Bellator 253: Caldwell vs. McKee Preview

Bellator will find the first finalist in their Featherweight Grand Prix on Thursday, as Darrion Caldwell will fight undefeated AJ McKee Jr.

The fight headlines a nine-bout card from the Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Connecticut, USA. Here’s a preview of all the action.

Click here for a preview of the main card.

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

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

The preliminary card will start with the pro debut of Sullivan Cauley, who will fight Jason Markland. Per Tapology, Cauley had an amateur record of four wins and two losses from 2018 to 2019. Sullivan was first scheduled to fight Mark Glover, who would have been making his pro debut as well.

Markland lost his pro debut in 2019, being stopped in the second minute by Pat McCrohan on a Bellator card.

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

Kevin Ferguson Jr., better known as Baby Slice, will return on the prelims when matched against Kaheem Murray. Slice’s last fight was in October of 2019 against Craig Campbell. While the fight was first ruled a first-minute stoppage victory for Slice, it was eventually overturned due to strikes hitting the back of Campbell’s head.

Slice has a record of three wins and two losses since his pro debut in 2016.

Murray will be making his Bellator debut in the fight. He lost his last matchup, being caught in the third round with a rear naked choke by LJ Reboli.

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

Undefeated featherweight Jay Jay Wilson will return on the prelims when matched against Sergio DeBari. Wilson earned his third Bellator win in July, taking a split decision over Tywan Claxton.

DeBari enters Bellator after four-straight wins on the regional scene, three of which took place in CFFC.

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

Former LFA Welterweight Champion Jaleel Willis will make his Bellator debut on the prelims against Mark Lemminger.

Willis finished his regional MMA run in August, defeating Vinicius de Jesus via decision to claim LFA’s vacant belt. The fight was his fourth-straight win.

Lemminger had a busy summer, fighting twice for Bellator within a month’s time. He made his Bellator debut in July, stopping Jake Smith in the second round with strikes.

Lemminger lost in a quick turnaround to Yaroslav Amosov in August, with a doctor stoppage in-between the first and second round causing the fight to end.

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

The preliminary card will finish with a fight between former CES Featherweight Champion Matt Bessette and former UFC fighter Jeremy Kennedy.

Kennedy is entering Bellator after participating in the 2019 season of PFL. Kennedy won two fights and lost one win the season, with a fourth fight against Daniel Pineda being voided due to a drug test failure on Pineda’s part.

Kennedy had a UFC run from 2016 to 2018, having a record of two wins and one loss in the promotion. His sole loss came against Alexander Volkanovski, who is now the UFC Featherweight Champion.

Bessette, also a former UFC fighter, claimed the CES Featherweight Championship in January with a win over Charles Cheeks III.

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

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

Bantamweights Keith Lee and Raufeon Stots will kick off the main card. The fight was first set to be on the prelims, although it was given a last-minute bump up to the main card on Wednesday.

Lee has won his past two fights in Bellator. After a win in February over Shawn Bunch, Lee returned in September to take a decision victory over Vinicius Zani.

Similarly, Stots’ last two wins have been in Bellator as well. He returned for his first fight of 2020 in July, catching Cass Bell in the third round with a rear naked choke to give him his first loss as a pro.

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

Undefeated welterweight Joey Davis will return for his first fight of the year when he faces Bobby Lee on the main card. Davis has been successful through his entire Bellator career, including five stoppage victories in his seven fights.

The fight will be the Bellator debut for Lee. Lee’s last fight was in September, defeating Mike Hill to become the interim CFFC Welterweight Champion. The four-round performance was a dominant one from lee, sweeping the scorecards in the end.

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

After two-straight wins in Bellator, Jason Jackson will get a crack at a veteran in the co-main event, fighting Benson Henderson. Jackson’s last two wins were decisions, defeating Kiichi Kunimoto and Jordan Mein.

Henderson had a four-fight win streak snapped in his last fight, being finished in the first round by Michael Chandler in August. The fight was the first time Henderson was stopped by strikes since 2014.

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

The main event of the evening will have former Bellator Bantamweight Champion Darrion Caldwell against AJ McKee Jr. in the semifinals of the Bellator Featherweight Grand Prix.

Whoever wins the fight on Thursday night will have some waiting time likely, as the other half of the bracket is still being figured out. Patricio Pitbull and Emmanuel Sanchez won their quarterfinal fights last week, putting them into a semifinal fight that has not been booked yet.

Caldwell has had a strong bounce-back from losing his belt to Kyoji Horiguchi in 2019. He has since won in the first two rounds of the bracket, defeating Henry Corrales and giving Adam Borics his first loss as a pro.

Still undefeated, McKee Jr. has fought his entire 16-fight career in Bellator. He started the tournament with a bang, stopping Georgi Karakhanyan in only eight seconds with a knockout punch. He advanced to the second round in December, catching Derek Campos in the third round with a triangle armbar.

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