Quinton Jackson was uninspiring but nevertheless triumphant in his return to the Bellator MMA cage.
A punishing clinch and big-fight savvy carried Jackson to a split decision over 2008 Olympic gold medalist Satoshi Ishii in the Bellator 157 “Dynamite 2” headliner on Friday at the Scottrade Center in St. Louis. Judges’ scores were 29-28 (Sal D’Amato) and 30-27 (Robin Veale) for Jackson and 29-28 (Ross Swanberg) for Ishii.
In his first appearance in more than a year, Jackson had issues staying upright, especially early in the fight. Ishii (14-6-1) effectively closed the distance on the former Ultimate Fighting Championship light heavyweight titleholder, executing a pair of first-round takedowns from the clinch. The Japanese judoka did little damage from the top but corralled Jackson (37-11) on the mat and bled time off the clock.
Ishii enjoyed less and less success as the fight reached the second and third rounds. A frustrated but undeterred Jackson met him in the clinch with knees to the body and uppercuts upstairs. “Rampage” pulled away in round three, where he sidestepped a takedown attempt, assumed top position and hammered away at Ishii with punches and elbows to the head and body.
In the co-main event, Michael Chandler reclaimed the Bellator lightweight championship with a violent first-round knockout on Patricky Freire. Chandler (15-3) brought it to an emphatic close 2:14 into round one, capturing the title that was left vacant when Will Brooks departed for the UFC.
It did not last long, as Chandler bailed on a few takedown attempts before settling in on his feet. The 30-year-old NCAA All-American wrestler feinted a left jab and fired a right cross behind it, connecting square on the chin. The crushing blow sent an unconscious “Pitbull” crashing to the canvas, where no follow-up strikes were necessary.
The loss halted a modest two-fight winning streak for Freire (16-8) and gave Chandler a 2-0 edge in their head-to-head series.
Meanwhile, UFC veteran Matt Mitrione survived a near-finish to knock out Carl Seumanutafa with a standing-to-ground right hand in the first round of their heavyweight showcase. Seumanutafa (10-7) met his end 3:22 into round one.
Mitrione’s promotional debut did not start as he had planned. Seumanutafa floored him with a rolling overhand right inside the first 30 seconds, pounced for a potential stoppage and climbed to the back. Mitrione (10-5) gathered himself during the exchange on the mat, reversed position and applied his ground-and-pound from half guard. The 37-year-old later stood over Seumanutafa, cleared his legs and spiked a right hand into his face that prompted referee John McCarthy to act.
The victory snapped a two-fight losing streak for Mitrione.
Elsewhere, Team Hurricane Awesome prospect Ilima-Lei Macfarlane submitted Rebecca Ruth with a standing rear-naked choke in the second round of their women’s flyweight feature. Ruth (6-2) conceded defeat 3:00 into round two.
Macfarlane (4-0) wore down the Resurrection Fighting Alliance alum with an incessant clinch and tenacious close-quarters pressure. She executed a trip takedown early in the second round, advanced to the back and set her hooks. Macfarlane fished for the rear-naked choke between periods of ground-and-pound, eventually allowing Ruth to stand. From there, the 26-year-old snaked her arms in place and squeezed for the finish.
In other MMA action, “The Ultimate Fighter 15” graduate Justin Lawrence (9-3) disposed of Isao Kobayashi (18-4-4) with punches 2:11 into the second round of their clash at 145 pounds; Joaquin Buckley (6-0) knocked out Chris Heatherly (9-4) with a knee strike 4:14 into the second round of their catchweight encounter; Guilherme Vasconcelos (8-3) submitted Jordan Dowdy (3-2) with a rear-naked choke 4:59 into the first round of their battle at 170 pounds; Chel Erwin-Davis (4-1) tapped Kevin Engel (5-1) with a rear-naked choke 1:19 into the second round of their welterweight pairing; Brad Jones (6-3) knocked out Tyler Claussen (2-3) with a head kick 26 seconds into the first round of their tilt at 170 pounds; Matthew Murphy (6-6) took care of Justin Robbins (14-18-1) in their bantamweight affair, forcing a doctor stoppage 2:16 into the second round; Rashard Lovelace (4-0) was awarded a technical knockout when a leg injury left Garrett Mueller (2-2) unable to continue between the second and third rounds of their matchup at 145 pounds; and Steven Mann (12-4) cut down Mike Estus (7-5) with knees 25 seconds into the first round of their catchweight confrontation.
In kickboxing action, Kevin Ross (27-6) took a unanimous verdict from Justin Houghton (6-4) in a three-round featherweight bout, drawing 29-27, 29-27 and 30-26 marks from the judges; and Gloria Peritore (13-3-1) eked out a split decision -- 28-29, 29-28 and 29-28 -- over Denise Kielholtz in a three-round women’s flyweight match.