PFL 2 Recap: MacDonald and Cooper shine in 2021 season opener

Last night, PFL held their second event of 2021. Last week, the promotion held their first event and it was a night filled with upsets. Two former champions lost and Anthony Pettis lost his highly anticipated PFL debut.

Last night, Rory MacDonald (22-6-1) was set to make his PFL debut. MacDonald signed an exclusive deal with the Pro Fight League just before 2020. He was a massive signing and he was expected to make his debut during the 2020 season.

Of course, the 2020 season was cancelled due to COVID. With that, MacDonald has sat on the sidelines waiting to get back into the cage. Well, he got that chance last night.

Meeting him in his PFL debut was Curtis Millender (18-7). Like MacDonald, Millender is a veteran of both the UFC and Bellator. He was a recent signing for PFL after MacDonald’s original opponent fell through for last night’s second event.

When the fight got underway, it didn’t take long for MacDonald to get the fight to the ground. Given MacDonald’s overall skillset, his path to victory in this one was on the ground and he didn’t take long to get it there.

MacDonald was able to get Millender’s back, but he was struggling to lock in a rear-naked choke. The Red King started working heel kicks to the thighs and opened up his hooks to do so.

Millender saw this as an opportunity and he tried to get up. However, in doing so, he went right into MacDonald’s trap. MacDonald locked in the choke when Millender stopped fighting the hands and he got the submission win in his PFL debut.

PFL Champion Impresses

In the co-main event of the evening, previous PFL champion Ray Cooper III (21-7-1) returned to take on Jason Ponet (20-13-1). The fight didn’t last very long and Cooper was incredible impressive.

In the first round, the two men found themselves in a clinch along the fence. Ponet attempted a knee but it was caught by the former PFL champion. Cooper slammed Ponet to the ground and started working on the floor.

It didn’t take long before Cooper locked up an arm-triangle for the submission victory. Both MacDonald and Cooper were incredibly impressive at PFL 2 with their first round submission victories.

I, along with many fight fans, am very excited about the potential matchup between MacDonald and Cooper. Whenever it does happen during the 2021 season, it will definitely be one to watch.

PFL 2: What to watch for

Tonight, PFL will return for the second event of 2021. Last week, the promotion made it’s return after taking 2020 off due to the global pandemic. It was an extremely eventful first night back for the Pro Fight League. The night was filled with big upsets.

Former PFL champions Lance Palmer and Natan Schulte both lost by unanimous decision last week. The two former champions were sizable favorites in their first fights of the 2021 season. In the main event, PFL‘s biggest signing of 2020, Anthony Pettis (24-11), made his debut.

Pettis took on the incredibly popular Clay Collard (19-8). Collard spent last year in the professional boxing ring, but he returned to PFL for the 2021 season. The first two rounds of their fight was all Collard who nearly finished Pettis a couple of times.

In the third round, Pettis almost pulled off the comeback when he landed a beautiful head kick that he transitioned into a big knee. However, Collard survived and went on to win a decision. Probably wasn’t exactly what PFL executives were thinking for their first night back, but this is MMA where anything can happen.

PFL 2 – Fights to Watch

Tonight, PFL will host their second event of 2021. Of course, all of the attention is going to be on former UFC and Bellator welterweight, Rory MacDonald (21-6-1). MacDonald was a massive signing for PFL and was expected to compete in the 2020 season.

However, the pandemic shut things down so he is just now getting set for his promotional debut. He’s had an opponent switch and he is taking on Curtis Millender (18-6) in the main event. Like MacDonald, Millender is a veteran of both the UFC and Bellator.

This is expected to be a very good matchup for PFL’s second main event of 2021. I’ve also got my eyes on Ray Cooper III (20-7-1) tonight. Cooper was the 2019 welterweight PFL champion and he’s taking on Jason Ponet (20-12-1) in the co-main event.

I’m very excited about the possibility of Cooper and MacDonald meeting at some point during this PFL season. It will be very interesting to watch how they both look tonight in their first fight of the season. The event is filled with solid fights and it should be a good watch for MMA fans.

