Former Bellator featherweight champion AJ McKee made his lightweight debut in the co-main event of Bellator 286 on Saturday night. McKee's 155-pound debut was anything but easy, but he managed to survive a wild challenge from Spike Carlyle to score a unanimous decision win and announce his arrival in the new weight class.
Carlyle came out wild, throwing a variety of wild strikes, including an attempt at a flying knee before winging wild punches. McKee was willing to fire his own shots back in the exchange. The fight quickly hit the ground with Carlyle ending up on top.
Carlyle avoided some early submission attempts from McKee before ending up on top and advancing position to end up inside McKee's half-guard.
As Carlyle tried to regain control after McKee manage to scramble, McKee managed to take the back and gain full mount before looking for a rear-naked choke. Carlyle stubbornly managed to roll through McKee on his back to end up in top position as a wild opening round came to a close.
McKee looked to press his advantage in the technical grappling spaces in the second round, nearly locking in an anaconda choke. Carlyle was able to survive the scare and make it to the end of the round.
Facing a seemingly-exhausted Carlyle in the final round, McKee managed a takedown early in the round before an elbow opened a cut over Carlyle's right eye.
McKee refused to back off before Carlyle attempted to scramble and take top position. McKee nearly took top position, but a combination of Carlyle's blood and sweat allowed him to escape a guillotine choke and briefly take top position before McKee managed to retain said dominant position.
As time ran out, McKee locked in a rear-naked choke after battling to back control. Carlyle was able to make it to the final bell. However, the moral victory was all that was to be had for Carlyle as McKee took the unanimous decision win on the official scorecards with scores of 29-26, 30-26 and 30-27.
With the victory, McKee rebounded from his first career loss, a unanimous decision defeat at the hands of Patricio Pitbull. The loss to Pitbull cost McKee the featherweight title, a belt he'd won with a quick technical submission over Pitbull that won McKee the 145-pound title in the finals of the Bellator Featherweight World Grand Prix.
Now in the lightweight division, McKee made it clear he had his sights set on capturing a second million-dollar check as the 155-pound division is ready for a tournament.
"Ain't nothing like a two-timer," McKee said when asked about participating in the upcoming Bellator Lightweight World Grand Prix.