UNCASVILLE, Conn. – Like many viewers at home, Scott Coker was stunned by A.J. McKee’s unusual finish in the Bellator 253 main event Thursday.
Against former Bellator bantamweight champion Darrion Caldwell, McKee (17-0 MMA, 17-0 BMMA) pulled off a rare, modified neck crank from guard en route to a 71-second victory in the promotion’s featherweight grand prix semifinals.
“I never have seen a submission like that,” Coker told MMA Junkie at a post-fight news conference. “The new name is the ‘McKee-otine?’ That’s the first time for me. I’ve seen all different cranks. It took me a second to figure it out.
“I said to John McCarthy afterward, I said, ‘John, did you see it coming?’ He said, ‘I saw it coming.’ But I said to Josh Thomson, I said, ‘Josh did you see it coming? He said, ‘No, I didn’t see it developing.’ It was a very slick move. It was a very, very slick move against a seasoned veteran in our former champ who’s been fighting for a long time. Hat’s off to McKee.”
With the victory, McKee remains undefeated and advances to the tournament final, where he’ll meet the winner of Bellator featherweight champion Patricio Freire and Emmanuel Sanchez in 2021.
Neither the remaining semifinal fight nor the subsequent final matchup have hard dates yet, but the Bellator president offered up the promotion’s rough timeline.
“There’s a lot riding on the line and I know everybody is going to ask me so I might as well just bring it up: the time frame,” Coker said. “Look, I want to get that other fight done (at) the end of January. At the end of March, we’ll try to get this fight on. We’ll try to get the finals on.”
Whenever Freire (31-4 MMA, 19-4 BMMA) and Sanchez (20-4 MMA, 12-3 BMMA) fight, it will be the second time they’ve competed against one another. In November 2018, Friere defeated Sanchez by unanimous decision in a featherweight title defense.
McKee has finished all three of his tournament bouts thus far. After knocking out Georgi Karakhanyan in eight seconds in the opening tournament round, McKee submitted Derek Campos to advance to the matchup with Caldwell.
Bellator 254 took place Thursday at Mohegan Sun Arena. The main card aired on CBS Sports Network after prelims on MMA Junkie.