Bellator 243 Recap: Michael Chandler KO’s Benson Henderson in the first

Bellator returned this evening for their second event since opening back up after the pandemic shut things down earlier this year. In the main event of the evening, Benson Henderson (28-8) took on Michael Chandler (20-5). A very solid night of fights from Bellator.

Michael Chandler KO’s Henderson in the First

The main event of the evening was a rematch a few years in the making as the two former lightweight world champions squared off. Chandler entered this fight in the last fight of his current deal with Bellator.

As the main event kicked off, Chandler immediately charged over to Henderson. Henderson started with a big body kick. Chandler countered with a big body kick of his own.

Henderson continued his steady onslaught of body work early on. Big body kicks and solid hooks. Chandler kept pushing forward, but Henderson looked very crisp early on.

Out of no where, Chandler landed a massive left hook which floored Henderson. Chandler followed up with some massive shots and the fight was over. Massive win for Michael Chandler as he heads into free agency.

Accidental headbutt leads to TKO for Tim Johnson

The co-main event of the evening featured Bellator heavyweights Matt Mitrione (13-7, 1 NC) and Tim Johnson (13-6) going head-to-head.

As the fight started, Mitrione refused to touch gloves as he circled around the outside of the cage. A brief exchange led to an accidental headbutt which dropped Mitrione and gave Johnson top position.

Johnson was able to work his way to side control a couple of minutes into the round. Mitrione tried to scramble, but Johnson was doing a good job of holding top position. Mitrione tried another scramble, but took a couple of big shots from Johnson.

Johnson started pouring on big shots and Mitrione looked really hurt. After Mitrione showed nothing in terms of defense, the referee called a stop to the action. A big TKO win for Johnson, but it won’t come without an asterisk due to that headbutt.

Myles Jury edges Georgi Karakhanyan

The second fight on the main card featured a lightweight contest between Myles Jury (18-5) and Georgi Karakhanyan (29-10-1). Both of these guys were looking to make it two in a row inside the Bellator cage after coming off multiple fight losing streaks.

As the first round started, Karakhanyan threw a big looping right hand that clipped Jury. Didn’t land flush, but it got Jury’s attention. Jury landed a couple of good shots before getting turned around by a powerful leg kick.

Karakhanyan was looking very powerful early on. Halfway through the round, Karakhanyan drove Jury to the cage and started delivering knees the thighs. Jury was able to separate with about two minutes left.

Jury landed a couple of good shots before Karakhanyan drove him right back to the cage. He was able to cut Karakhanyan late in the round.

Upon another separation, Jury landed a couple of good shots, but Karakhanyan countered with a power shot. Close round, but I lean Karakhanyan.

Jury immediately started the third with more power shots, but couldn’t land much. The pace was really being picked up by Jury to start the second. Karakhanyan seemed a lot slower to start.

After taking the first minute off, Karakhanyan did throw a couple of looping shots that didn’t land. Jury was doing a much better job in the second at working his strikes from distance.

Myles Jury was starting to really touch Karakhanyan constantly halfway through the round. Good jabs, solid combinations and a steady diet of kicks to the body. Karakhanyan tried for a desperate takedown but couldn’t get Jury down.

Karakhanyan landed a massive right hand as Jury tried to get away. He used the right to transition to another takedown. After being down for a second, Jury worked his way up and pushed Karakhanyan against the cage.

Karakhanyan was able to reverse and get another brief takedown late in the round. Very close second round, but due to the clean shots, I would give it to Jury.

Jury started the third round trying to work his jab again. A weird moment occured about thirty seconds in. Jury was poked in the eye, but the action didn’t stop. After the action didn’t stop Karakhanyan stopped then Jury pushed forward.

Fortunately nothing significant landed. Jury landed a solid elbow before looking for a takedown. Karakhanyan reversed the position and was able to secure a brief takedown. Jury immediately got up and separated.

Jury was able to land a couple of solid shots pushing forward. Karakhanyan pulled Jury into a guillotine, but couldn’t lock it in. Jury secured top position after the failed submission.

Karakhanyan tried to work his way up, but Jury did a good job of holding the top. Jury briefly took Karakhanyan’s back before a scramble found him back in guard. Jury landed a couple of really nice elbows late.

