The Bellator MMA cage was in Uncasville, Conn. on Friday at the Mohegan Sun Arena for Bellator 243: Chandler vs. Henderson 2. The event was originally scheduled to take place on June 6 in Chicago, but COVID-19 forced the event to be postponed and relocated.
The fight card’s main event featured a rematch between former three-time Bellator lightweight champion Michael Chandler and former UFC and WEC lightweight titleholder Benson Henderson. The two first fought at Bellator 165 in November 2016 with Chandler edging out Henderson on the scorecards by split decision. The rematch didn’t get out of the first round.
One criticism throughout Henderson’s career has been that he’s a slow starter, but that wasn’t the case on Friday. The two immediately began mixing it up at the sound of the opening bell. Henderson delivered heavy kicks to the body. He was taking the fight to the former champion in the early going. Chandler found his range and connected with a counter left hand. A few moments later, his left hand found a home on Henderson’s jaw and dropped Henderson. Chandler landed a follow-up right hand that left Henderson face down on the canvas.
“It (the left hand) was something we kind of worked on a little bit, maybe throw him off his game a little bit,” said Chandler following his 21st career win. “Benson is a champion. I’d be lying to you if I said I wasn’t scared to death inside this cage, stepping into the cage with that monster. He knows how to win. He’s a champion inside and outside of the cage.”
With the second win over Henderson behind him, Chandler wants to spend time with his family. He had a 12-week training camp. After some much needed time at home, Chandler is willing to face any lightweight on the planet.
The fight with Henderson was the final one on Chandler’s Bellator contract, so he’ll now enter free agency.
“It’s all in God’s hands. God has always opened up doors at the right time. He’s closed doors at the right time,” Chandler said. “Every single lightweight on the entire planet, you’re on the clock. You’re on notice. Scott Coker, you’re on the clock. Let’s get something done.”
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In the co-main event, heavyweights Matt Mitrione and Timothy Johnson ended in a first-round stoppage. Early in the opening frame, the two came together and Johnson’s head clashed with Mitrione’s chin resulting in Mitrione falling to the canvas. It looked as if Johnson had tripped Mitirione but the replay showed the unintentional headbutt.
Johnson followed Mitrione to the canvas and worked to secure side control. Mitirone rolled to his knees and tried to stand and Johnson connected with uppercuts hurting Mitirione. Johnson continued to hammer away with right hands until the referee intervened.
“I think he tried to kick when we came in and I thought our hips, we got tied up and he just fell. I had no clue,” said Johnson after the win. “I guess sometimes it’s better to be lucky than good.”
“As he was coming up to the referee’s position essentially, I hit him with a couple those (uppercuts) and he started to turn and kind of sucked a little bit of life out of him it felt like, so I Just kept hitting,” Johnson said. “I was not going to let it slip out of my hands.”
In other lightweight action, former World Series of Fighting and Tachi Palace Fights featherweight champion Georgi Karakhanyan faced Myles Jury on the main card. Jury successfully kept Karakhanyan on the outside in the opening round utilizing his reach advantage and jab. He incorporated a kick heavy offense while Karakhanyan looked to connect with a big right hand.
In the second frame, Karakhanyan was able to close the distance and get inside on Jury. He tired Jury up along the cage and secured two takedowns in the round, but Jury immediately got back to his feet both times. Heading into the final frame the fight was even.
In the final round, Jury continued to pepper Karkhanyan with jabs and leg kicks. Midway through the round, Karkhanyan applied a guillotine choke and pulled guard to tighten it down. Jury escaped the submission attempt and gained top position. From there, he delivered punches to the body and elbows to the head. Karkhanyan worked his way back to his feet in the closing seconds but clearly lost the round. The judges returned an odd scoring with one having Karakhanyan winning all three rounds. Another head Jury winning all three rounds. The third judge scored the bout 29-28 for Jury resulting in a split decision win for “Fury.”
Full Bellator 243 Results:
– Michael Chandler def. Benson Henderson by KO at 2:09, R1
– Tim Johnson def. Matt Mitrione by TKO (strikes) at 3:14, R1
– Myles Jury def. Georgi Karakhanyan by split decision (27-30, 30-27, 29-28)
– Sabah Homasi def. Curtis Millender by unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28)
– Adam Borics def. Mike Hamel by split decision (29-28, 28-29, 29-28)
– Cris Lencioni def. AJ Agazarm by unanimous decision (30-26, 30-27, 29-28)
– Valerie Loureda def. Tara Graff by TKO (punches) at 5:00, R2
– Grant Neal def. Hamza Salim by unanimous decision (30-26, 30-27, 30-24)
– Charlie Campbell def. Nainoa Dung by TKO (leg kicks) at 1:42, R2
– Dalton Rosta def. Mark Gardner by TKO (doctor stoppage) at 5:00, R1
Bellator 243 Prelims (Full Fights)
(Video courtesy of BellatorMMA)