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Ryan Bader, you have company.
Reigning Bellator MMA featherweight champion Patricio Freire added the promotion’s lightweight crown to his collection, as he dethroned Michael Chandler with punches in the first round of their Bellator 221 headliner on Saturday at Allstate Arena in Rosemont, Illinois. Chandler (19-5, 16-5 Bellator) met his anticlimactic end 61 seconds into Round 1.
Despite the heated emotions involved with the match, Freire (29-4, 17-4 Bellator) remained disciplined. The 31-year-old Brazilian countered a Chandler jab with a perfectly placed right hook behind the ear that sent the onetime NCAA All-American wrestler to the canvas. Freire pounced and let more punches fly, forcing his rival to turtle in a kneeling position. Chandler absorbed several more blows to the side of the head and did not adequately respond in Rob Madrigal’s eyes, as the referee swooped in for the rescue. The vanquished champion’s protest was immediate but fell on deaf ears.
Freire, now all alone on top of Bellator’s all-time wins list, joins Bader as a rare simultaneous two-division titleholder.
In the co-main event, Douglas Lima knocked out the previously unbeaten Michael Page to advance to the final of the Bellator welterweight grand prix. Lima (31-7, 13-3 Bellator), who will meet the Rory MacDonald-Neiman Gracie winner for the tournament title later this year, carried out the figurative execution 35 seconds into Round 2.
A relatively tepid first round gave way to a brief but chaotic second. Page (14-1, 10-1 Bellator) buzzed the Brazilian’s tower with a glancing right hand to the temple that shook his equilibrium and had him on the retreat. However, in his haste to force a stoppage, he approached Lima with his guard down. The two-time welterweight champion swept Page off of his feet with a leg kick, then cracked him with a sweeping uppercut while he was attempting to stand. The impact froze the Brit and left him defenseless against the follow-up hammerfists Lima threw next.
Lima has won five of his last six fights, a unanimous decision loss to the aforementioned MacDonald on Jan. 20, 2018 his only hiccup.
Meanwhile, Team Bodyshop’s A.J. McKee passed his most significant test to date, as he pocketed a unanimous decision over two-time featherweight champion Pat Curran in a featured showdown at 145 pounds. All three judges sided with the undefeated McKee (14-0, 14-0 Bellator): 30-27, 30-27, 30-26.
In his first appearance since October 2017, Curran (23-8, 13-5 Bellator) never seemed to get out of first gear. McKee kept him off-balance with his length and kick-heavy standup attack, firing shots to the head, body and legs. Curran delivered a takedown in the second round but found the going no better on the ground, as he was met with a relentless volley of elbows, one of which opened a cut on the top of his head. McKee stayed out of danger in Round 3 and secured a takedown in the waning seconds to polish off his latest victory.
The defeat snapped Curran’s three-fight winning streak.
Elsewhere, former World Wrestling Entertainment superstar Jake Hager submitted T.J. Jones with an arm-triangle choke in the first round of their heavyweight feature. Jones (1-2, 0-1 Bellator) bowed out 2:36 into Round 1.
Hager (2-0, 2-0 Bellator) struck for a takedown, softened his counterpart with ground-and-pound and went to work from side control, threatening first with a kimura and then with a keylock. The 37-year-old Oklahoman stayed on top, transitioned beautifully to the arm-triangle and prompted the tap. Swagger was admonished by referee Mike Beltran for clinging to the choke for several seconds after Jones raised the white flag.
Finally, the undefeated Tywan Claxton continued his ascent at 145 pounds, as he disposed of James Bennett with punches in the third round of their featherweight showcase. Bennett (4-2, 1-1 Bellator) succumbed to the woodchipper treatment 2:09 into Round 3.
Claxton (5-0, 5-0 Bellator) mauled the Ben Rothwell protégé from beginning to end. He executed takedowns without much resistance, advanced to domination positions and unleashed hellacious bursts of elbows and punches. Bennett made a few passes at front chokes but could not stem the tide of violence with which he was confronted, prompting referee Kevin MacDonald to intervene to save him from further damage.
The 26-year-old Claxton has finished four of his first five opponents.
In other action, Rob Fenicle (2-0, 1-0 Bellator) submitted Bryan Bautista (1-1, 0-1 Bellator) with a heel hook 1:42 into the first round of their bantamweight clash; Khuukhenkhuu Amartuvshin (8-4, 1-0 Bellator) walked away from a three-round lightweight firefight against Adam Ward (18-12, 0-1 Bellator) with a unanimous, sweeping the scorecards with 29-28 nods from all three judges; Christian Rodriguez (1-0, 1-0 Bellator) submitted Jose Leon (0-1, 0-1 Bellator) with an armbar 4:39 into the first round of their catchweight confrontation at 140 pounds; Robert Morrow (23-21-1, 2-0 Bellator) dispatched James Bochnovic (9-5, 1-1 Bellator) with punches 1:18 into the first round of their light heavyweight tussle; Christopher Gonzalez (2-0, 1-0 Bellator) laid claim to a unanimous verdict over Charlie Radke (0-1, 0-1 Bellator) in a three-round lightweight encounter, earning 29-28 marks from all three judges; Cris Lencioni (4-2, 2-2 Bellator) submitted Adil Benjilany (5-2, 2-1 Bellator) with a triangle choke 4:55 into the first round of their featherweight scrap; Dave Latoria (0-0, 0-0 Bellator) cut down Jason Belyew (0-1, 0-0 Bellator) with an accidental low blow in the first round, resulting in a no-contest in their heavyweight tilt; Jesse Bazzi (8-4, 1-0 Bellator) took a unanimous decision from Joey Diehl (12-10, 1-1 Bellator) in a three round flyweight affair, drawing 30-27 scores across the board; and Josh Streacker (6-1, 2-0 Bellator) put away Scott Writz (0-1, 0-1 Bellator) with punches 3:33 into the second round of their welterweight pairing.