Michael Chandler


V.22 No.31 |
courtesy of Bellator FC

sports

Bellator 97: two dominant champs dominate

Michael Chandler and Ben Askren did what they do

Funky is Ben Askren’s official knickname. I might suggest "Glue." Or better yet, "Velcro." His tight curly hair looks like one half of that material, and he has a way of sticking to his opponents. He need only make contact with a single point of his opponent, and then he doesn’t let go. He leans on them, tangles them, applies his weight to the exact leverage points to make them work their hardest. He holds them down and hits them.

Askren won the first round while inflicting little damage, but in subsequent rounds he ratcheted up the pressure, eventually out-striking his opponent 293-3 in what seemed like a foregone conclusion. Askren attempted a few submissions, but gave them up when they opened up opportunities to improve his position. Koreshkov came out at the beginning of each subsequent round looking more and more terrified of being taken down. All Askren had to do was fake a takedown and he’d jump backwards. Koreshkov fought gamely at first, but seemed to lose his will.

Perhaps the most dramatic moment was at the beginning of Round 3, when Koreshkov caught Askren with a knee as he shot in for a double leg. It was a good knee, and such a knee is a potential Achilles heel to any wrestler. But if the knee hurt Askren, it wasn’t apparent. He continued doing his thing, which was basically what a cat does to a living mouse. Askren toyed with Koreshkov until he gave up and stopped fighting back, and Askren was awarded the finish by TKO.

“Snap crackle pop,” is how he described his treatment of Koreshkov afterwards, in his post-fight interview with color commentator Jimmy Smith.

It was unarguably a brilliant, dominating performance, but the crowd hadn’t liked it. This is Duke City, after all, and they hadn’t come to watch a wrestling match. During the fight there had been a few half-hearted chants of USA, USA, USA—Koreshkov was, after all, a foreigner—but these were soon drowned by in a sea of boos. This hadn’t been the only wrestling match of the evening. Mohamed “King Mo” Lawal had also dry-humpted his way to a tko victory due to ground strikes.

Perhaps, in hindsight, feeding a wrestler-heavy card to an Albuquerque crowd, following a prelim card that consisted of squash matches where local lambs were sacrificed to Bellator prospects to pad their records and their highlight reels, wasn’t the best idea. And the crowd wasn’t MMA-nerdy enough to appreciate the surprise announcement of Rampage Jackson vs Tito Ortiz, on a November 2nd Pay-per-view. But then, this was a card designed for television. The ABQ fight fans were there to fill the place up, and 3,000 + showed up.

In his post-fight interview, Askren called the crowd communists for booing him, and announced that he’s the best fighter in the world. Ten minutes later, freshly showered, Askren pranced around the cage-side VIP area, completely unmarked, taking thumps-up photos.

The fisticuffs-craving crowd got what it wanted in the final fight, as Michael Chandler quickly and ferociously knocked out David Rickels in 42 seconds to defend his belt. Not much more to say, as it was so quick, except that even in that short window of a performance, it’s clear that Michael Chandler is an explosive, impressive athlete. After the fight Bellator CEO Bjorn Rebney called Chandler the best lightweight in the world. One reason he didn’t say the same about Askren is that he hadn’t just signed Askren to a multi-fight contract, as he had Chandler. Askren, in fact, had just fought his final fight on his current contract.

Askren and Chandler. Two different fighters, two different but dominant performances. Two Bellator champions that could give their UFC counterparts runs for their money.

V.22 No.30 |
courtesy of Bellator FC

sports

The Caveman Cometh

Bellator Fighting Championship returns to Rio Rancho next week

When David “The Caveman” Rickels got the call to face Michael Chandler for the lightweight—155 lb—title at Bellator 97 in Rio Rancho, he weighed 205 lbs. That was in early June. Faced with a 50 pound weight cut, Rickels had to dig deep into his caveman roots. His training regime is based on the paleo approach. Not just the paleo diet, but he actually has a set of metal clubs that he swings around like the savage he claims to be.

“It’s a great workout swinging those clubs. Hitting tires. You can swing them around, above the head, between the legs, like a kettle bell swing. The way you hold them, because of the way the weight is distributed, if you hold it at the end it makes everything way harder. It’s just a different workout. It totally satisfy’s a man’s need to bash on things.”

I asked Rickels if the paleo diet had anything to do with him blowing up to 205 between fights.

“During training, my diet is 95% paleo. Whatever a caveman could walk out and pick up. I don’t do grains, obviously. It’s mostly fruit, vegetables and meat. I do a lot of juicing, too. The cavemen didn’t really have juicers, but that’s where we’ve one-upped them.”

So you train in the paleo era, but when you’re blowing up to 205 you’re more of a Neolithic man?

“I’m basically a paleo eater during training, and then I’m a scavenger, like a great white shark would be, eating anything that I can find, preferably chocolate stuff and fried cream cheese. I really do enjoy my naughty food as much as my healthy kicks.”

When you’re in scavenger mode, eating whatever you can between fights, are there any paleo foods you can’t give up, even when you’re allowed to eat at the Chinese Buffet?

“I love beef jerky, I find it to be a great snack food. Beef jerky and nuts. I really like almonds. That kind of stuff for me is awesome snackage. Nuts bring in a lot of calories so I can’t eat too many of those when I’m training, but that’s something I enjoy. Peanut butter, holy crap, that is the bees’ knees.”

How did you decide that paleo diet would be good for a caveman fighter?

“A couple of my buddies had fights going up, and they were dropping down to lower weight classes. And the paleo diet really worked for them. I was fighting at 170 lbs at the time [welterweight], and I wasn’t really cutting that much weight, so I didn’t pay much mind to it. But when I started dropping down to 155 lbs, I had to cut a lot more weight. That made things different. I was like ‘hey, let me try out this paleo diet, blah blah blah.’ Those first couple cuts I had were really good. I just stick with what works, and it works really well for me.”

Just after he signed on to fight the Bellator champion, Michael Chandler, Rickels found out his girlfriend was pregnant. I asked him what it was like evolving into a family man.

“I used my money from the Bellator tournament to buy a house. We just closed the deal on a house yesterday. I’m really excited about it. It will be where I raise a family. Man, Caveman the family guy. That’s something strange to think about.”

This unexpected development caused Rickels to cancel plans to move his training camp to American Kickboxing Academy in California, in favor of keeping his new family, and his training, closer to home.

“I train at Combative Sports Center in Manhattan Kansas. We have a lot of tough guys in that room. A lot of good wrestlers from Kansas. It’s a good room.”

How is the fight going to play out, July 31st in Rio Rancho?

“I’m gonna do a backflip and kick him him in the face and knock him out in the first ten seconds.”

“Honestly, I think it’s going to be a back and forth war. He’s a really tenatious guy. He doesn’t hold back. Neither to I. One of the things that I do better than a lot of people is I think I’m really good at rising to the occasion. If someone’s pushing me I’ll push back. This is a really interesting fight and I think it’s going to be great one.”

And how does he thank that Michael Chandler will prepare for the Caveman?

“Man I don’t know. He’s been pitching the first pitch at the Padres game, going to Comic Con, doing the VMA thing, the BET video awards, I don’t know what he’s been doing.”

Are you suggesting Chandler might be looking past you?

“I mean maybe. I don’t know. He doesn’t want to lose. He’s got a lot on the line, being the face of Bellator. I mean, I hope he’s looking past me, because when that first punch lands he’ll know he’s in a fist fight.”