Michael Chandler's return to action last night couldn't have gone any better really for the Team Alliance member, stopping Japanese veteran Akihiro Gono in the very first minute of action in a non-title affair last night at Bellator 67. Although Chandler was the outright favourite last night, there was some upset's along the way in another action packed night.
Chandler, currently at 9-0 in his MMA career so far, is the reigning Lightweight Champion after he defeated Eddie Alvarez back in November 2011 and his return to the cage was a triumpant one. While Chandler comes out instantly looking to get into Gono's face, the Japanese veteran was calm and relaxed as he looked to feel his opponent's movement out. Chandler connected with a left then a huge lunging right hook to drop Gono to the mat, where the American follow's up with some vicious and brutal ground and pound, Gono had nowhere to run and the referee halt's the fight at just 0:56 of the very first round. The young Champion improve's to 10-0, while Gono really had nothing at all to offer Chandler.
In the Welterweight Semi Final, many thought although Bryan Baker is a tough nut, it was former TUF competitor Ben Saunders fight to lose. Bryan Baker had other idea's as he pulled off an upset to advance to the final's. The first round was a high paced with Saunders looking to implement his Muay Thai utilizing the clinch, cutting his opponent early on with knee's, Saunder's scored a takedown but the pair where quickly back up to the feet and up against the cage. After some ambitious submission attempt's by Saunders the fight hits the mat where Baker used ground and pound combining excellent submission defense to get out of some tight spot's, the round end's with Baker taking his opponent's back. In the second round Saunders again went to the clinch hurting his opponent after connecting with some big knee's but again up against the cage, Baker trip's Killa B to the mat after some initial good defense from Saunders using his rubber guard, Baker looked to move into the crucifix position as the round closed after some more punches from the top from Baker. The 3rd round followed suit as Saunders went back to looking to clinch up and Baker scored a single leg takedown as the pair went against the cage. Saunders was stuck on his back and despite trying to land from the bottom, Baker controlled his position and when the pair eventually got the feet, Baker took Saunders back down with a big slam. After a back and forth fight, Baker pick's up the Unanimous Decision victory and advances to the final's.
Also on the card was a Heavyweight contest between Damien Grabowski and Dave Huckaba. Huckaba was making his Promotional debut last nitgh and looking to score a big win for his career over the ground specialist Grabowski. But in a 3 round war, it was the Pole who took the decision in the end after some stella work in the opening rounds, left it a little to late for Huckaba to get back into the fight. While Grabowski doesnt posses the same KO power as his opponent he made up for it, mixing up his solid striking with takedown's that left the American looking for just that one big shot. Huckaba wasn't interested in lining up combination's, instead relying on his power to try and end Grabowski's night with one shot. Unfortunately for Huckaba it never happened, the Polishman controlled the first two rounds and was able to use his advantage's to nullify the debutant's attack's. Although the crowd weren't entirely happy, Grabowski picked up the win on the scorecards 29-28 from all 3 judge's.
Opening the Main card was another non tournament match up as veteran Luis Santos faced off against Canadian Ryan Ford. Many expected the experience and good stand up to cause Ford problem's and for the first 5 minute's it did. Santos used his south paw stance to connect with some good strikes which had Ford reeling in the early part of the fight, including a head kick which dropped the Canadian and looked like Santos would swarm and finish his counterpart. Ford to his credit managed to survive the round and in the second, in the blink of an eye the fight was over. After initially being blocked while shooting in on Santos, the Canadian managed to find a space to slam a well placed knee on his opponent, sending him crashing to the mat, seemingly out cold. With the win, the biggest of Ford's career thus far, the Canadian improve's to 18-4 and kicked off another excellent night for the Promotion.