The year 2020 for Bellator MMA was upended by a global pandemic that changed virtually everything about mixed martial arts. Empty arenas and “quarantine bubbles” became the new norm for live events. After a few months off to consider how best to proceed, Bellator restarted in July and postponed fights like “Bader vs. Nemkov” were back on the docket. That’s as good a place as any to start our “top five Bellator knockouts” of 2020.
The young and hungry 28-year-old overwhelmed the seasoned 37-year-old “champ champ” at both 205 and 265 lbs., taking his Light Heavyweight crown in the second round with a vicious onslaught that dropped Bader to his knees. It was a humbling loss he’ll have to come back from in 2021. In a mirror image of that performance, it was the elder veteran Timothy Johnson who gave the young upstart Tyrell Fortune a big loss at Bellator 239.
It was the first pro loss of Fortune’s career, and a resurgence for Johnson after having been knocked out in the first round of his last two Bellator fights. “Resurgence” was also the story for Cris Cyborg, having made the promotional jump after losing her Featherweight title to Amanda Nunes. At Bellator 238 she’d find gold in her debut against “The Jewel” Julia Budd.
Perhaps that finish seems inevitable in hindsight, but Budd has been unbeaten for nearly eight straight years before Cyborg came to town. It was a much less foregone conclusion when Michael Chandler and Benson Henderson met at Bellator 243. It was an injury and not the pandemic which postponed their meeting in Japan in 2019, but when they finally met it only took Chandler 2:09 to find the killswitch and hit engage.
Some might even call it a poetic finish to his Bellator MMA run, given he had suffered a similar outcome in losing his Lightweight title to Patricio “Pitbull” Freire. Chandler moved on to UFC while “Pitbull” stayed at home in the promotion where he and brother Patricky had knocked out many of their foes. Before the year’s end he’d get one more sterling finish in in a Featherweight title defense against Pedro Carvalho.
It took him exactly one second longer than Chandler to put out his opponent’s lights. Even amidst the uncertainty and unusual circumstances of the last 12 months, Bellator’s best strikers still found a way to deliver highlight reel finishes when given their time to shine.
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