On Friday 14th December 2018, Bellator becomes the first major MMA promotion to land in Hawaii as they present the first of two shows this weekend from the Neal S. Blaisdell Arena in conjunction with the USO (United Service Organizations). It is a major coup for the promotion to beat the UFC to broadcast the first show in the state that has produced a number of high level mixed martial artists. The card is headlined by a title fight rematch 18 months in the making and a heavyweight legend and a hot prospect are among the supporting cast.
The headliner sees lightweight champion Brent Primus defend his belt against the man that he took it from in June of last year, Michael Chandler. In their first contest, Primus won by TKO (injury) in the first round to win the title as ringside doctors decided that Chandler’s ankle was in no condition to continue the fight. After Primus landed an early leg kick, Chandler’s ankle never recovered and it looked as though his leg had turned to jelly as he wobbled all over the cage for the remainder of the fight as he could not keep his feet underneath himself. Despite this, Chandler still managed to land a solid right hand that took Primus off of his feet. Chandler claims that Primus fluked his way to the title and he only won as a result of nerves in his leg essentially shutting down, whereas Primus says that it was a legit win as he threw the strike that caused this damage.
Chandler has been chasing this rematch since the first loss and will be frustrated that it has taken this long from him to get his hands back on Primus. Due to injuries, this is Primus’s first fight since his title win while in that same period, Chandler has fought twice, beating Goiti Yamauchi and Brandon Girtz. Current champion Brent Primus will be trying to prove that the first fight wasn’t a fluke while Michael Chandler will look to recapture the title he believes that he never genuinely lost.
In the evenings co main event, heavyweight legend Frank Mir takes on 30 year old, Javy Ayala, who rarely goes to the judges scorecard. This is likely a must win fight for Frank Mir who can’t afford another loss at this stage in his career, especially to a lesser known heavyweight. The Brazilian Jiu Jitsu black belt lost his Bellator debut by knockout to fellow legend Fedor Emelianenko despite hurting the Russian on the feet moments before getting finished himself. Javy Ayala is best known for his huge upset knockout over Sergei Kharitonov in November 2016 but is coming off of two losses to UFC veterans Roy Nelson and Cheick Kongo so will be looking to get back in the win column and claim his biggest victory yet. Frank Mir will set out to get this fight onto the ground to work his outstanding submission game while Ayala will aim to catch Mir on the feet where he has looked particularly vulnerable in recent outings.
Another important bout on the card sees hot prospect, AJ McKee, take on former BAMMA featherweight champion, Daniel Crawford. The undefeated McKee has 12 straight wins and has taken out notable names Brian Moore, Justin Lawrence and John Macapa in his last three fights. He is one of the names that Bellator will be banking on to continue his current career trajectory and turn into a big star for the promotion that fans will be tuning in to see highlight finishes from. Englishman Crawford also possesses stopping power on the feet as he has finished six of his ten wins on the feet and will be looking to bounce back from his Bellator debut loss to Pedro Carvalho at Bellator 200. This also marks Crawford’s first fight outside of the UK and is a massive opportunity to immediately make himself a name in the Bellator featherweight division.
Rounding out the main card, Bellator veteran Derek Campos drops down to the featherweight division to take on brawler Sam Sicilia and recent flyweight title challenger, Alejandra Lara, faces Brazilian Juliana Velasquez. Names to look out for on the prelims include Tywan Claxton who is best known for his flying knee knockout in his Bellator debut, brother of Renzo Gracie, Robson Gracie making his MMA debut and Diaz teammate, Chris Avila.
The main card is being shown on tape delay on 5Spike on Saturday night while the prelims can be streamed live around the world on the Bellator MMA app on Friday night.
Full fight card:-
Lightweight Title – Brent Primus (c) v Michael Chandler
Heavyweight – Frank Mir v Javy Ayala
Featherweight – A.J. McKee v Daniel Crawford
Featherweight – Derek Campos v Sam Sicilia
Women’s Flyweight – Alejandra Lara v Juliana Velasquez
Featherweight – Tywan Claxton v Kaeo Meyer
Welterweight – Robson Gracie v Brysen Bolohao
Lightweight – Brandon Pieper v Chris Avila
Featherweight – Toby Misech v Edward Thommes
Featherweight – Chris Lopes v Nick Badis