Karakhanyan did get back up, but it was a little too late. Close fight overall, but I give the third round to Jury which gives him the fight on my scorecard 29-28.

The judges were split on this one scoring the fight (30-27, 27-30, 29-28). Odd scores, but Jury wins his second Bellator fight.

Homasi survives Millender’s late rally

Opening up Bellator 243 was a catchweight contest between Curtis Millender (18-5) and Sabah Homasi (13-8). Both of these men were coming off of wins in their return to Bellator.

When the first round started both men exchanged leg kicks before throwing haymakers at each other. Homasi continued to look for a giant overhand right early on.

Millender appeared to be stalking Homasi just looking for his shots. A couple of stiff jabs were landing from Millender while Homasi continued to look to land a bomb. With two minutes left in the round, Homasi was able to shoot in and land a takedown.

Once he had top position, Homasi was able to land some solid elbows. Close round early on, but the takedown seals the first for Homasi.

Millender opened the second round landing a massive jab that backed up Homasi. Homasi was getting backed up by Millender, but he threw a few body kicks to keep the distance. Homasi tried for a takedown about a minute into the round.

Millender was able to defend for a bit, but eventually Homasi was able to get Millender to the ground. Homasi was able to hold solid top position for the majority of the round.

With about a minute left in the round, Homasi was able to take Millender’s back. However, he got a little high in the position and Millender was able to secure top position. Millender tried for a d’arce choke but he ended up back on his back. Another clear round for Homasi.

Millender pressed forward to start round three, but he pressured Homasi right into a clinch. The two men broke from the clinch, and Millender continued to press forward. Homasi seemed fatigued to start the final round.

As soon as Millender started to gain some momentum on the feet, he tried again for a d’arce choke. He couldn’t lock it up and ended up on his back again. Millender worked his way back up to his feet halfway through the round.

After landing a couple of solid shots, Millender just laid against Homasi against the cage. Millender was clearly gassed himself. Homasi landed another easy takedown. Millender did reverse position to gain top position before the end of the round.

I would give the last round to Millender, but the fight to Homasi 29-28. The judges ended up scoring the fight unanimously for Homasi (29-28, 29-28, 29-28).

Final Takeaways from Bellator 243

Bellator successfully hosted it’s second event tonight and there were some solid fights up and down the card. The promotion will be back in a couple of weeks when light heavyweight champion, Ryan Bader defends his title.

Michael Chandler could not have asked for a better performance heading into free agency. A dominant knockout of a former UFC champion. It’ll be interesting to see if he remains with Bellator or moves on to another promotion.

 

Bellator 243 Preview: Can Benson Henderson avenge his loss to Michael Chandler?

Benson Henderson

Bellator MMA will make it’s return tomorrow night. This will be the second card that the promotion has put on since starting back up after the pandemic halted events in February.

In the main event of the evening, we will see a rematch between former UFC lightweight champion, Benson Henderson (28-8), and former Bellator lightweight champion, Michael Chandler (20-5). Let’s take a look at the main card for Bellator 243.

Chandler – Henderson rematch at Bellator 243

The main event of the evening is one of the Bellator fights that I was looking forward to the most this year. Personally, I think the promotion should have returned with this fight as the headliner.

In the first fight between Chandler and Henderson, Chandler walked away with a split decision. Re-watching the fight, I thought it was pretty clear that Chandler took three of the five rounds. Since that fight, Chandler has gone 4-2 while Henderson has gone 4-1.

Both men are former world champions. For the former UFC lightweight champion, Henderson, the Bellator crown has evaded him. He’s tried at welterweight and he’s tried at lightweight, but couldn’t get it done.

Henderson is very well rounded. He’s got pretty decent standup, good wrestling, and great skills on the ground. However, Henderson has a tendency to be very patient and point fight which is why six of his eight Bellator fights have gone to the scorecards.

Michael Chandler is a legend in Bellator. He’s nearing ten years with the promotion and he’s the former lightweight champion. Chandler has a wrestling base, but he’s got really crisp boxing and good speed to go with it.

Chandler is set to become a free agent after the fight tomorrow so it’s a big fight for him. Henderson enters this contest on a four fight winning streak while Chandler is 4-1 in his last five with the only loss coming to the double champion, Patricio Pitbull.

