That’s what Bellator lightweight champion Michael Chandler had to deal with as he headed into his first fight after winning the 155lb by defeating former champion Eddie Alvarez.
Standing in front of Chandler was former Pride and UFC fighter Akihiro Gono, who throughout his career has faced and defeated some of the best in the world, but it appeared heading into Saturday night that his best and brightest days were behind him.
That didn’t mean Gono wasn’t still a dangerous opponent, but most looked at this fight as a measuring stick for Chandler. How will the champion react when he’s supposed to win as opposed to pulling the upset.
Well, Michael Chandler passed with flying colors.
Attacking from the word go, Chandler pressed forward on Gono looking to land strikes and it didn’t take long for him to find a home for his right hand. Chandler clipped Gono once with his right, and then followed up with a second right hand that sent the Japanese fighter tumbling to the mat.
Chandler followed him there and like a machine gun, reeled off a barrage of shots that forced referee Yves Lavigne to step in and stop the carnage. In only :56 seconds, Michael Chandler showed that he was the real deal by beating a veteran, and proving everybody right that picked him as the favorite.
He will now move on to his first Bellator title defense later this summer.
One side of the Bellator welterweight tournament final is now set as former middleweight Bryan Baker looked much more impressive during his second trip to 170lbs as he defeated former Ultimate Fighter competitor Ben Saunders to punch his ticket to the last match up in the tourney.
Baker used his wrestling to control Saunders for much of the fight, and while he did have to stave off several submission attempts, his power and takedowns controlled the action. In the 2nd round, Baker even fired off some nasty punches that made Saunders respect his stand up.
Baker’s dominant mat control was enough to sway the judges in his favor as he pulled off the unanimous decision.
Heavyweights Damian Grabowski and Dave Huckaba faced off in the third bout on the Bellator 67 main card.
Grabowski knew the perfect game plan to win the fight, and it fell together in basically every round as he took Huckaba to the mat over and over again. It may not have satisfied the biggest part of the crowd in Canada, but it was enough to get Grabowski the unanimous decision win.
In the kick off fight for Bellator 67, popular Canadian fighter Ryan Ford ended Luis Santos’ night with a thunderous knee to earn the knockout victory, but it wasn’t without some trouble earlier in the fight.
During the first round, Santos fired off a quick high kick that blasted Ford and sent him down to the mat. Santos worked hard to punish Ford on the ground, but the crafty Canadian was able to survive and get to round two.
In the second session, Ford worked from the clinch as Santos battled for position. It was there that Ford unloaded a huge knee strike that clocked Santos right on the chin.
Santos dropped to the mat and after a few more strikes Ford finished the fight and picked up an impressive win.