Viacom’s brand of Mixed Martial Arts is back this Friday with Bellator 197 from St. Charles Missouri. The top of the billing will involve Missouri’s own Michael Chandler squaring off with the heavy handed Brandon Girtz, who is stepping in to replace the injured Bellator lightweight champion Brent Primus. There will be a big litmus test in the co-main event, as the 10-0 undefeated prospect A.J. McKee takes a step up in competition to face MMA veteran Justin Lawrence.
Also on the card, Baby Slice Kevin Ferguson Jr. is set to make his fourth professional appearance by locking horns with the 1-0 Devon Brock at a catchweight of 160 pounds. Opening up the event will be four-time Div-I All American Logan Storley who is looking to remain undefeated against the 8-1 Joaquin Buckley.
Bellator 197 can be seen on the Paramount Network at 9:00 P.M. ET with the prelims streaming online at 8:00 P.M .ET.
Michael Chandler (17-4 MMA; 14-4 Bellator) vs. Brandon Girtz (15-7 MMA; 7-5 Bellator): Lightweight
Since “Iron” Mike Chandler dropped his Bellator lightweight belt to Brent Primus at Bellator NYC, the former champ has been on a quest for big fights to further cement his legacy. In his last bout, Chandler grounded Jiu-Jitsu ace Goiti Yamauchi, shutting down his Jits and lumping him up pretty good on way to a unanimous decision victory.
Just when it looked like Chandler was going to get his shot at redemption, Primus withdrew from Bellator 197 citing a knee injury, and Brandon Girtz stepped up to take his place. Look for Chandler to approach the Girtz bout in a similar manner to the way he fought Derek Campos, as Campos and Girtz share a similar sort of wrestle-brawler style. With a win over Girtz, Chandler might finally get his rematch with Primus, or we just might see the former champ switching divisions in search of bigger fights.
After a Mercedes Benz logo was carved into the forehead of Brandon Girtz in midst of a 2017 Fight of the Year candidate with Derek Campos, Girtz bounced back from the doctor stoppage loss by dusting Luka Jelcic in just under two minutes at Bellator 190. When Girtz is on, he’s really on, and he’s capable of some extreme violence, like we saw when he faced Benny Madrid, Derek Campos part 2, and of course his recent outing against Jelcic. Girtz went from a three-fight winning streak to a three-fight losing skid, but is now back in the win column as he finds himself in the biggest fight of his career, taking on the former champ in Chandler. Which Girtz will show up?
**Be sure to check out Bloody Elbow’s Bellator 197 interview with Michael Chandler by clicking HERE.
A.J. McKee (10-0 MMA/Bellator) vs. Justin Lawrence (11-4 MMA; 4-2 Bellator): Featherweight
A.J. McKee has amassed a perfect 10-0 record within the Bellator promotion, showing off a rather deep tool shed, from submissions to head kick knockouts alike. The son of MMA veteran Antonio McKee has been brought up in just the right way in terms of opponents, facing an array of opposition, allowing McKee to level up in the experience department without being fed to the wolves too early. The time has come for McKee to take a step up in competition as he faces someone with UFC experience, and someone who has fought the likes of Michael Chiesa, John Teixeira, and even elite featherweight Max Holloway. With a win, McKee will shift from top prospect to possible contender, and will set himself up for a future bout with a bigger name.
Justin Lawrence has been around the big stage MMA scene for quite some time now, and even has a win over James Krause from the TUF 15 show back in 2012. Following tough decision losses to Emmanuel Sanchez and John Teixeira, Lawrence found himself buried in the Bellator prelims against some not so great opposition, but is now riding a two-fight winning streak as he steps back up onto the Bellator main card. You can’t help but see Lawrence as a bit of a gatekeeper here to the top of the division, considering that he has only dropped bouts to name opponents. Will Lawrence be able to pull from his eight years of professional experience, and higher caliber opponents, to dish out the first loss of McKee’s career?
Kevin Ferguson Jr. (2-1 MMA/Bellator) vs. Devon Brock (1-0 MMA/Bellator): Catchweight of 160 pounds
Baby Slice is undergoing the daunting task of cutting his teeth under the bright lights of a big stage, but the Bellator brass has done a descent job of matching him up with competitors in a similar boat, just without the legendary name tag. After dropping his pro debut, Ferguson has gained some traction with back to back first round finishes, and looks to keep the momentum rolling. Unlike his father Kimbo Slice, Baby Slice is much lighter in weight, and fights in a very different way as well, utilizing a more rounded approach complete with takedowns, submissions, and of course the hands.
Devon Brock made his professional/promotional debut at Bellator 192, picking up a unanimous decision over Khonry Gracie, the son of legend Royce Gracie. Brock successfully stayed off of his back, and even found top position a few times without ever really being in any sort of submission danger. The offspring of icons tour continues, as Brock is set to face the son of the late Kimbo Slice, also known as Kevin Ferguson.
Logan Storley (7-0/2-0 Bellator) vs. Joaquin Buckley (8-1 MMA; 3-1 Bellator): Welterweight
Logan Storley is a four-time All American wrestler from the University of Minnesota, the alma mater of Brock Lesnar, and looks to keep his undefeated MMA record intact this Friday night. Storley bursted onto the Bellator scene by elbowing Kemmyelle Haley into oblivion in less than two minutes at Bellator 181, and then followed up with an intelligent outing against veteran Matt Secor, bloodying him up en route to a unanimous nod at Bellator 186. Prospect alert!
Joaquin Buckley is set for his fifth fight under the Bellator banner, and looks to make it three straight victories for the Missouri native. Buckley has shown off some noticeable athleticism, complete with explosive strikes, and really throws his all into his techniques. With Storley being a top flight wrestler, Buckley is going to want to keep his over-commitment to an absolute minimum if he plans on remaining vertical in this bout. Can Buckley negate the takedowns will be the moral of this Storley.