I think Chandler is just a bad matchup for Henderson. I think the speed and striking advantage will help Chandler on the feet, and I think Chandler is good enough to avoid submissions on the ground. Henderson will have moments, but I think Chandler gets the win here.

Prediction: Michael Chandler by Unanimous Decision

Matt Mitrione vs Timothy Johnson

The co-main event of the evening is a heavyweight contest between Matt Mitrione (13-7, 1 NC) and Timothy Johnson (13-6).

For Mitrione, he will be making the Bellator walk for the eighth time tomorrow night. Mitrione stared 4-0 in Bellator with wins over Fedor Emelianenko and Roy Nelson. However, Mitrione has gone 0-2, 1 NC in his last three.

Mitrione is known for his good power and really good footwork. The former football player is extremely athletic. His natural athleticism combined with his striking skills make him dangerous for anyone.

Johnson didn’t get off to the best start in Bellator. The former UFC heavyweight made the jump and promptly was knocked out twice in the first round. He did bounce back knocking out Tyrell Fortune in the first round back in February.

Johnson has decent wrestling and he’s got good power in his hands. I can’t see him winning a stand up fight so he will need to use his wrestling to get Mitrione down.

In the past, we’ve seen Mitrione’s weakness is getting taken down and held there. If Johnson can do that, I think he can win a decision. However, I think his chin is suspect, and I think Mitrone is going to catch him with something in the second.

Prediction: Matt Mitrione by TKO – Round 2

Myles Jury vs Georgi Karakhanyan

An interesting lightweight contest is on the main card which pairs Myles Jury (18-5) and Georgi Karakhanyan (29-10-1). To be honest, this is a fight that would have been really highly anticipated if it came back in 2014.

Back in 2014, Jury was riding high in the UFC at 15-0. A lot of people were pointing to this guy as a future champion. Jury was also the first person who would tell you just how good he was. However, Jury was humbled by Cowboy Cerrone.

Starting with the Cerrone fight, Jury has gone 3-5 in his last eight contest. Jury made his Bellator debut last September against Benson Henderson and dropped a decision. He did bounce back against Brandon Girtz back in February.

Back in 2014, Karakhanyan was 23-3-1. A lot of analysts were really high on Karakhanyan, but his career took a downturn. Since that impressive record, Karakhanyan has gone 6-7 with one no contest in his last 14 fights.

Karakhanyan did win his last time out against Paul Redmond in February, but that was coming off of an eight second knockout loss to AJ McKee.

In looking at both of these guys, I’m just not sure where Karakhanyan wins this fight. I think Jury is just a little better in almost every aspect. I don’t really see a finish coming here so I’m going with Jury to get it done by points.

Prediction: Myles Jury by Unanimous Decision

Curtis Millender vs Sabah Homasi

A fun catchweight contest at 175 pounds between Curtis Millender (18-5) and Sabah Homasi (13-8) will also be on the main card tomorrow night.

Millender was looking like a pretty bright welterweight prospect when he was in the UFC entering 2019. Millender was 17-3 holding wins over guys like Thiago Alves. However, two straight losses got him the hook from the promotion.

Millender signed with Bellator in late 2019 and made his debut back in January where he won a unanimous decision over Moses Murrietta. Millender is a really good striker, but is usually content with point fighting his way to a victory.

Hamasi enters this contest after back-to-back wins in Bellator including a 17 second knockout over Micah Terrill. It’s been almost a year since we’ve seen Hamasi compete.

Hamasi was also in the UFC but was cut after he was finished in three consecutive fights prompting his promotional switch. Hamasi has 11 finishes in 13 wins and the American Top Team fighter has shown crisp striking.

While Hamasi has looked good, I don’t like this matchup for him. I think Millender will be able to use his length and accuracy to get the better of the striking exchanges.

Prediction: Curtis Millender by Unanimous Decision

Bellator 243 Outlook

This is a very solid card for Bellator. I would have really liked this to be the first card back as I said above, no disrespect to Sergio Pettis or Ricky Bandejas. Two former world champions in a big rematch is something that will tune a lot of folks in, and I’m excited to watch it play out.