Bellator 197: “Chandler vs. Girtz” takes place tomorrow night (Fri., April 13, 2018) at Family Arena in St. Charles, Missouri. For the second week in a row the Lightweight division takes the spotlight, only this time instead of two ex-champions from two different organizations, we have a former Bellator champion at 155 taking on who has never even had a world title opportunity.
Let’s break it down:
155 lbs.: Michael Chandler (17-4) vs. Brandon Girtz (15-7)
If Michael Chandler wants to make a point he needs to hand Girtz a fast and decisive loss in this match up. The two match-up well size wise. Girtz stands 5’7” with a 67” reach, while Chandler holds a size advantage at 5’8” and 68.5” in reach. Chandler’s trademarks cardio and muscle, having an almost inexhaustible gas tank and vicious stopping power when he loads up bombs and lets them fly. You couldn’t pay me enough to take his right hand to the chin. He also possesses a self-confidence that from anybody else would border on arrogance, but he’s already been the champion twice. Barring a fluke injury like what happened with Primus last June this one should be fun.
Chandler should not by any means underestimate Girtz though. Fresh off a quick knockout in Italy last December, Girtz is itching to go and is adding newfound power to his already formidable record of eight wins via submission. Being relatively the same size may almost negate the natural power advantage that Chandler holds, because Girtz can pack just as much power and muscle into a smaller frame as his opponent and still make weight. To be honest though Luka Jelcic was Girtz’ first win after three straight losses, and while it was an impressive knockout Chandler has finished much more powerful opponents like Patricky Freire in equally as devestating a fashion.
Final prediction: Michael Chandler wins via third round knockout
145 lbs.: A.J. McKee (10-0) vs. Justin Lawrence (11-4)
“Mercenary” A.J. McKee has spent his entire pro career in Bellator and seems to get better with each and every fight. He’s finished 70% of his wins (four knockouts and three submissions) and has only been tested a couple of times, including a fight where the more experienced Blair Tugman took him the distance but couldn’t faze him during the entire bout. Brian Moore had a little success in the second round of McKee’s last fight, but McKee came roaring back in the third to finish via rear naked choke.
If there’s one thing that’s a tell for McKee to date it’s that fighters who are older or who have more career experience can frustrate him here and there. TUF veteran Justin Lawrence is both. He’s had five more fights as a pro and even more as an amateur boxer and kickboxer, even picking up two Golden Gloves in tournaments in St. Louis before he got into MMA. It’s little wonder that Lawrence was the first pick for Dominick Cruz on TUF Live when selecting his team. Lawrence also has a little momentum on his side here with back to back wins last July and this January.
What Lawrence doesn’t have on his side is size. He stands 5’8” and has a 67” reach, while McKee is a very tall lanky Featherweight at 5’10” and 73”. Lawrence does have some finishing power, but even with five more fights on his record, he’s only knocked out one more man than McKee. I actually hate saying this because Lawrence is both a nice guy and a hard working guy, but he tends to come up short time and time again in big bouts: Max Holloway, Emmanuel Sanchez, and John Teixeira to name a few. He might turn out to be the toughest test to date of the young McKee’s career, but McKee will pass.
Final prediction: A.J. McKee wins via unanimous decision
160 lbs.: Kevin Ferguson Jr. (2-1) vs. Devon Brock (1-0)
“Baby Slice” Kevin Ferguson Jr. is a star in the making with an incredible belief in himself -- never a bad quality for a professional fighter. Despite a rough start to his MMA career in 2016, he’s turned things around with back to back wins via TKO and rear naked choke, both coming off having to take fights internationally. It can’t be discounted how long hours on a plane, changing your days and nights around, and having to eat food other than what you’re used to at home can mess with a fighter. This time though Ferguson has the luxury of fighting domestically, and it’s a much shorter flight from the East coast to Missouri than having to cross the Atlantic.
What does his opponent Devon Brock bring to the table? An undefeated record for one, and getting that first win against a Gracie for another. Brock definitely surprised and opened some eyes in his Bellator 192 debut. Now he’ll have to prove it again against Ferguson, who owns a 3” height advantage (5’11” to 5’8”), but gives up a 5” reach advantage (71” to 76”). Brock’s biggest weapon is the takedown, but Ferguson is a Body Shop fighter and there’s little doubt Joey Davis and A.J. McKee have shown him every method to stuff one you could find. If any fight on the main card is upset material this would be the one, but my gut instinct is that Ferguson will keep it standing and push Brock around at will.
Final prediction: Kevin Ferguson Jr. wins via split decision
170 lbs.: Logan Storley (7-0) vs. Joaquin Buckley (8-1)
Fighting very close to his native St. Louis is a natural advantage for Joaquin Buckley coming into this bout. The crowd will be in his corner, all of his friends and family will be cheering for him, and he’s coming off two big wins over Justin Patterson and Vinicius de Jesus. That’s the good news. The bad news is that Logan Storley has only met one man he couldn’t finish by TKO and he still dominated that entire fight. Buckley has a small size advantage but I’m tipping the power advantage to Storley here and looking for him to pick up his seventh finish in eight fights.
Final prediction: Logan Storley via first round TKO
That’s a wrap!
MMAmania.com will deliver coverage of Bellator 197 tomorrow with Paramount Network fights starting at 9 p.m. ET. To check out the latest Bellator MMA-related news and notes be sure to hit up our comprehensive news archive right here.