Bellator 253 results, highlights: AJ McKee scores stunning first-round submission of Darrion Caldwell

Bellator MMA

In the early moments of his Bellator 253 featherweight main event against AJ McKee, everything was going according to plan for Darrion Caldwell. Then it all went bad very quickly as Caldwell was forced to tap out to a neck crank in the first round. With the win, McKee advances to the finals of the Bellator Featherweight World Grand Prix.

Caldwell, a former NCAA champion wrestler and one of the few men who would hold the wrestling edge over McKee in the cage, was able to hit an early takedown, establishing top position inside the guard of McKee. The two men traded elbows in a brief exchange when Caldwell ducked his head down to the side of McKee.

Sensing an opening in the position, McKee trapped Caldwell's head and began to crank the shoulder. As he put extra pressure on the hold, Caldwell was forced to tap out to the neck crank.

The finish came at the 1:11 mark of the first round.

"As soon as we hit the ground, I immediately thought, 'Alright, I know he's going to try to work elbows,'" McKee said after his victory. "He was real adamant about having his arms on the inside and that told me he was looking to posture up and hit elbows. Alright, control the arms a little bit, look for your elbows, hit him a little bit and show him your power to get him to open up so I could sink something in. After that, he popped his head off to the side a little bit so I locked up the body triangle. From there, under hooks deep and that's all she wrote."

Caldwell will now face the winner of the other semifinal fight between Patricio Pitbull and Emmanuel Sanchez in the finals. The featherweight championship currently held by Pitbull, who also is the current lightweight champion, will be on the line in the fight and McKee delivered a message that even if Pitbull lost to the featherweight title to Sanchez in the semifinals, he'd be looking to meet him at 155 pounds.

"Man, that's the beginning of the beginning. Childhood dream, I wrote myself at 12 years old a $1 million check. I'm looking forward to cashing it in, conquering a title. And, Patricio, even if you don't make it, I'm coming for my 155-pound title, as well. I told you, it's nothing personal, you've got great accolades, but I'm the new era. I'm the new wave."

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Bellator 253 card, results

  • AJ McKee def. Darrion Caldwell via first-round submission (neck crank) -- advances to Featherweight World Grand Prix final
  • Jason Jackson def. Benson Henderson via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)
  • Joey Davis def. Bobby Lee via unanimous decision (30-26, 30-27, 30-27)
  • Raufeon Stots def. Keith Lee via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)
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November 20, 2020, 2:28 AM
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November 20, 2020, 2:27 AM

Caldwell pops up and drops a heavy elbow. McKee traps Caldwell's head and locks up his shoulder and begins to torque from a very unique position and Caldwell is forced to tap out to a neck crank! Shocking finish right there! Official result: AJ McKee def. Darrion Caldwell via submission (neck crank), Round 1.

McKee is throwing elbows off his back, cracking Caldwell on the side and top of his head. 

Darrion Caldwell vs. AJ McKee -- Round 1: McKee throws a side kick that misses seconds after the fight begins. Caldwell drops down for a takedown and has McKee on his back.

It's main event time. Up next: Darrion Caldwell vs. AJ McKee in a semifinal bout in the Bellator Featherweight World Grand Prix.

Official result: Jason Jackson def. Benson Henderson via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)

Henderson tries to lock up a heel hook with moments left in the fight, but Jackson pulls his leg free and the fight is over. This should be an easy Jackson win on the cards.

Henderson falls down after throwing a head kick (he fell after a knee moments before) and Jackson jumps on top of a sprawled Henderson.

Jackson was thinking about a d'arce choke but gave up on the hold, instead settling for a front headlock to control Henderson.

Jackson tries to get to his feet and gives up the back. Henderson takes the back, but Jackson still stands up and ends up on top as they go back to the ground.

Benson Henderson vs. Jason Jackson -- Round 3: Jackson cracks Henderson with a right hand but Henderson comes back with a heavy body punch and then drives through a takedown.

Jackson lands a good knee and then scores another trip takedown as the round comes to a close.

Henderson manages to get back to his feet in a scramble and he has a body lock behind Jackson on the feet but Jackson rolls through and now he has the body lock behind Henderson.

Henderson gets back to standing and Jackson uses a trip to take him right back down, now seemingly wanting to engage in a grappling match.

Jackson almost locks up a choke, but Henderson rolls and manages to escape and they are still on the ground with Jackson on top.

Henderson is staying active off his back and making Jackson defend against potential submissions.

Henderson tries for a single-leg but Jackson uses his strength to just reverse the attempt and put Henderson on his back.

Benson Henderson vs. Jason Jackson -- Round 2: Henderson is throwing a lot of kicks early in the round, to the legs and trying to connect to the head, though Jackson is picking them off with his gloves when Henderson goes high.

Jackson knocks Henderson down with a backfist with just seconds left in the round and that should secure the round for him on the scorecards.

Jackson again lands a glancing head kick and then cracks Henderson with a big left hook.

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