Andrey Koreshkov played the hot knife to Chidi Njokuani’s butter.
Appearing for the first time since he surrendered the Bellator MMA welterweight championship to Douglas Lima in November, Koreshkov dispatched Njokuani with first-round ground-and-pound in the Bellator 182 main event on Friday at the Turning Stone Resort and Casino in Verona, New York. Punches and elbows polished off Njokuani 4:08 into Round 1.
Koreshkov waded through some early difficulty, as the former Tachi Palace Fights champion attacked his base with a series of lightning-bolt leg kicks to the calf, knee and thigh. They left noticeable bruising up and down the Russian’s leg but did little to dissuade him. Before long, he executed a takedown on Njokuani and buried him on the mat, changing referee John McCarthy from bystander to active participant with a little less than a minute remaining in the first round.
In the aftermath of Bellator 182, here are four matches that ought to be made:
Andrey Koreshkov vs. Douglas Lima-Rory MacDonald: Korehskov reaffirmed his place as one of Bellator’s premier welterweights with his performance against Njokuani. The Alexander Shlemenko protégé now owns a stellar 11-2 record within the promotion -- a run that includes victories over Lima, Benson Henderson, Lyman Good and Marius Zaromskis. Though a date has not yet been announced, Lima expects to defend the Bellator welterweight championship against MacDonald later this year. The Atlanta-based Brazilian retained his title with a five-round unanimous decision over Lorenz Larkin at Bellator 180 on June 24.
A.J. McKee vs. James Gallagher-Jeremiah Labiano winner: Brought along slowly by Bellator brass, McKee has made the most of his opportunities. The 22-year-old Team Bodyshop prospect moved to 9-0 with a unanimous decision over journeyman Blair Tugman in a three-round featherweight showcase, as he continued to move toward more meaningful bouts at 145 pounds. McKee was dominant enough to warrant two 10-8 rounds from the judges, sweeping the scorecards with 30-27, 30-26 and 30-26 marks. Spawned by the same SBG Ireland camp that produced two-division Ultimate Fighting Championship titleholder Conor McGregor, the unbeaten Gallagher will lock horns with Labiano in the Bellator 187 main event on Nov. 10.
Fernando Gonzalez vs. Paul Daley-Lorenz Larkin winner: The crafty and opportunistic Gonzalez waited for his opening and did not miss it in the co-headliner, as the Team Quest rep submitted Brennan Ward with a third-round guillotine choke in their catchweight clash at 180 pounds. Ward wandered into his web 62 seconds into Round 3. Gonzalez failed to establish much of a rhythm through two rounds, conceding multiple takedowns to the Season 9 tournament winner. The 41-fight veteran countered an ill-advised takedown attempt from Ward early in the third round, bit down on the guillotine and secured the choke in full guard. After a brief struggle, Gonzalez coaxed the tapout. He has quietly compiled a 7-1 record under the Bellator flag. Daley and Larkin will square off at Bellator 183 on Sept. 23.
Georgi Karakhanyan vs. Henry Corrales: Karakhanyan proved once again to be a threat from any position, as he opened a fight-ending cut on Daniel Pineda with a well-placed upkick in the second round of their preliminary featherweight battle. The ringside physician examined the gash and recommended the stoppage 4:05 into Round 2. To that point, Pineda had controlled much of the fight with takedowns and top control. A former World Series of Fighting and Tachi Palace Fights champion, Karakhanyan has pieced together a 4-3 record since returning to Bellator in January 2015. Wins over Pineda, Kirill Medvedovsky and Bubba Jenkins (twice) -- all of them finishes -- have been offset by decision defeats to Emmanuel Sanchez, Daniel Straus and Pat Curran. Corrales posted his second straight victory on the undercard, taking a unanimous decision from Noad Lahat.