They were favorites for a reason.
It was a night where the the betting favorites had their way as Bellator lightweight and welterweight champions Michael Chandler and Ben Askren easily defended their titles at Bellator 97 in Rio Rancho, New Mexico. The main card for the night aired on Spike TV.
In the main event, lightweight champion Chandler blasted season 8 lightweight tournament winner David Rickels in just 44 seconds into the first round. After a brief feeling out process, Chandler connected with a right hand that stumbled Rickels only to follow with lightening speed to more punches that sent 'Caveman' crashing to the mat. Chandler followed his falling opposition to the canvas where a series of blitzing punches forced the referee to halt the action.
"I used to be", said Chandler when asked if he was still a wrestler. "You gotta love wrestling, but I'm just blessed to be getting better every single day. I love my job. I love this opportunity to step in the Bellator cage."
"No weapon formed against me shall prosper," Chandler continued. "You can't have fear out here. I train my butt off every single day. Why not come out here and lay it on the line? Nothing bad can happen if you train your butt off. You make the right decisions, you surround yourself with the right people, I'm just blessed, man. It's a phenomenal day."
In the co-main event, Bellator welterweight champion Ben Askren put on a humiliatingly suffocating grappling clinic on season 7 welterweight tournament winner Andrey Koreshkov. According to statistics from the Bellator app, Askren outstruck Koreshkov 248-3.
In all four rounds of their fight, Askren did whatever he wanted to the RusFighters welterweight. From takedowns to guard passes to back control to ground and pound, Koreshkov could do positively nothing but cover up and defend. Askren methodically broke Koreshkov's will to the point where the champion asked the referee what he had to do to get the fight stopped. After taking Koreshkov's back and forcing him flat to the mat, Askren laid in with a series of punches that officially was stopped by the referee at 2:58 of round 4.
"Andrey said he's never been broken," said Askren, "Well... snap, crackle, and pop!"
When asked by commentator Jimmy Smith what was next for him and his Bellator career, Askren replied "I'm the best fighter in the world. Let's get in the cage and let me prove it, baby."
In the feature bout of the evening, Strikeforce veteran Muhammed 'King Mo' Lawal obliterated fellow Summer Series light heavyweight tournament finalist Jacob Noe over the course of three rounds. Lawal used his wrestling from the first offensive exchange to the last, repeatedly taking Noe down and scoring with stinging ground and pound. Noe had his moment briefly with a single armbar attempt from the guard, but Lawal was able to evade the effort and continue his onslaught. A series of unanswered punches late forced Noe to verbally submit at 2:58 of round 3.
With the victory, Lawal wins the light heavyweight Summer Series tournament and will face Attila Vegh at a yet to be determined date in the future.
Minakov pressed Martinez into the fence early and failed to score on several trip attempts, although one was stuffed by an illegal fence grab. Martinez was able to land a trip of his own, but Minakov was able to scramble out as they returned to their feet. Minakov finally scored an inside trip and went to work with Martinez's back against the fence. Martinez ate a knee on his way up, but drilled Minakov with a knee of his own. The two spent the majority of the round trading occasional shots, but with Minakov doing most of the pressuring.
In round two, Minakov pressured Martinez against the fence and landed a groin strike, so much so the referee elected to deduct a point without a warning or prior offense. The rest of the round was spent by Minakov pressuring Martinez back with single shots and failed takedown attempts.
By round three, the pattern appeared to be repeating: Minakov pressuring forward with Martinez circling. After approximately two minutes, Minakov scored an inside trip and even moved to mount where he began to unload on his opponent with hard punches and elbows. Eventually Minakov saw an opening and opened the offensive faucet, drilling Martinez with a series of crushing right hands. He forced the stop at 4:02 of round three. He wins the summer series and faces Alexander Volkov for the Bellator heavyweight title.
In the opening bout of the night, Patricio Freire faced off against Jared Downing. Pitbull rocked Downing badly, but elected to try to finish the fight by jumping guillotine through guard. Pitbill was able to get to his feet, but the referee separated them for inactivity once there. From that placement, Ptibull positively lit Downing up with two and three-punch hooking combinations. Downing attempted a takedown after being nailed with several hard strikes, but couldn't make it happen.
By round two, the end was already written. Pitbull went back to what was already working, dropping Downing with left and right hook combinations. Two of them wobbled Downing badly, followed by a third that planted him hard on the canvas. Downing tried to get to his feet, but the referee had seen enough, calling an end to the contest at :54 in round two.
It was also announced at the event that former UFC light heavyweight champions Quinton 'Rampage' Jackson and Tito Ortiz would be facing one another on November 2nd in the first-ever Bellator pay-per-view.