Just weeks after the confirmation that Bellator MMA will team-up with RIZIN Fighting Federation to make Bellator Japan happen on December 29, the co-main event has been revealed. It features a pair of lightweight legends in Michael Chandler (19-5) and Benson Henderson (28-8) in what will be a rematch.
Of course, the official announcement of the event came with the announcement of a main event between true legends of the sport in Fedor Emelianenko and Quinton “Rampage” Jackson. This co-main event is the second fight confirmed for the show, as it was made official on the Bellator 231 broadcast.
“Iron” Michael Chandler is truly one of the most prolific fighters in the history of Bellator MMA, and quite arguably the best lightweight fighter in the promotion’s history. He is a three-time lightweight champion and his eleven finishes in the organization are the most in company history.
As a 8-0 prospect, Chandler has his real breakthrough in 2011 when he fought the already well-established legend that was Eddie Alvarez for his Bellator lightweight title and defeated Alvarez by way of fourth-round submission. It was one of the best fights of all time, and the two clashed again two years later in another incredible bout, though this time over the course of five rounds.
Since then, Michael Chandler has seen multiple title reigns and defeated the likes of Derek Campos, David Rickels, Patricky Freire, Brandon Girtz, Brent Primus, and, of course, Benson Henderson. When Chandler competes at Bellator Japan, it will be his first fight outside of North America.
Benson “Smooth” Henderson established himself as a contender for one of the best lightweight’s of all time when he defeated Frankie Edgar in two consecutive 2012 bouts. Though only one reign as a lightweight champion within the UFC, Henderson has the same amount of title defenses, three, that Chandler amassed in the span of three separate reigns as champion within Bellator.
The former WEC champion fought in the UFC from 2011 to 2015, and accomplished great things in that period of time. This includes the aforementioned wins over Edgar, clear victories over Clay Guida and Jim Miller, an absolute mauling of cult-hero Nate Diaz, as well as defeating top-ranked Strikerforce rivals Gilbert Melendez and Josh Thomson.
Despite being a lightweight throughout his entire career, “Smooth” left the UFC in 2015 riding a two-fight win streak competing as a welterweight. His final bout in the promotion was a decision win over Jorge Masvidal in South Korea.
Henderson’s Bellator run started off less-than-stellar, though. Going 1-3 in his first four bouts, with his sole win being against a natural featherweight in Patricio Freire after the Brazilian injured himself whilst roughing Henderson up early. Henderson has most recently won four-straight, including wins over Saad Awad, Roger Huerta, and Myles Jury.
Chandler and Henderson first fought in 2016 in what was a five-round title fight. It was an incredibly close fight, and many thought Henderson was robbed of the victory – and the title – that night. Now; he returns to Japan. The last time he fought there? He dethroned the seemingly unbeatable Frankie “The Answer” Edgar. In the same arena he will fight inside of at Bellator Japan, as well!
Bellator Japan will take place on December 29, live from the Saitama Super Arena in Japan. The event will be in co-promotion with RIZIN Fighting Federation, who will host RIZIN 20 in the same venue on December 31.