Bellator Japan: Sidney Outlaw is the fighter to watch

Sidney Outlaw is stepping in last-minute against a former champion and in the co-main event has an opportunity to open up many eyes within MMA.

Bellator Japan was hit with a big change when former UFC champion, Benson Henderson was forced off the card due to injury. Henderson was scheduled for a highly anticipated rematch with another former champion in Michael Chandler. They battled back in 2016 to a split decision win for Chandler and this fight brought excitement to the card. Unfortunately, Henderson was replaced by a fighter that may not be well-known across mainstream circles, but Sidney Outlaw is poised to take advantage of this opportunity to shock the MMA community.

At 33-years old Chandler has faced a wealth of up-and-down moments in the Bellator cage. He’s coming off a first-round TKO defeat at the hands of Patricio Freire at Bellator 221 earlier this year. The Missouri-native is one of the top home-grown talents in Bellator, but there are questions about how much longer he can remain at the top of the lightweight ladder. That is a question that Outlaw is positioned to test on December 28.

Outlaw made his Bellator debut back in November when he defeated Roger Huerta at Bellator 234. Throughout that fight, he controlled the positioning with a wrestling attack that kept Huerta on his back. While there, Outlaw mixed in strikes in hopes of opening the door to pass the guard, take the back and submit. This is an aspect of Outlaw’s game that he’s leaned upon to build his 14-3 professional record. That style has helped him up to this point in his career, but he’s taking a huge step up when he walks into the cage on Saturday.

For Outlaw to find victory he will have to deal with Chandler’s overwhelming pressure. Unlike Huerta, Chandler is not one to throw one strike at a time. Instead, he tries to swarm his opponents and force them into making mistakes. Outlaw either will weather those moments or look for openings to secure the takedown. Chandler is a great MMA wrestler in his own right, so the route to getting the fight on the ground for Outlaw is in the moments he can catch Chandler overextending himself on strikes. Outlaw doesn’t want to spend too much time on the feet with Chandler because that’s one area where the former champion will hold an advantage.

Once the fight hits the ground, that is where the tables may change in Outlaw’s favor. He trains under Dante Rivera which is a branch of the Ricardo Almeida/Renzo Gracie Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu lineage. He has seven submissions in his career, which shows that he knows how to look for the finish. What’s interesting about those finishes is that many of them come early in the fight; with his latest submission win occurring late in the third-round back in 2013. Chandler has shown that he’s one who doesn’t tire and instead expects his opponents to wilt first. If Outlaw can survive the early flurries from Chandler, look for him to continually attempt to take the fight to the ground where he will have the perceived advantage.

Bellator Japan takes place on Dec. 28, 2019 live from the Saitama Super Arena in Saitama, Japan. Follow along with FanSided MMA for all your live results and highlights.