Three-time Bellator MMA lightweight champion Michael Chandler did what was expected of him against a short-notice replacement who was not viewed as much of a threat on paper.
Chandler brought down Sidney Outlaw with punches in the first round of their Bellator 237 co-main event on Saturday at the historic Saitama Super Arena in Saitama, Japan. Filling in for an injured Benson Henderson, Outlaw succumbed to blows 2:59 into Round 1 and suffered his first setback in more than three years. He entered the cage on a nine-fight winning streak.
Having thrown out his anchor at Hard Knocks 365 in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, Chandler targeted the body with crisp punches, evaded the return fire and searched for cracks in the former Ring of Combat and Titan Fighting Championship titleholder’s defenses. A straight right hand connected behind Outlaw’s ear, dropped him where he stood and left him in no condition to defend himself from the standing-to-ground right hand “Iron Mike” threw seconds later. By the time referee Bryan Miner arrived on the scene, his job was easy.
In the aftermath of Bellator 237 “Fedor vs. Rampage,” here are four matches that ought to be made:
Michael Chandler vs. Benson Henderson: Despite a few high-profile hiccups, Chandler remains one of the surest bets on the Bellator roster. The 33-year-old High Ridge, Missouri, native has rattled off eight wins across his past 10 appearances, losing only to Brent Primus and Patricio Freire. With Freire tied up in the featherweight grand prix—the reigning lightweight champion will face Pedro Carvalho in the tournament semifinals in March—for the foreseeable future, Bellator could look at creating an interim title at 155 pounds, and such a plan would almost certainly include a Chandler-Henderson rematch. They met for the first time at Bellator 165 in November 2016, with Chandler emerging as a split decision victor.
Fedor Emelianenko vs. Josh Barnett: Though Emelianenko teased the idea of retirement after he needed a little less than three minutes to dispose of Quinton Jackson in the main event, it now appears as though the former Pride Fighting Championships titleholder will fight again. The 43-year-old Russian has compiled an 8-2 record since he was undercut by consecutive losses to Fabricio Werdum, Antonio Silva and Dan Henderson between June 26, 2010 and July 30, 2011. Barnett has not competed since he submitted Andrei Arlovski with a rear-naked choke at UFC Fight Night 93 in 2016.
Michael Page vs. Lorenz Larkin: Page and Larkin enjoyed virtually flawless year-end performances at Bellator 237. The 32-year-old Page ripped apart Shinsho Anzai with precision-guided punches, flying knees and a variety of other attacks for five-plus minutes before zapping the former Pancrase champion with a surgical right hand 29 seconds into the second round. The London Shootfighters star has pieced together a three-fight winning streak since being knocked out by Douglas Lima on May 11. Larkin, meanwhile, spent three rounds carving up Keita Nakamura on his way to a lopsided unanimous decision. Showing signs of further development, “The Monsoon” has now posted four straight victories.
Goiti Yamauchi vs. Myles Jury-Brandon Girtz winner: Yamauchi improved to 11-3 under the Bellator banner and extended his latest winning streak to three fights, as he submitted Daron Cruickshank with a first-round rear-naked choke in their lightweight showcase. Lured into the strangle-minded Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt’s quicksand, Cruickshank bowed out 3:11 into Round 1. Yamauchi, 26, finds himself on the periphery of the 155-pound title hunt, though a blowout decision loss to Chandler in 2018 curbs some of the enthusiasm surrounding him. Nevertheless, he figures to catch more meaningful fights once the calendar flips, and his world-class ground skills make him a legitimate threat to anyone in the division. Jury and Girtz have been booked opposite one another at Bellator 239 on Feb. 21.