Bellator 253: Caldwell vs. McKee Live Coverage

Bellator will finish one half of their Featherweight Grand Prix bracket on Thursday, as Darrion Caldwell and AJ McKee Jr. will compete for a spot in the grand finals of the bracket.

The fight headlines a nine-fight card from the Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Connecticut, USA. Follow along throughout the evening for live coverage.

A preview of the card can be viewed here.

Quick Results:

Preliminary Card (4:45PM EST) (Youtube)

Bout 1: Sullivan Cauley def. Jason Markland via TKO, Strikes (RD 1, 0:28)

Bout 2: Kaheem Murray def. Baby Slice via Decision, Unanimous

Bout 3: Jay Jay Wilson def. Sergio DeBari via TKO, Strikes (RD 1, 0:20)

Bout 4: Jaleel Willis def. Mark Lemminger via Decision, Unanimous

Bout 5: Jeremy Kennedy def. Matt Bessette via Decision, Unanimous

Main Card (7:00PM EDT) (CBS Sports Network)

Bout 6: Raufeon Stots def. Keith Lee via Decision, Unanimous

Bout 7: Joey Davis def. Bobby Lee via Decision, Unanimous

Bout 8: Jason Jackson def. Benson Henderson via Decision, Unanimous

Bout 9: AJ McKee Jr. def. Darrion Caldwell via Submission, Neck Crank (RD 1, 1:11) (16-0) (Bellator Featherweight Grand Prix Semifinal)

Live Coverage:

Bout 9: Darrion Caldwell (14-3) vs. AJ McKee Jr. (16-0) (Bellator Featherweight Grand Prix Semifinal)

McKee Jr. Submits Caldwell Via Neck Crank To Advance

AJ McKee Jr. moved into the grand finals of the Bellator Featherweight Grand Prix in the main event of Thursday, catching Darrion Caldwell with a neck crank while on his back in the first round.

The finish came abruptly, as the neck crank caused Caldwell to tap in the second minute, out only seconds after he scored a takedown. The rare finish kept McKee Jr. undefeated through 17 fights in his career as a pro.

“I’m the new era, I’m the new wave,” said McKee Jr. in his post-fight interview.

McKee Jr. won in the first two rounds of the tournament via stoppage as well, defeating Derek Campos and Georgi Karakhanyan in 2019.

Caldwell, a former Bellator Bantamweight Champion, defeated Henry Corrales and Adam Borics in the first two rounds of the tournament.

McKee Jr. now awaits his opponent in the grand final of the tournament the other side of the bracket still has its semifinal fight left.

A match between Bellator Featherweight Champion Patricio Pitbull and Emmanuel Sanchez has yet to be booked. The fighters broke into the semifinals a week ago with wins at Bellator 252.

McKee Jr. versus Caldwell play-by-play.

Bout 8: Benson Henderson (28-9) vs. Jason Jackson (12-4) (Welterweight)

Jackson Takes Decision Win Against Henderson

Jason Jackson defeated MMA veteran Benson Henderson in the co-main event, taking a unanimous decision victory. Jackson put together a better all-round performance in the fight, landing a higher volume of strikes and takedowns.

The win is Jackson’s third-straight in Bellator. Previous victories, also decisions, came against Kiichi Kunimoto and Jordan Mein.

Henderson has now lost his last two bouts. He was finished within a round by Michael Chandler in August.

Jackson versus Henderson play-by-play.

Bout 7: Joey Davis (7-0) vs. Bobby Lee (12-4) (Welterweight)

Davis Dominates Lee For Eighth Win

Undefeated Bellator fighter Joey Davis earned his first win of 2020 on the main card, defeating Bobby Lee via unanimous decision.

Davis was able to win all three rounds with takedowns and strikes on the ground. The grinding style neutralized Lee’s attacks through all three rounds.

Lee was unsuccessful in all of his takedowns in the fight.

Davis’ previous fight was a win over Chris Cisneros in December. All eight of his wins have come within Bellator.

Lee claimed a belt in his previous matchup, defeating Mike Hill to become the CFFC Welterweight Champion.

Davis versus Lee play-by-play.

Bout 6: Keith Lee (7-3) vs. Raufeon Stots (14-1) (Bantamweight)

Stots Earns Third-Straight Bellator Win

Raufeon Stots got a unanimous decision victory to kick off the main card, defeating Keith Lee. Stots swept the scorecards after three rounds.

