Bellator 253: “Caldwell vs. McKee” took place tonight (Thurs., Nov. 19, 2020) at Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Connecticut. The main event saw the long running Featherweight Grand Prix continue as “The Wolf” Darrion Caldwell (15-3) met “Mercenary” A.J. McKee (16-0). Caldwell had a bold prediction ahead of the night’s main event:
.@TheWolfMMA predicts a round 1️⃣ finish tonight in the #Bellator253 main event.— BellatorMMA (@BellatorMMA) November 19, 2020
Catch the culmination of the #FeatherweightWGP semifinal round tonight LIVE on @CBSSportsNet at 7pm EST/4pm PST.#MMA #Bellator pic.twitter.com/Hh0Y3MuNVi
Bold predictions look bad in hindsight when you fail spectacularly. Caldwell was convinced a takedown was his key to success, but McKee answered right back by trapping him in a neck crank submission where he was forced to tap at 1:11 of the first round.
After advancing to the finals, McKee spoke to “Big” John McCarthy in the Bellator cage.
“As soon as we hit the ground I immediately thought ‘Alright I know he’s going to try to work elbows.’ He was real adamant on having his arms up so that told me he’s looking to posture up and hit elbows, so I’m like ‘Alright.’ Control the arms a little bit, you know what I mean? Look for your elbows, hit him a little bit, show him some power, get him to open up and sink something in. After that he popped his head off to the side and I locked up the body triangle, from there, underhook deep and that’s all she wrote. I just knew. You’ve known me since I was a child man. It’s all about the angles. You’ve got to have the right angle and you can make anything work.”
In addition a Welterweight bout saw Benson Henderson (28-9) take on Jason Jackson (12-4).
It was perhaps ill-advised for Henderson to move back up to 170 given his opponent had a height and reach advantage — the latter a staggering 8.5” at 78.5” total. Still Henderson tried his best to slow his opponent down with leg kicks in round one, but a hard left hand to the head slowed him down even more. He was clearly behind 10-9 heading into R2.
A curious strategy emerged of Henderson trying to shoot for takedowns, only to have Jackson overpower him and wind up on top repeatedly. Jackson seemed to pass guard on Henderson at will throughout round two, coming close to locking up the head for a submission several times, with Henderson only surviving by strength of will and his long record of experience in MMA. Still it was another 10-9 for Jackson and decisively so.
“Smooth” Ben wasn’t out of tricks quite yet, but he was running out of time to turn things around. The third round saw him routinely flop to the ground on even the flimsiest of strikes, hoping to lure Jackson into a chess match on the canvas where he could put the larger man in check. He came close to securing a heel hook late in the round, but close only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades. For the rest of the round Henderson was letting Jackson on top of him over and over again, which isn’t a good way to score points with the judges. They scored it 30-27 X3 for Jackson and both men hugged afterward.
A second Welterweight bout on the main card saw Joey Davis (7-0) face Bobby Lee (12-4). Lee came in as a CFFC champion but the decorated collegiate wrestler Davis had no problem taking him down 40 seconds into the opening round, punishing him repeatedly with right hands, and coming very close to referee Kerry Hatley stepping in to call it off. Lee survived the first round but it was a clear 10-9 or better for Davis.
Lee seemed to be chasing a power strike hoping to change his fortunes in round two. When he committed to the attack to the point he was swinging at air, Davis easily dropped levels and took him down, and spent the rest of the round in control after that. Even when Lee got up he went right back down again to guarantee another 10-9 in Davis’ favor. The third round was the same save for Davis landing more unblocked fists to the face and spilling some of Lee’s blood on the canvas. The judges returned a unanimous decision in Davis’ favor of 30-26, 30-27 X2. No post-fight interview followed.
Rounding out the live broadcast was a Bantamweight battle between Raufeon Stots (14-1) and Keith Lee (7-3) in a highly anticipated fight.
Lee was quickly forced to backpedal as the longer Stots found his range, using his left hand to touch Lee and ultimately set up a takedown, while Lee earned the ire of referee Todd Anderson for grabbing the fence multiple times. Stots looked for a rear naked choke in the last minute and couldn’t find it, but he still earned a 10-9 round.
Stots earned the takedown much later in the second frame, giving him less than 20 seconds to look for any submissions, but that didn’t stop him from dominating the striking for the rest of the round. Lee had no answer for the left hand, the overhand right, the body shot or the leg kicks. He was under constant pressure for the entire five minutes.
Lee kept looking for a path to victory via form of head kick, but he could never land a big shot that stunned or slowed Stots down. Meanwhile Stots continued to pummel Lee with lefts that caused a trickle of blood to start flowing down his face as the round wore on, then he shot for a takedown with 40 seconds left looking to seal the deal. Lee tried to pop right back to his feet, but Stots took his back to ground him and came close to getting an arm around his neck. Lee escaped and both men swung away until the bell.
The judges were left to settle (and tally) the score and they returned a verdict of 30-27 X3 unanimously for “Super” Stots. No post-fight interview followed.
And in case you missed the early action before the main card, the undefeated “Maori Kid” Jay-Jay Wilson improved to 7-0 with an overhand right that ended his opponent Sergio Di Bari’s night in just 20 seconds!
7️⃣&0️⃣!! @TheMaoriKid1 gets the W in short order tonight!— BellatorMMA (@BellatorMMA) November 19, 2020
Tune in to the #Bellator253 Monster Energy Prelims via our YouTube channel LIVE & FREE now!⬇️
▶️ https://t.co/WfX4XuIkAT pic.twitter.com/f4A9YUyWYB
For complete Bellator 253 results and coverage click here.
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