first round of their welterweight affair; Juliana Velasquez disposed of Rebecca Ruth with a body kick 19 seconds into the third round of their women’s flyweight tilt; Derek Anderson took a unanimous decision from Zak Bucia in a three-round catchweight confrontation at 165 pounds; Dominic Mazzotta captured a unanimous verdict against Josh Sampo in a three-round bantamweight bout; Eric Ellington eked out a split decision over Jordan Howard in a three-round bantamweight scrap; Adam Cella put away DeWayne Diggs with punches 4:27 into the first round of their showdown at 185 pounds; and Cort Wahle submitted Joe Roye with a guillotine choke 21 seconds into the first round of their featherweight tussle.