Bellator Matchmaker: Who’s Next for Bellator 221’s Main Card Fighters?

Bellator 221 Patricio Pitbull
Bellator 221 - Chandler vs. Pitbull Credit: Bellator MMA

Following an event consumed by a controversy-ridden main event, we look ahead to what makes sense for the Bellator 221 main card fighters.

Bellator 221 marked the promotion’s return to the outskirts of the Windy City (to be exact) on Saturday night, bringing a massive card to the Allstate Arena in Rosemont, Illinois.

In the main event of the evening, pundits far and wide put a certain level of expectation on the fight to the extent in which we would ultimately find out who is the greatest Bellator fighter of all time. We were treated with a conclusive ending, to some degree. Many fans took exception to the stoppage that saw Patricio ‘Pitbull’ Freire take the lightweight title from three-time titleholder Michael Chander, however that remains the reality. That being said, certain situations involved have created a somewhat easier task for the matchmaker. That is the very role I have taken upon myself today, as I give you my take on which fights make sense going forward for Bellator 221’s main card fighters.

Patricio ‘Pitbull’ Freire: AJ McKee in the Bellator Featherweight Grand Prix

Patricio Freire became the second man to achieve two division supremacy on Saturday night, finishing off Michael Chandler in just over 60 seconds. Now with the younger of the two pitbull brothers a dual-champ, the waters will subsequently become murky in one of those two divisions. My guess is it’s the lightweight division, as the Featherweight grand prix is set to open for business later this year. If it’s constructed the same way as the Welterweight one is (with the exception being 16 entrants) Pitbull’s belt is on the line. McKee is the only worthy first challenger at this point in time.

Michael Chandler: Adam Piccolotti

Michael Chandler’s third title reign came to an abrupt ending on Saturday, as he fell to Patricio Pitbull in his first defense since reclaiming the belt from Brent Primus in December. Chandler has pretty much fought everyone you can possibly fight in the Bellator lightweight division, including Piccolotti’s last opponent, Benson Henderson. Chandler and Piccolotti are each coming off losses, and would provide a fresh matchup for this division.

Douglas Lima: Rory MacDonald/Neiman Gracie Winner for the Bellator Welterweight Championship

Douglas Lima arguably scored the highlight of the night, starching Michael ‘Venom’ Page in the second frame of their welterweight grand prix encounter. Lima will face the winner of the June 14 collision between Rory MacDonald and Neiman Gracie, which takes place as a part of Bellator 222.

Michael Page: Andrey Koreshkov

The days in which Michael ‘Venom’ Page crushes the cans of today is now a thing of the past. Lima’s stunning knockout of Page surely instills that sentiment at this point, as Page will surely be given matchups more suited for his overall skill level. Lima’s victim one fight prior? Former champion Andrey Koreshkov. That’s a fight I would certainly like to see.

A.J. McKee: Patricio ‘Pitbull’ Freire in the Bellator Featherweight Grand Prix

A.J. McKee continues to do what he’s done to his 13 opponents prior. Kick ass, take names, and remain undefeated. McKee should undoubtedly be next for the champion, and is ready to make the leap.

Pat Curran: Fighter in the Bellator Featherweight Grand Prix

Former two-time champion Pat Curran was bested by the young prospect McKee on Saturday, that fight being his 18th with the promotion. Curran had his moments, and might have needed this type of test before the tournament later this year given the lengthy layoff Curran was on the heels of.

Jake Hager: Promotional Newcomer

Former WWE star and current MMA fighter Jake Hager continued his transition inside of the Bellator cage by getting his second tap from an arm-triangle choke in as many professional outings. Hager has stated he wants to fight twice more this year, which would ultimately make him 4-0 in his first year as a professional fighter. If my read on this situation is on target, I’m going to assume they continue to lob him some more softballs.

T.J. Jones: Fight Outside The Promotion

Do I really need to explain this one in depth? I’m glad that he got some exposure, and I’m happy for him given the payday he and his family will be the beneficiary of. Whatever. That’s all good and fine. But, let’s be honest. The Jack Black stuff on social media was there for a reason. He seems like a really nice dude and all, but he has no business inside of a cage with a guy that holds the 285-pound record for pins at the University of Oklahoma. That’s just how the cookie crumbles here.

Tywan Claxton: Fighter in the Bellator Featherweight Grand Prix

It’s time to get some of these prospects to step up to higher quality competition. That may have been what Bellator was aiming for when they gave blue-chip prospect Tywan Claxton the Wisconsin-bred James Bennett, who entering the fight had four wins all by way of finish inside of two rounds. The fight though, was rather one-sided as Claxton imposed his will and took Bennett down repeatedly and bashed him on the ground. Claxton is ready for a step up. Let’s get him in this tournament.

James Bennett: Fight Outside The Promotion

James Bennett was not ready for a step up in competition this big. Bennett was probably expected to do at least a little better too, given a fast-finishing track record that he had himself. It’s probably not a bad idea to let him gain some more experience before considering booking him again.