AJ McKee stretched his unbeaten streak to 17-0 as he moved into the final of the Bellator Featherweight Grand Prix with a brilliant submission win over Darrion Caldwell.
McKee secured the first-round win with a neck crank that brought a quick stoppage to the main event of Thursday’s fight card at Bellator 253.
“I like to put a lot of leverage,” McKee said afterward. “You know me, it’s all about the angles. You have the right angle, you can make anything work.”
McKee, 25, will face the winner of the second semi-final between Emmanuel Sanchez and champion Patricio ‘Pitbull’ Freire.
“That’s the beginning of the beginning,” McKee said. “A childhood dream. I wrote myself a million-dollar check, and I look forward to cashing it. ‘Pitbull,’ even if you don’t make it, I’m coming for my 50-pound title. It’s nothing personal, it’s just business.”
He added: “It’s the stats for me, being the best of the best. Kobe (Bryant) had how many threes? For me, it’s the stats. How many finishes, how many are in the first round? I think that’s 12 finishes, 10 in the first round. For me it’s all stats man, it’s all about the stats.”
In the co-headliner, former UFC lightweight champion Benson Henderson was outmuscled by Jason Jackson.
Bellator 253: Caldwell vs McKee Main Card
AJ McKee (17-0) bt. Darrion Caldwell (15-4) via submission (neck crank) at 1:11 of round one
Jason Jackson (13-4) bt Benson Henderson (28-10) via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)
Joey Davis (8-0) bt Bobby Lee (12-5) via unanimous decision (30-26, 30-27, 30-27)
Raufeon Stots (15-1) bt Keith Lee (7-4) via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)
Jeremy Kennedy (16-2, 1 NC) bt Matt Bessette (24-10, 1 NC) via unanimous decision (30-26, 30-26, 30-27)
Jaleel Willis (14-2) bt Mark Lemminger (11-3) via unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28)
Jay-Jay Wilson (7-0) bt Sergio de Bari (5-2) via KO (punch) at :20 of round one
Kaheem Murray (4-3) bt Baby Slice (3-3, 1 NC) via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)
Sullivan Cauley (1-0) bt Jason Markland (0-2) via TKO (punches) at :28 of round one