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PIERCE: Bellator 243 showcases top prospects, former champions in action-packed event

Photo: Michael Chandler and Benson Henderson weigh in. (Bellator MMA)

In the promotion’s second fight back since its closure due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Bellator MMA hosted a fantastic lineup of fights that showcased everything from title contention to the game’s newest talent.

Quick Main Event

In a pivotal rematch between two top Lightweight contenders, Michael Chandler knocked out Benson Henderson just a couple of minutes into the first round. This is actually the second time that Chandler has defeated the Bellator legend.

Now, this was no easy feat. Henderson is known for his chin and ability to overcome adversity. This was the first time he was finished since 2014. The fact that Chandler did it in the first round speaks volumes.

With this victory, Chandler is now tied for the most wins in Bellator history. The question becomes, is this the last fight he will ever have with Bellator?

His stock is very high right now, so seeing him in the UFC within the next month or two is a very real possibility. In fact, I would be surprised if the UFC did not attempt to lock him down soon.

After the fight, Chandler was so fulfilled and content with himself. He made it very clear that he is loving life and this win was extremely important to him.

“I’d be lying to you if I said I wasn’t over the moon,” Chandler said. “I’m over here crying like a little baby. It’s just the fight game.”

Prelim Dominance

The preliminary card was full of fresh faces looking to make themselves known on the world stage. One such fighter was Light Heavyweight Grant Neal.

Although Neal was unable to seal a finish, he pushed the pace for all 15 minutes and had several moments where a TKO was close. However, Hamza Salim’s resilience kept him in the fight.

“He stayed in there and he stayed tough,” Neal said. “Kudos to him. I got to recognize positions and finish the fight.”

Neal won via unanimous decision and added a rare 30-24 score from one of the judges. This score rarely occurs in MMA, especially in a promotion like Bellator. This is just further proof of how dominant he was on Friday night.

Although Salim appeared visibly tired as the bout progressed, Neal looked sharp for all 15 minutes.

“I think I have the best cardio in the Light Heavyweight division,” Neal said. “With my pace and my relentless pressure, I don’t see anyone having better cardio than me. I can go with the best of them.”

Prelim Drama

One of the more tense moments of the evening came during the Featherweight matchup between Cris Lencioni and AJ Agazarm. The pair have had bad blood since first meeting in a gym over four years ago. Until Friday, the conflict between the two only expressed itself through words. The pair finally got to settle it in the ring on Friday night.

I would describe Agazarm as a dirty, inexperienced fighter. Multiple illegal headshots, elbow strikes, and more were littered throughout the fight.

However, these moves were minor compared to the blatant illegal headbutt served early in the fight by Argazarm. Although he claimed that this was accidental, watching it both live and on the replay, it looked extremely deliberate.

Agazarm entered the Zoom virtual press conference by saying that he does not want to talk to any media, but he was being forced to answer some questions. This set a very awkward tone as he started to throw out massive accusations.

The main talking point was about how Agazarm would appeal the fight, saying that it needs to be changed to a win for him or at very least a draw because of an issue with a judge. He claimed that one of the judges has had personal relationships with both of the fighters, so it would be impossible to be impartial.

Agazarm demanded an investigation by Bellator. Once Lencioni entered the press conference he had no idea what his opponent was talking about. In fact, he was very candid about how he sees Agazarm.

“He’s a joker,” Lencioni said.

Bellator will be back in action August 21 when double champ Ryan Bader takes on Vadim Nemkov in the Light Heavyweight world title.

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