Stots was able to control the fight with numerous takedowns and sharper striking than Lee. There was numerous moments in the fight where both fighters would explode with combinations of strikes.

Stots is now on a three-fight win streak in Bellator. His previous fight was in July, stopping previously undefeated fighter Cass Bell in the third round with a rear naked choke.

Lee had two consecutive Bellator wins prior to Thursday. Earlier in the year he took decision wins over both Shawn Bunch and Vinicius Zani.

Stots versus Lee play-by-play.

Bout 5: Jeremy Kennedy (15-2) vs. Matt Bessette (24-9) (Featherweight)

Kennedy Wins In Bellator Debut

Jeremy Kennedy dominated Matt Bessette to finish the prelims, using his ground control to take all three rounds via decision.

Kennedy was able to score numerous takedowns in the fight, often keeping Bessette down for many minutes at a time. Kennedy nearly finished the fight in the third round with a series of elbows from half guard.

The fight was Kennedy’s first in Bellator after participating in the 2019 PFL season. He finished the season with a record of two wins and one loss.

Bessette was making his return to Bellator in the fight. Before being signed by Bellator, Bessette claimed the CES Featherweight Championship against Charles Cheeks III in January.

Kennedy versus Bessette play-by-play.

Bout 4: Jaleel Willis (13-2) vs. Mark Lemminger (11-2) (Welterweight)

Former LFA Champ Willis Takes Decision Win Over Lemminger

Former LFA Welterweight Champion Jaleel Willis won on the prelims, putting on a strong striking battle against Mark Lemminger for a unanimous decision.

Willis had sharp striking throughout the fight, although Lemminger was able to keep up. Lemminger had large swelling on his face in the third round due to the damage he absorbed.

Lemminger had a good second round, being able to reverse a takedown attempt by Willis to take control on the round. Lemminger looked for a rear naked choke until the round concluded.

Willis was meant to fight in October against Patricky Pitbull, although that fight was pulled at the last minute.

The fight was Lemminger’s third in Bellator recently. He fought twice for the promotion in the summer, defeating Jake Smith and losing a bout to undefeated Yaroslav Amosov.

Willis versus Lemminger play-by-play.

Bout 3: Jay Jay Wilson (6-0) vs. Sergio DeBari (5-1) (Featherweight)

Wilson Stops DeBari In Only 20 Seconds, Remains Undefeated

Jay Jay Wilson remained undefeated with a brutal finish victory over Sergio DeBari on the prelims. Wilson floored DeBari with a right hook in the opening minute, ending the fight moments after with strikes on the ground.

DeBari was not present for the official ruling of the fight afterwards.

“I’ve been envisioning this for the past week,” said Wilson about the fight in his post-fight interview.

Wilson has won all of his fights in Bellator, with five of them in the first round. The win on Thursday was his second finish due to strikes.

Wilson went to the scorecards for the first time in July, defeating Tywan Claxton via split decision.

DeBari was making his Bellator debut in the fight. He had four-straight wins on the regional scene before Thursday.

Wilson versus DeBari play-by-play.

Bout 2: Baby Slice (3-2) vs. Kaheem Murray (3-3) (Lightweight)

Murray Wins Bellator Debut, Evens Slice’s Bellator Record

Kaheem Murray won his Bellator debut on the prelims, defeating Kevin Ferguson Jr., also known as Baby Slice. Murray won the fight with his ability to out-strike Slice throughout.

Murray’s best round was the second, being able to drop Slice to his knees with punches at one point.

Murray had lost his previous fight, being caught in a rear naked choke by LJ Reboli on the regional scene.

Slice, the son of Kimbo Slice, has now fought seven times in Bellator, resulting in three wins, three losses and one no contest.

Murray versus Slice play-by-play.

Bout 1: Sullivan Cauley (0-0) vs. Jason Markland (0-1) (Light Heavyweight)

Cauley Wins Pro Debut In 28 Seconds

Sullivan Cauley had an explosive pro debut to start the prelims, stopping Jason Markland in less than 30 seconds with strikes.

Cauley dropped Markland early with a right cross. He landed ground and pound afterwards until the referee intervened to stop the fight.

The fight was Markland’s second-straight loss as a pro. His previous fight, his pro debut, was in Bellator as well.

Cauley versus Markland play-by-play.

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