Opening the main card at Bellator 182 in Verona, New York on Friday, undefeated prospect A.J. McKee, a perfect 8-0 heading into the night, faced Blair Tugman. Tugman entered the event on a three fight win streak, with all three wins coming under the Bellator banner. Despite having the edge in experience, Tugman was the underdog on the night. The action got underway promptly after an exciting preliminary card at the Turning Stone Resort Casino.
McKee looked to counter early, and chopped at Tugman’s lead leg before throwing some flashy kicks. Tugman came close to catching one of those, and would later shoot in only to be stuffed by the strong defense of McKee. This led to McKee trapping his opponent in a front headlock for a time before Tugman managed to work his way back up. McKee, for his part, would continue to flash some high risk strikes, while Tugman settled into a more traditional approach. An exchange followed by a scramble saw McKee takes things down and work to pass guard; he instead wound up in Tugman’s half guard as Tugman forced his way back to the feet. There, McKee continued to work on the lead leg of Tugman with kicks.
The second opened with a strong kick and a shot from McKee that seemed to momentarily stun Tugman. A jab would set up a spinning back fist that found only air moments later, but McKee would follow those up with a number of kicks to the leg. At that point, Blair Tugman was starting to show damage on the leg, and stepping gingerly. McKee’s movement and hand speed was the key to the bout, leaving Tugman guessing more times than not. He’d finally charge forward and tie McKee up along the fence with under a minute to go in the second, looking for a takedown that just wouldn’t come.
Round three saw a more spirited start from both fighters, who seemed to be putting a little extra something in each strike launched. Things looked to be going McKee’s way, as he was cruising along to a possible decision victory, but Tugman managed to lock in a guillotine along the fence just under two minutes into the third. It was a threat, but with both fighters slick with blood and sweat, Tugman simply couldn’t hold on, and McKee would pull free of danger. They’d go to the scorecards, with McKee picking up the unanimous decision.
A.J. McKee def. Blair Tugman by unanimous decision (30-27, 30-26, 30-26)