Bellator 165 preview: Benson Henderson fights Michael Chandler for LW title
Benson Henderson (24-6) is looking to create some MMA history of his own on Saturday night at Bellator 165, when he fights lightweight champion Michael Chandler (15-3). If he wins the belt, he'll become the first person to win titles in the WEC, UFC and Bellator.
Henderson's potential achievement has flown under the radar somewhat, but Chandler isn't an easy fight. Chandler is a two-time lightweight champion who has held the belt longer than anyone other than former UFC lightweight champion Eddie Alvarez.
"If you look at both those guys, between Michael and Benson, they've fought everybody," Bellator president Scott Coker told SI.com. "They've been a champion in all leagues and it's pretty crazy to look at the lineup that these guys have all fought.
"I think you're going to see a certain amount of swagger between those two guys. They're both very confident and when you have the skill set that both those guys have, and that confidence, that little chip on their shoulder, and they both feel like they need to deliver, I think you're going to see a spectacular fight."
Henderson earned the title shot in a controversial win over Patrício Freire in late August. Freire was forced to end the fight after suffering a leg injury, giving Henderson his first Bellator win after losing his debut to Andrey Koreshkov in a welterweight title fight.
Star to Watch: MVP
All eyes will be on Michael "Venom" Page (11-0), who also goes by the perfect acronym of MVP. Page is an undefeated lightweight contender from England who aspires to be the Michael Jordan of MMA and is facing a tough test in veteran Fernando Gonzalez (25-13).
"He has proven a lot of doubters wrong and I think Fernando is going to be the toughest test to date," Coker said of the match up. "This is a guy that is going to just keep coming at him, but the other side of that coin is that Michael has always stepped up and delivered in spectacular fashion.
"The guy is charismatic and has a lot of skill, he has the karate background that a lot of people underestimate. I think he has really become a big, big star in MMA with a huge social media following. The sky is the limit, but I think Fernando is going to have something to say about that."
Page is known for his taunting style in the cage, dancing around and daring his opponents to test him. He's also grabbed attention for some elaborate celebrations -- after a recent victory, he put on a Pokemon hat and rolled a ball at an opponent who lay on the mat after suffering a vicious knee to the head.
Page didn't know the extent of the injury to his opponent at the time, but Bellator doesn't plan on getting him to tone down his personality.
"We like to let the guys have a good time, down the ramp and after the fight is over," Coker said. "Michael is a showman and likes to put on a show. As long as it's in good taste and not something that is offensive to the public, I don't see why we wouldn't let it continue."
If Page wins, a lot of people think it's time for Bellator to stop slow-walking him through the division and up the rankings, and to potentially give him a title fight.
"I think that if he wins in spectacular fashion, I don't see how you can deny a guy like that taking it to the next step, which is a title contention or close to it," Coker said.
Prelims: Debut of Kimbo Slice Jr.
The card also marks the debut of Kevin Ferguson Jr. (0-0), the son of legendary fighter Kimbo Slice, fighting in the featured preliminary bout.
"He seems like a real genuine kid and his father was a real genuine guy," Coker said. "There are a lot of similarities, and sometimes I have to take a double take in the back at the fights. He kind of has that aura like his father."
Ferguson, who uses the nickname "Baby Slice," is fighting Aaron Hamilton in his professional debut. Not many fighters step into their pro careers in one of the largest and most prestigious MMA organizations in the world.
"The son has a long road to climb and a lot of weight on his shoulder as Kimbo's son," Coker admitted. "We wanted to give him the opportunity because we feel like Kimbo is part of the family and Kimbo Slice Jr is part of the family.
"We wanted to give him the opportunity to see if this is something he can excel in. He is in a great camp with some great fighters and he is doing it right. He is really taking the time to train to become a mixed martial arts fighter."
The main card airs on SPIKE TV at 9 p.m. ET. The prelims will be streamed online below on SI.com beginning at 6:50 p.m. ET.
Main Card: (Live on SPIKE – 9 p.m. ET/8:00 p.m. CT)
Lightweight World Title Fight: Benson Henderson (154.9) vs. Michael Chandler (155)
Welterweight Co-Main Event: Fernando Gonzalez (171) vs. Michael Page (170.8)
Light Heavyweight Bout: Francis Carmont (206.6) vs. Linton Vassell (205.2)
Flyweight Bout: Sheila Padilla (115.1) vs. Keri-Anne Taylor-Melendez (116)
Lightweight Bout: Brandon Girtz (155.4) vs. Adam Piccolotti (155)
Preliminary Card: (Bellator.com – 6:50 p.m. ET/5:50 p.m. CT)
Welterweight Bout: Kevin Ferguson Jr. (164.6) vs. Aaron Hamilton (165)
Lightweight Bout: Carrington Banks (155.2) vs. Jake Roberts (156)
Middleweight Bout: Diego Herzog (183.8) vs. Nick Pica (185.5)
Bantamweight Bout: Jeremiah Labiano (140.3) vs. Vince Murdock (144.6)
Welterweight Bout: James Terry (170.8) vs. Justin Baesman (170.5)
Bantamweight Bout: Alvin Cacdac (131.9) vs. Steve Gruber (129.4)
Lightweight Bout: J.J. Okanovich (156) vs. Luis Vargas (156)
Featherweight Bout: Victor Jones (154.7) vs. Beau Hamilton (155.7)
Lightweight Bout: Hugo Lujan (155.5) vs. Cesar Gonzalez (155.5)
Welterweight “VOW” Bout: Dominic Sumner (169.2) vs. Justin Roswell (170.7)
Welterweight Bout: Danasabe Mohammed (170.1) vs. Dwight Grant (170.3)
Flyweight Bout: Sarah D’Alelio (125.9) vs. Jaimelene Nievera (125.7)