Coming into his first title defense against season 6 tournament winner Rick Hawn, Bellator Lightweight Champion Michael Chandler had one desire, putting his classic battle with Eddie Alvarez, that saw him win the title in impressive fashion, behind him. The former Mizzou wrestler has been very open about it recently, saying things like “I’m done talking about Eddie,” and jokingly suggesting “I can kick that Michael Chandler’s butt now.”
This iteration of the powerhouse wrestler certainly proved that he is not the same fighter. Early in their bout, Chandler grabbed a beautiful ankle pick, taking down the Olympic judoka with almost no resistance. From there, he proved his dominance and showed incredible fight IQ both on the ground and in the clinch. Never was it more apparent than when Hawn was able to get back to his feet. To avoid risking the Olympic judo of “Ghengis” coming into play, he switched from underhooks to a rear waistlock and grapevined his leg on the near side, taking away any leverage Hawn could have hoped to use. As they parted, Hawn landed a sneaky shot, but Chandler, again proving his toughness, retaliated until the bell.
The second stanza saw more of the same, the Mizzou wrestler continued to put the former welterweight on the ground at will and chipped away with punches and elbows. The judoka would shrimp to the cage and scramble up, but would find himself belly-down on the mat in seemingly no time. The champion immediately sunk his hooks in and secured a rear-naked choke, a finish ironically similar to his fight with Alvarez. With the arching of his back and the application of incredible leverage that seems to be one of Chandler’s natural gifts, Hawn was left no choice but to submit. At 3:05 of the second frame, Michael Chandler kept his title and made a tremendous statement in the first ever Bellator main event to be aired on Spike TV.