AJ McKee is as good as advertised.
In one of the greatest nights in Bellator history, McKee (18-0) showed why he should be considered one of the best featherweights in the world. The undefeated 26-year-old defeated the most decorated champion in Bellator history, Patricio Freire (32-5), dropping the Brazilian with a left header before submitting Freire with a 1 guillotine choke. : 57 of the first round.
With the win, McKee became the only man standing in Bellator’s 16-player featherweight tournament and won his million dollar grand prize, in addition to snatching Freire’s long-standing featherweight title. .
” All my dreams come true. It’s amazing, ”McKee said in front of the noisy hometown crowd at the Forum in Los Angeles, California.
“This is just the start, so we’re just getting started. I can’t wait to hold this baby for the rest of my life. It’s not going anywhere.
The performance was the culmination of a lifelong journey for McKee that began in his early childhood, when the youngster accompanied his father and eventual head coach, Antonio McKee, 38-fight MMA veteran, to the gym. daily in the early days of the sport, with young McKee growing up surrounded by Hall of Fame members like Quinton “Rampage” Jackson and Tito Ortiz. It’s no exaggeration to say that for McKee – who came through Bellator support with saves from Georgi Karakhanyan, Derek Campos and Darrion Caldwell – Saturday’s main event was truly a moment of a lifetime.
And he was almost perfect.
After an initial feeling process, McKee slammed a high kick into Freire, then swarmed forward with punches and dropped his injured foe. Mistakenly believing the fight was over, McKee then walked away celebrating with his hands up, before rushing into the pocket and clinging to Freire’s neck. “Pitbull” never tapped, but appeared to be absent as referee Mike Beltran stopped the fight with both men leaning against the fence.
“I felt it flex a bit, so that’s what kicked me off,” McKee said. “I knew he was already shaken, so I felt him warp a bit – I was like, okay, that’s it.”
The loss ended a seven-game winning streak for Freire that stretched back to 2016 and marked the first time Freire has lost to an injury-free stoppage in his entire career.
Because he was a two-division champion, Freire remains the holder of the Bellator lightweight title, although McKee was keen to state several times before the Bellator 263 that he wanted to ride and challenge Freire’s lightweight belt. he was winning.
In the main co-event of the night, Mads Burnell (16-3) continued his momentum with a slightly controversial unanimous decision victory over two-time featherweight title challenger Bellator Emmanuel Sanchez (20-6).
Sanchez was an offensive demon in the early stages of the fight, unloading on Burnell with punching and combination blitzkriegs as the Denmark native sought out outs. Burnell eventually dragged Sanchez to the mat, and while he couldn’t attack much once he got there, it became the pattern of the fight. Burnell scored multiple strikeouts each round and had his best moment in third frame when he threatened with a back grab, while Sanchez continued to throw in cluster punches whenever the fight touched down. feet. In the end, Sanchez claimed the 82-55 advantage, but Burnell’s seven eliminations against Sanchez’s zero stole the night.
All three judges scored the fight for Burnell (29-28, 30-27, 30-27), and two even gave the 27-year-old a bewildering sweep on their scorecards. Either way, Burnell’s record in the Bellator cage rose to 3-0 and he extended his current winning streak to seven in a row.
Elsewhere on the map, former UFC lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov’s coaching crusade ended another unbeaten night with a spectacular victory for his young cousin, undefeated Usman Nurmagomedov (13-0), who knocked out Manny Muro (12-7) in a lightweight contest with a brutal knee to the body at 3.30am of the first round.
Nurmagomedov, 23, stepped out on the classic UFC walkout song Khabib, then made his last name proud, scoring an effortless pullout in the opening minutes and working behind Muro’s back, before get up and put his finish on the feet.
Nurmagomedov subsequently dedicated his victory to his late trainer, Khabib’s father.
“I want to thank my late trainer Abdulmanap Nurmagomedov,” he said after the fight through a translator. “I am very grateful to him, and without him I wouldn’t be here and I wouldn’t be the fighter I am today.”
Khabib’s other fighter on the main card fared just as well, albeit on a much tighter appeal, as Islam Mamedov (20-1-1) made a split decision against the former Champions. lightweight Bellator Brent Primus (10-2).
The bout followed a similar pattern throughout the three rounds, with Mamedov scoring the first outs, then spending the remainder of the round working methodically from first position as Primus searched in vain for submissions from the bottom. Mamedov was unable to mount an effective attack, but his control was enough to convince two judges to award him the win on his Bellator debut.
The official tally for the fight was 29-28, 28-29 and 29-28 in favor of the Russian, making Mamedov the only man besides Michael Chandler to secure a victory over Primus.
In Saturday night’s card opener, the all-time submission leader Bellator decided to showcase a different side to his game, as Goiti Yamauchi (26-5) demolished the undefeated prospect. Alpha Male Team Chris Gonzalez (6-1) in under four minutes.
Yamauchi put Gonzalez on wobbly legs early on with a right hand before letting him down with a bad left-right combination. A few more punches were enough to secure the victory at 3:53 of Round 1, marking Yamauchi’s second career 31-fight MMA knockout and his first since 2013. The arrival was so unexpected that Yamauchi had it. Won by KO had bet odds greater than 12 to 1 on some sportsbooks.
With the win, Yamauchi managed to bounce back from his split-decision loss to Dan Moret in April. The 28-year-old lightweight has won four of his last five fights inside the Bellator cage.
Full results from the Bellator 263 can be viewed below.
- AJ McKee def. Patricio Pitbull via sub (guillotine) – Round 1, 1:57 (live blog) | Strong points
- Mads Burnell beat. Emmanuel Sanchez by unanimous decision (29-28, 30-27, 30-27)
- Usman Nurmagomedov beat. Manny Muro via TKO (strikes) – Round 1, 3:30 | (look at the finish)
- Islam Mamedov def. Brent Primus via split decision (29-28, 28-29, 29-28)
- Goiti Yamauchi beat. Chris Gonzalez via TKO (strikes) – Round 1, 3:53