Michael Chandler enters free agency with exactly the type of performance a veteran fighter looking to score his last big contract would want to display.
Friday night, Chandler (21-5 MMA, 18-5 BMMA), the three-time former Bellator lightweight champion, scored a stunning first-round knockout of one of the hardest fighters in the sport to finish, former UFC and WEC lightweight king Benson Henderson, in the opening round of their Bellator 243 main event.
The time of the stoppage was 2:09 at Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Conn., in favor of the fighter who has been with the promotion since Bellator 31 in 2010.
“If this is the last time I step in the Bellator cage, everyone in the house … you guys have no idea the impact you led on my life,” Chandler said during his post-fight interview. “I am not who I am without the organization of Bellator.”
Chandler’s first fight against Henderson (28-9 MMA, 5-4 BMMA) in 2016 went the distance before he got the nod, and the duo appeared to be going at a pace that suggested they were ready to go all the way again. Both fighters scored, Henderson in particular doing damage with body kicks.
But then Chandler’s big left hand struck. Chandler dropped him with a shot to the jaw, sending Henderson crashing on hands and knees to the mat. A follow-up shot appeared to graze the top of Henderson’s head, and a couple more punches landed before the bout was waved off.
Chandler had his 16th career stoppage victory. He’s won two in a row and five of his past six. Henderson, who was stopped via strikes for just the second time in his career, had a four-fight win streak snapped.
The lightweight bout was the Bellator 243 main event at Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Conn. It aired on Paramount and streamed on DAZN following prelims on MMA Junkie.
Complete Bellator 243 results:
- Sabah Homasi def. Curtis Millender via unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28)
- Adam Borics def. Mike Hamel via split decision (29-28, 28-29, 29-28)
- Cris Lencioni def. A.J. Agazarm via unanimous decision (30-26, 30-27, 29-28)
- Valerie Loureda def. Tara Graff via TKO (punches) — Round 2, 5:00
- Grant Neal def. Hamza Salim via unanimous decision (30-26, 30-27, 30-24)
- Charlie Campbell def. Nainoa Dung via TKO (leg kicks) — Round 2, 1:42
- Dalton Rosta def. Mark Gardner via TKO (doctor stoppage) — Round 1, 5:00