Bellator 253 just wrapped up at the Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, CT. The main event pitted former Bellator bantamweight champion ‘The Wolf’ Darrion Caldwell against the ‘The Mercenary’ A.J. McKee, who came into this one on a 16-fight winning streak. The bout was a semi-final match for the promotion’s featherweight world grand prix.
And it was McKee who (again) showed he is something special at 145 lbs. He tapped Caldwell in just over a minute to get himself to 17-0 and one win away from the belt.
McKee came out with a side kick to start the contest, seen all the way by Caldwell. Caldwell ducked McKee’s next attack and got the takedown in the open canvas. From the bottom McKee was busy with punches, elbows and heel strikes. Caldwell wound up for a big punch, but missed. After that McKee was able to snag Caldwell’s neck in a modified guillotine. From there, he squeezed, cranked, and Caldwell had nowhere to go. The hold was rock solid and Caldwell had to tap.
McKee goes to the final where he will face either Patricio Freire or Emmanuel Sanchez. The win is another stunning victory for McKee, who is undefeated and still only 25-years old. He KO’d Georgi Karakhanyan in eight seconds and tapped Derek Campos to get to the semis. In getting to the final McKee proved he’s one of the most exciting fighters the company has on its roster.
The co-main event saw former UFC lightweight champion Benson Henderson step up on short notice to take on Jason Jackson at 170 lbs. The Jamaican took the fight to Henderson early on, walking him down in the first round and throwing heat. He failed to make a connection, though. After a minute or so Henderson shot in on a takedown, but Jackson was able to sprawl and prevent Henderson from getting him down. Back on the feet Jackson ripped a body kick to Henderson and then caught him with some punches when Bendo rushed in with combos. In the latter parts of the round Jackson, who looked massive compared to the former lightweight, found a home for his punches, cracking Henderson on the jaw with a hard left hook.
Both men started aggressive in the second, flashing high kicks and throwing big overhands. Not much landed until Henderson decided to rush forwards with another flurry. In the process he ate a big counter punch from Jackson. Henderson then went for a takedown in the center of the cage, but Jackson was able to stuff it and then get on top of the smaller Henderson. Jackson couldn’t do much damage inside Henderson’s guard and Henderson was active off his back, throwing punches and going for an armbar. Jackson looked for an anaconda, but Henderson was able to spin away and make it to his feet, only to be tripped and taken back down. Henderson was able to reverse the position, briefly, and then get the fight back to standing. Jackson would get an emphatic takedown in the last ten seconds of the round.
In the third Henderson faked the rushing combo and landed a double leg takedown. He was then able to jump on Jackson’s back. But Jacksson was able to shuck him off. Jackson then yanked Henderson to the ground. Henderson went for a kimora and was then able to scramble up to his feet. Jackson responded by going for a d’arce and then putting his weight on Henderson to bring him back to the ground. After Henderson got back up and they separated. Henderson tried a flying knee and then a high kick, both of which resulted in him falling to the ground — hard. He seemed exhausted at this point. When he went down for the second time, Jackson dropped onto him and held him for a good while. He landed some punches, but never hurt Henderson, who continued to scramble and came close with a leg lock in the dying seconds.
At the end of the fight Jackson was declared the winner. The fight proved that a 37-year-old Henderson is not equipped to seriously challenge a much bigger man who is seven years his junior. For Jackson it’s the biggest win of his career and it moves his record to 13-4. However, the display wasn’t impressive enough to elevate Jackson much higher in one of Bellator’s most competitive divisions.
Before the co-main elite wrestling product Joey Davis smothered longtime LFA competitor Bobby Lee and delivered nasty ground and pound on route to a dominant decision victory. On the feet Davis kept Lee honest with hard leg kicks between explosive takedown attempts. Lee offered some submission offense off his back, but nothing came close to troubling Davis who continued to impress in his young MMA career. He moves to 8-0. Let’s see if Bellator continues a slow and steady approach with a kid who might be one of their stars of the future.
To open the main card Raufeon Stots got a unanimous decision win over Keith Lee, younger brother of the UFC’s Kevin Lee. Stots earned the decision by keeping up with Lee on the feet, and hurting him with leg kicks, but dominated in the wrestling department. He was consistently able to get his opponent down and threaten with submissions.
On the prelim card all but two fights ended in decision. Among those decisions was former UFC and PFL vet Jeremy Kennedy getting a debut Bellator win over Matt Bessette. Kevin Ferguson Jr., aka Baby Slice, was one of the wrong end of a decision, losing to Kaheem Murray.
Undefeated Kiwi Jay Jay Wilson got one of the prelim’s finishes and moved to 7-0 with a 20 second knockout over Sergio DeBari. All but one of Wilson’s fights have ended via stoppage.
Featherweight: A.J. McKee def. Darrion Caldwell via submission (neck crank), round 1 (1:11).
Welterweight: Jason Jackson def. Benson Henderson via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27).
Welterweight: Joey Davis def. Bobby Lee via unanimous decision (30-26, 30-27, 30-27).
Bantamweight: Raufeon Stots def. Keith Lee via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27).
Featherweight: Jeremy Kennedy def. Matt Bessette via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-26, 30-26).
Welterweight: Jaleel Willis def. Mark Lemminger via unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28).
Featherweight: Jay Jay Wilson def. Sergio de Bari via KO (punches), round 1 (0:20).
7️⃣&0️⃣!! @TheMaoriKid1 gets the W in short order tonight!— BellatorMMA (@BellatorMMA) November 19, 2020
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Lightweight: Kaheem Murray def. Kevin Ferguson Jr. via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27 30-27).
Light heavyweight: Sullivan Cauley def. Jason Markland via TKO (elbows and punches), 1:28 of round 1