Michael Chandler closed out his Bellator contract with a second, more emphatic win over Benson Henderson in the headliner of Bellator 243.
Chandler put Henderson down with a straight left that set up a first-round knockout at the 2:09 mark of the opening frame.
Both fighters sought to pick things up earlier in a rematch four years in the making. With three rounds to work instead of five, Chandler, who as champion beat Henderson in a close split decision at Bellator 165, sought to get inside with his fists. Henderson, meanwhile, worked the body at distance with kicks and punches. Several hard shots connected with Chandler’s midsection, inviting a potential problem in deep waters.
But when Chandler managed to corner his two-time foe, his left hand caught Henderson’s chin before it could be blocked. The former UFC champ went to his knees, and the first right hand follow up that appeared to hit the top of his head put him face first to the canvas.
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An ecstatic Chandler let out several screams as he celebrated the win, which puts his best foot forward as he officially becomes a free agent.
“Every single lightweight on the entire planet, you’re on notice,” he said afterward. “[Bellator President] Scott Coker, you’re on the clock. Let’s get something done.”
But Chandler also hedged his bets.
“If this is the last time I step into this Bellator cage, everybody around this cage, you guys have no idea the impact you’ve made in my life,” he said.
Johnson gets second straight first-round win
Timothy Johnson again refused to be a stepping stone.
Johnson pounded out his fellow UFC vet Matt Mitrione with a flurry of punches that forced referee Mike Beltran to intervene at the 3:14 mark of the opening frame.
Johnson caught an early break when Beltran missed an accidental clash of heads that put him on top. He made the most of the position, pounding away with punches until Mitrione tried to shrimp his way to freedom against the cage. On his hands and knees, Mitrione couldn’t see the incoming shots, and that proved to be his undoing.
Four fights into his Bellator career, Johnson has rebounded from a two-fight skid to win back-to-back fights where he was the underdog. Mitrione’s slide continues with three losses and a no-contest in his previous four outings.
Jury’s size pays dividends against tough Karakhanyan
Featherweight Georgi Karakhanyan didn’t struggle to keep up with lightweight veteran Myles Jury. His speed even gave him a slight edge in the standup. Where it didn’t help was in takedown attempts and in the clinch, where he struggled to manipulate his opponent in close.
Jury put his size to better use in the second, fighting at distance with punches and kicks. Karakhanyan took plenty of shots fighting his way inside, and he was unable to keep Jury down when he completed a pair of takedowns. Persistence put some points on Karakhanyan’s side, but it was a close round.
Karakhanyan kept punching his way in, taking punches and elbows to give them. Unable to outwrestle Jury, he threw caution to the wind and went toe-to-toe before a surprise guillotine that forced Jury to pause. Jury waited it out and held dominant positions, closing out the fight with ground and pound.
In the end, two of three judges awarded Jury the win, while one curiously gave Karakhanyan the shutout.
Homasi grinds out Millender
Homasi pulled a fast one on Millender with a bully routine that prompted an official to intercept him before the opening bell. A series of winging overhands was a mere prelude for an easy takedown, which allowed Homasi to close out the frame with ground and pound.
Homasi wasted little time in the second round putting his grappling advantage to use, again pressing the takedown. Even when he lost position, Millender wasn’t able to capitalize with D’Arce and guillotine attempts.
Advised by his corner to pick it up, Millender opened the third with a more aggressive attack, throwing straight punches that forced Homasi back. No matter what danger Homasi faced, he managed to escape, fighting out of a choke midway through the frame and surviving a final flurry of ground and pound.
Full Bellator 243 results:
Michael Chandler def. Benson Henderson via KO (strikes) – Round 1, 2:09
Timothy Johnson def. Matt Mitrione via TKO (strikes) – Round 1, 3:14
Myles Jury def. Georgi Karakhanyan via split decision (27-30, 30-27, 29-28)