Bellator returned to action this summer with a double title fight main event last night, and the event delivered some showcase performances, culminating with Michael Chandler blowing David Rickels' doors off in right around a minute of fighting.
Michael Chandler legitimately looks like a man who could currently be the best Lightweight on the planet. His striking has is improved by leaps and bounds. I do not care who Chandler is fighting, those were sharp and heavy jabs followed up with laser beam crosses. That kind of punching could have felled any Lightweight on the planet, and I question if Ben Henderson would have been able to beat Chandler had he been in the cage last night instead of Rickels.
The real question is if Chandler would be able to grapple with Henderson. Clearly Chandler is no joke as a wrestling, having earned All-American honors while wrestling at the University of Missouri, but the real question is if his submission grappling is on the level with Henderson. But sadly we are not going to be able to find out any time soon because of Bellator's hyper restrictive contracts.
On to other post-event thoughts:
- So the pro wrestling style swerve from Rampage Jackson vs Roy Jones Jr to facing Tito Ortiz was kinda cute. The fight is straight out of the mid-2000's, way past its expiration date.
- Ben Askren is fantastic grappler. His takedowns? Masterful. His top game? Perfection. His transition game? Inspired. The hell he dragged Andrey Koreshkov through was near artful, and maybe a little malicious.
- If there is a hole in Askren's grappling game it is in offensive submission grappling. Askren is so good at creating unique transitions, and turning those into dominant positions. What would be truly unstoppable is if Askren is able to turn those transitions into submission attacks, because the openings are there. Currently, despite his brown belt in BJJ, Askren's submission attacks tend to be very traditional and predictable, if is able to funk up his submission attacks he could become untouchable on the ground.
- Muhammed "King Mo" Lawal got back in touch with his wrestling roots with a dominating win over Jacob Noe. Lawal, a life long boxing fan, has favored his striking in the past but Mo put on a showcase of takedowns and punishment on the ground.
- Multiple time sport Sambo champion Vitaly Minakov put a display takedowns, control, and striking. Not the impressive display of the evening, but a solid win and earns a Heavyweight title shot as the Russians are quickly taking over that division in Bellator.
- Jared Dowing looked like a heavy-bag with legs as Patricio Freire lined up right hand after right hand. Ugly fight for him, a bounce back win for Freire, who is likely trying to figure out where he fits in Bellator's Featherweight division.
- Bubba Jenkins looked good in his fight with Mike Barreras, who gave Jekins some stiff resistance and forced Jekins to dig a little deeper than he had in previous outings.