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Michael Chandler removed all doubt and needed less than half a round to do so.
The three-time Bellator MMA lightweight champion took out Benson Henderson with punches and moved to 2-0 in his head-to-head series with “Smooth” in the Bellator 243 headliner on Friday at the Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Connecticut. A free agent to be, Chandler (21-5, 18-5 Bellator) drew the curtain 2:09 into Round 1.
Henderson (28-9, 5-4 Bellator), who lost a split decision to the Sanford MMA star at Bellator 165 in 2016, rolled out of the gate with newfound aggression. He got Chandler’s attention with a pair of thudding body kicks, punched well in combination and scooted out of danger. Still, it all unraveled. Chandler switched stances, floored the MMA Lab cornerstone with a straight left and pounded away with right hands until referee Dan Miragliotta saw fit to intervene.
In the heavyweight co-main event, Xtreme Couture’s Timothy Johnson disposed of Matt Mitrione with first-round punches to even his record within the company. Mitrione (13-8, 4-3 Bellator) succumbed to blows 3:14 into Round 1, “The Ultimate Fighter 10” quarterfinalist losing for the second time in as many appearances.
Johnson (14-6, 2-2 Bellator) swept the Sanford MMA export off his feet with the benefit of an accidental clash of heads, settled in side control and consolidated his positional advantage with ground-and-pound. He then scrambled to the now-kneeling Mitrione’s back and cut loose with a series of devastating right hands to the side of the head that prompted referee Mike Beltran to act.
The 35-year-old Johnson has posted back-to-back wins for the first time in more than five years.
Meanwhile, Alliance MMA standout Myles Jury deployed a sustained volley of kicks, jabs and close-range elbows, as he picked up a split decision over former World Series of Fighting champion Georgi Karakhanyan in a three-round lightweight showcase. Scores were 30-27 and 29-28 for Jury, 30-27 for Karakhanyan.
Jury (19-5, 2-1 Bellator) pestered the Millennia MMA rep with front kicks to the body and thigh, scored with his jab and largely steered clear of the return fire. Karakhanyan (29-11-1, 7-9 Bellator) did his best work in the clinch, where he consistently pinned “The Ultimate Fighter” Season 15 qualifier to the fence, tagged his leg with knee strikes and threatened with takedowns. Jury bent but refused to break.
Karakhanyan has suffered three defeats in his past four outings.
Elsewhere, American Top Team’s Sabah Homasi outwrestled fellow Ultimate Fighting Championship washout Curtis Millender to a unanimous decision in a three-round catchweight feature at 175 pounds. All three cageside judges scored it the same: 29-28 for Homasi (14-8, 3-2 Bellator), who has rattled off three consecutive victories.
Millender (18-6, 3-3 Bellator) controlled the center of the cage and enjoyed success in the standup exchanges, but he lost his way when the tide turned against him. Homasi struck for takedowns in all three rounds, applied suffocating pressure in top position and bled valuable time off the clock. Millender made passes at two brabo chokes and a triangle choke, his efforts ultimately proving futile.
The 32-year-old Millender has lost three of his last four fights.
In preliminary action, Adam Borics (15-1, 6-1 Bellator) eked out a split decision—29-28, 28-29, 29-28—over Mike Hamel (7-4, 0-1 Bellator) in a three-round catchweight battle at 150 pounds; Cris Lencioni (7-2, 4-2 Bellator) took a unanimous verdict from A.J. Agazarm (3-2, 3-2 Bellator) in a three-round featherweight clash, earning 30-26, 30-27 and 29-28 scores from the judges; Valerie Loureda (3-0, 3-0 Bellator) wiped out Tara Graff (1-2, 0-1 Bellator) with an overhand right and follow-up punches 5:00 into the second round of their flyweight confrontation; Grant Neal (4-0, 3-0 Bellator) cruised to a unanimous decision over Hamza Salim (5-3, 0-1 Bellator) in a three-round light heavyweight tilt, drawing 30-26, 30-27 and 30-24 marks from the judges; Charlie Campbell (2-1, 1-0 Bellator) put away Nainoa Dung (3-2, 2-2 Bellator) with leg kicks 1:42 in the second round of their lightweight affair; and Dalton Rosta (3-0, 3-0 Bellator) forced a cut-induced doctor stoppage against Mark Gardner (1-2, 0-1 Bellator) between the first and second rounds of their middleweight pairing.
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