Bellator 165: "Chandler vs. Henderson" took place last night (Sat., Nov. 19, 2016) at SAP Center in San Jose, Calif., featuring a fantastic Lightweight fight between division champion, Michael Chandler, against former Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) 155-pound kingpin, Benson Henderson.
However, an announcement made before the co-main event may have overshadowed the highly anticipated title fight just a smidgeon. Matt Mitrione was brought down to the cage so Jimmy Smith could interview him about a "mystery fight" in February.
"I can't wait man, I'm so excited. It was the most unique invitation to a fight I've ever had. Like 'Hey look, sign this, we're not gonna tell you who when or where, but trust us it's worth your time.' I said 'Alright man let's do it, let's get dirty!'"
That led Bellator to introduce his opponent live on Spike TV -- "The Last Emperor" Fedor Emelianenko. Mitrione was overjoyed to welcome him to Bellator.
"Dude I'm honored, welcome to the family. I'm so excited as a fighter, you're the person that everybody guns for their entire career. I'm so excited I get a chance to touch gloves with you and throw hammers. I'm so excited. Let's give 'em one for the show brother!"
Fedor's translator explained the question from Jimmy Smith and he responded in halting English.
"I am happy to be fighting right here in San Jose. I'm happy to fight in Bellator."
Smith confirmed the date will be Feb. 18, 2017, and Sean Grande confirmed that Emelianenko has signed a multi-fight deal with Bellator.
Back to the fights, Chandler set out to make the first defense of his second Lightweight title reign, but standing in the way of his goal was former UFC and World Extreme Cagefighting (WEC) Lightweight champion "Smooth" Benson Henderson. This fight will be remembered for a long time. Chandler knocked Henderson down several times in the first round, had several guillotine attempts that were close to finishing, and arguably dominated that first round in a 10-8 manner.
The rest was what always happens in a Henderson fight -- different depending on who was looking at it and what they were looking for. Henderson clearly won the fifth round when Chandler was completely exhausted after multiple takedowns and multiple big shots that landed but did not finish Henderson. The rest could go either way.
The judges split their cards and Chandler retained by 48-48, 46-48 and 48-47 scorecards. He spoke to Smith after the fight and didn't seem thrilled ... particularly after Henderson dominated the final round.
"I think it came down to that first round I dominated. Benson's a heck of a competitor. Hey man, you can't be perfect in here, you just gotta find a way to win. That's what I did. Sorry to everybody who's disappointed. I will get better, I will come back, don't be mad at me, I just bring it. This isn't all about brains, you gotta fight with your balls out here. Hey man I live to be a champion again tomorrow. I'm not happy with my performance, you will see the best Michael Chandler next fight, thank you guys for all coming out. I do have to say, San Jose, if Josh Thomson if your boy Josh Thomson steps back into this cage and does not stand across the cage from me, he is an absolute coward. I'd love to run it back with Benson Henderson, put the pain on him next time, tonight even though I won it wasn't my night. I will be back -- believe it!"
Also featured at Bellator 165 was a key Welterweight title match that put the undefeated Michael "Venom" Page against top contender Fernando Gonzalez, winner of five straight fights in Bellator.
This was not the showcase fight either man would have hoped for. Gonzalez refused to engage for the first two rounds, and Page taunted him to come into range, even turning his back and wiggling his butt. Page landed just enough strikes to win rounds where virtually nothing happened. When Gonzalez did engage in the third round he went for takedowns and failed to get them repeatedly. Put simply, this fight was awful. The judges rendered a split decision of 29-28 Page, 30-27 Gonzalez, and 29-28 for Page. No interview followed.
Two Lightweight fighters on the outside looking in at a future title shot hoped to move a step closer to challenging the winner. The undefeated Adam Piccolotti went toe-to-toe with knockout artist "Cold Roll" Brandon Girtz.
Piccolotti was feeling good in the cage for the first two rounds. Seemingly anything he tried worked, including multiple leg and head kicks, and a few flying knees for good measure. It wasn't until Girtz came at Piccolotti hard with 90 seconds left in round that he stunned his opponent and got a convincing takedown. Piccolotti went for a footlock, Girtz escaped it, but he couldn't get the finish he needed with his late ground and pound assault.
Piccolotti got a 29-28 (x3) unanimous decision and did the post fight interview with blood leaking from his cuts.
"Man it feels great. To get in there with a real vet like Brandon Girtz, you know he's tough all around. He hurt me in the body pretty good, slowed me down so, the stand up fight was fun -- it's what I'm improving on the most. I thank him for the opportunity, I thank Bellator and San Jose for coming out to support. I talked to a couple of media guys, I said win this fight I'm a contender, what's up? I'm a contender. Don't say prospect any more! I'm coming! I'm trying to make waves in the lightweight division. Keep 'em coming and I'll keep beating 'em down."
Coincidentally, one of those media guys is right here at MMA Mania.
Making her MMA debut after a 6-2 run in kickboxing, Keri Anne Taylor-Melendez stepped into the Bellator cage against the undefeated (2-0) Sheila Padilla.
Melendez sprinted to the cage to start the fight, and she sprinted to the finish once the opening bell rang. A hard right hand creamed Padilla and only one follow-up shot to the already dazed Padilla was necessary before Ed Collantes waved off the fight at 0:47.
Melendez spoke to Smith after the quick and destructive finish.
"I don't even know what you said but it felt good. Laylakay, I love you, I'm back! Sorry for all the grumpy nights!"
Gilbert Melendez joined the cage to a roar from the SAP Center.
"I think it's time to pass the torch! We got a bad Melendez right here, and I'm very proud of her, and there's a lot more of that to come -- guaranteed!"
Light Heavyweights with aspirations of facing Liam McGeary met in the cage at Bellator 165 as "The Swarm" Linton Vassell faced off with "Limitless" Francis Carmont, winner of three out of his last four fights.
Vassell opened the fight strong with a takedown straight to full mount a minute in, eventually taking the back with a body triangle cinched in tight. Carmont literally had no escape and was softened up for the entire round. Carmont copied the gameplan with a takedown of his own in the second round, but got swept halfway through the round. The third stanza was essentially a repeat of the first until Carmont got up with 30 seconds left and ... just ... walked away. Did he think the bell rang? Vassell had to chase him down and make him engage. The judges were clearly not impressed, awarding Vassell the unanimous decision by lopsided scores of 30-26, 30-26, and 30-25. It was so self-explanatory that no post-fight interview was necessary.
For complete Bellator 165 results and coverage click here.