November 23, 2016

Bellator 165: Michael Chandler Earns Respect With Benson Henderson Win

By Raphael Garcia

This past weekend was packed with mixed martial arts action. Not only did the UFC present two cards for fans, but Bellator also put on a show with Bellator 165. At the top of the card, Michael Chandler defended against UFC import and former lightweight champion Benson Henderson. After five rounds of action, Chandler retained his Bellator lightweight title and cemented himself in a compelling place in the sport.

Chandler has long been a question mark within the lightweight division. He’s spent much of time atop the 155-pound weight class in Bellator, but the questions about whether or not he could perform against the names on the UFC lightweight roster continued. This win doesn’t answer everything at once, but it gives him a marquee win over a man who’s defeated many of the top names within that “other” promotion.

Henderson is the uncrowned king of controversial split decision wins, but his judges’ luck ran out Saturday night. Both men had their moments in the bout, but Chandler pushed a pace early and frequently to get the nod. Chandler’s highlight-reel German suplex could have made fans think they were watching Brock Lesnar in the WWE, as it has already become a popular GIF for fans of the sport. Chandler walked out of the cage with the biggest win of his career, solidifying his position as the top lightweight outside of the UFC.

But is that enough for the current champion? At 30 years old, Chandler is still young in age, but he’s run up a host of miles in his competitive life cycle. Even though he’s riding a four-fight win streak, many will remember the wealth of damage he took during his three-fight losing streak, where he dropped bouts to former UFC Champion Eddie Alvarez and current UFC competitor Will Brooks. During that time many questioned exactly what Chandler had left in the gas tank, but since then he’s turned around his career while reminding everyone that he’s the face of the Bellator organization. 

With each victory it seems less and less possible that fans will get to see Michael Chandler in the Octagon. His career in the number-two promotion in the sport has come with both ups and downs, but he’s found a way to continue to come out on top. His legacy may continue to be hampered by questions of “what if,” or whether or not he could have been a contender for the UFC’s top prize; however, those shouldn’t be the criteria used to judge whether or not he’s had a successful career. Michael Chandler is a consummate pro that’s reached a level of success that many MMA fighters would love to achieve. Respect is due for what he’s been able to achieve in the Bellator cage.

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