SAN DIEGO — The Bellator lightweight title rematch between Will Brooks and Michael Chandler looked like it could turn into a potential classic over the championship rounds.
Instead, it turned into one of the most memorably strange finishes you’ll ever see in the sport.
In the fourth round of their Bellator 131 co-feature bout Saturday night, Brooks and Chandler both hit the mat as Chandler attempted to throw them. As they scrambled back to their feet, Brooks drilled Chandler with a monster right hand to the ear. Chandler backed off, waving his hands, giving the live crowd the impression he had been fouled. Referee Jason Herzog did not intervene, so Brooks went in and finished him off.
Herzog waved off the bout at 3:48 of the round, giving Brooks the title and the TKO win. While at first, the crowd at the Valley View Casino Center heavily booed the stoppage against the hometown fighter, the replay clearly demonstrated there was no foul and Brooks won the fight fair and square.
"I actually thought he stopped," said Brooks (15-1). "I was looking up at the clock. Maybe I lost track of time, I saw him look away from the ref, I didn’t want to be a jerk, didn’t want to be ‘that guy,’ but I saw him turn around and I had to go in."
As he usually does, Chandler got off to a fast start in the fight. He took the first round by pushing the pace, initiating the action, landing solid counters and generally bullying Brooks.
Round two made it appear the fight could turn into a classic, as the fighters went back and forth in a frenetic five minutes. Both fighters scored takedowns, both landed crisp strikes, and there were an exciting exchange in the clinch as both threw uppercuts and knees. Chandler also got Brooks into a tight choke at one point, but Brooks survived.
And Brooks tutned up the heat in round three, outwrestling Chandler, outlanding him, cutting him open, and pushing the pace as Chandler noticeably wore down.
Brooks appeared to have the lead in round four as well, before the odd fight-ending scene. The win was the American Top Team fighter’s sixth in a row, and his second over Chandler this year. Brooks won a split decision over Chandler on May 17 as a fill-in for Eddie Alvarez in an interim title fight.
Chandler (14-3) has dropped three straight bouts, all title fights.