After a night beset by unfortunate injuries including a difficult-to-watch Anderson Silva-style broken leg, and a dislocated/possibly broken shoulder suffered by Aaron Pico, Bellator 286 was in need of an injection of fun. It got just that in the night’s co-main event, with Spike Carlyle showing his usual larger-than-life personality, walking out to a Hulk Hogan-inspired entrance complete with the Hulkster’s traditional yellow and red colors, with Real American blaring in the background.
Of course, A.J. McKee was the favorite in the fight, despite moving up to lightweight for the bout (it’s worth noting that Carlyle missed weight by 0.6lbs for the fight).
It was a wild start when the opening bell sounded, the pair immediately going into the spin cycle, trading wildly with Carlyle leading the attack care of a right hand and high kick. But it was McKee doing damage first, wobbling Carlyle then shooting in on a takedown. McKee soon threatened to take the back, only for Carlyle to reverse and get on top. Of course, McKee, no slouch on his back, looked dangerous from there, throwing up a triangle. Moments later, it was an omoplata attempt from McKee. At some point, the athletes and those watching might have found a moment to breathe.
Carlyle went to work from half guard, working in some ground n’ pound. McKee fought hands and looked to sweep as Carlyle ripped the body and kept the former featherweight champ planted on his back. Carlyle then looked to pin an arm with his leg, but McKee reversed, leading to a scramble as they got back up. They went down in a heap moments later, Carlyle almost taking the back. He was too high, and McKee himself then transitioned to the back, threatening with a rear-naked choke in the final minute of round one. Carlyle then reversed, finishing an absolutely wild opening round on top.
Slowing the pace to start round two? Nah. The pair went at it again, with McKee hurting Carlyle in the opening minute. McKee then took Spike down, getting on the back with Carlyle on his knees. Carlyle tried to power up, but was forced back down. Spike then tried to slip out the back door, but Mckee had hooked a leg. A.J. McKee went hunting for a rear-naked choke, but wasn’t under the chin.
Carlyle was moving just enough to keep McKee from securing anything, and was back up to his feet, then back down moments later. Back up again, McKee landed in the clinch. Spike threw a spinning back fist; McKee latched on a front head lock, taking Carlyle to his knees. McKee, working on an anaconda choke, complained to the ref about Carlyle holding his gloves, and began landing knees to the body. Carlyle survived, but McKee moved to side control, only for Spike to reclaim guard. Carlyle would land an upkick at the end of the round, forcing McKee to answer with ground n’ pound.
The pair went back to trading early in the third, though Spike Carlyle was showing obvious signs of fatigue. That allowed McKee to close the distance, land a knee, secure a bodylock, and land a takedown, with four minutes left in the fight. McKee came down in side control, landing elbows and slicing Carlyle open. Carlyle made it up, bloodied, only to be put right back down. McKee stayed on him, and when Carlyle made it up again, McKee sunk in a guillotine choke. Slick with blood and sweat, Carlyle pulled free, giving himself a minute and a half to work from the top, if he could keep the position. Carlyle instead went to the back, thinking rear-naked choke. That came up short, and McKee went after a toe hold. Another transition, and they wound up in north-south after rolling. The fight would go the distance, the final bell sounding as McKee sunk in a rear-naked choke.
There was little question that A.J. McKee won the fight — but Spike Carlyle’s durability and grit made it a war.
Official Result: A.J. McKee def. Spike Carlyle by unanimous decision (29-26, 30-26, 30-27)