Bellator 197 will take place tonight from The Family Arena in St. Charles, Missouri and the main card on the Paramount Network (9 p.m. ET/8 p.m. CT) will be headlined by former Bellator lightweight champion Michael Chandler taking on Brandon Girtz and in the co-main event, rising featherweight fighter AJ McKee will look to remain undefeated when he takes on Justin Lawrence.
When this fight card was initially announced by Bellator, it was going to be headlined by a title fight rematch between current Bellator lightweight champion Brent Primus and Chandler. However, Primus suffered an injury recently and Girtz stepped up on short notice to take the fight. When I spoke with Girtz on this week’s podcast, he mentioned how he essentially accepted the fight before having a conversation with his coaches about the matchup.
Before I get into the co-main event, here is a little nugget I heard about this event on Thursday evening. Sources told me that the Missouri of Office Athletics, who will be regulating tonight’s Bellator 197 will be using the new unified rules of mixed martial arts with the exception of the new grounded opponent rule. Also, I was informed that Mike England is one of the referees booked to work this event and if you are not familiar with England, just look at this clip from the UFC on FOX card that took place in Missouri last year.
As I told someone on Thursday night, it’s never a good thing when the television announcers are yelling at the referee to stop the fight. There has also been incidents with England in Invicta FC. England may be a nice guy. I have never met or talked to him. But if I was a manager or coach of a fighter on tonight’s Bellator 197 card, why would I want him working our fight? This is a fighter safety issue and remember after the incident on the UFC card, he was pulled from that event and did not work the UFC event in St. Louis in January.
With that being said, let’s move on to the co-main event and this is a matchup I have been looking forward to. McKee vs. Lawrence is a great matchmaking by Rich Chou and this fight is going to tell us a lot about McKee. I know fans have complained about the previous McKee matchups, but let’s not forget that Chou had previously made matchups for McKee against Emmanuel Sanchez and Henry Corrales. Those fights did not take place did to Sanchez and Corrales pulling out of the fight due to injuries.
During this week’s podcast, I spoke with both fighters and both mentioned they are expecting a high pace fight. One of the things that stuck out to me about my conversation with Lawrence was about how his best knockouts have come against south paws. While Lawrence is the betting underdog (+265 as on Friday morning), this would not be a big upset in my book.
Bellator 197 Pre-Fight Stats:
– Michael Chandler is currently tied with Patricio “Pitbull” Freire for the most wins (14) in Bellator history and he will tie David Rickels and Patricky “Pitbull” Freire for the most fights (19) in Bellator history.
– Chandler has the 8th most cage time (3:08:29) in Bellator history (Pat Curran #1, 4:19:39).
– Chandler is tied with Saad Awad for the 2nd most TKO/KO wins (4) in Bellator lightweight division history (Patricky “Pitbull” Freire #1, 8).
– Brandon Girtz owns the 7th fastest TKO/KO victory in Bellator lightweight division history with his 37-second victory against Derek Campos at Bellator 146.
– AJ McKee is tied with Daniel Straus and Pat Curran for the 2nd most wins (10) in Bellator featherweight division history (Patricio “Pitbull” Freire #1, 14).
– McKee is tied with Mike Richman and Georgi Karakhanyan for the 2nd most TKO/KO wins (4) in Bellator featherweight division history (Patricio “Pitbull” Freire #1, 6).