In the co-main event of UFC 257, Michael Chandler will make his long-awaited UFC debut against top contender Dan ‘The Hangman’ Hooker!
Chandler has become the 8th Bellator champion to sign with the UFC and fans are excited to see if he can swim with the sharks that make up the organization’s stacked 155-pound weight class. Chandler’s debut will mark the first time since 2011 that he’s been the betting underdog. Although respected by his peers and the MMA community, there is a sense of doubt about the strength of his competition in Bellator. And when looking back on past champions who made the walk before him we can see the results have been mixed.
UFC Fighters from Bellator
- HECTOR LOMBARD – UFC record: 3-8, 1 NC
In 2012 Hector Lombard was the Bellator middleweight champion, he was 24-0-1 in his last 25 fights and 8-0 inside the Bellator cage. When he became a free agent the UFC promptly signed the Cuban-Australian to a long-term contract. His first fight in the promotion was a co-main event slot against Tim Boetsch at UFC 149.
In an underwhelming performance, Lombard lost to Boetsch by a split decision. After going 1-1 in his next two outings the stocky fighter decided to drop to welterweight. Lombard briefly established himself as a contender in the division, defeating the likes of Jake Shields and Nate Marquardt. However, a 2015 drug test failure marked the beginning of the end of his UFC career. After serving his year’s suspension Lombard would go on to lose his next six fights before being released by the promotion.
- ZACH MAKOVSKY – UFC record: 3-4
Zach “Fun Size” Makovsky was the first-ever Bellator bantamweight champion, winning the title back in 2010. After leaving Bellator Makovsky dropped down to flyweight and made his UFC debut in 2013 against Scott Jorgensen. Makovsky was victorious and even went on to defeat eventual TUF winner Tim Elliott. But competitive decision losses to the best fighters in the division such as Joe Benavidez and John Dodson kept the former Bellator champion just out of reach of a title shot during the legendary reign of Demetrious Johnson.
- JOE SOTO – UFC record: 3-5
Joe Soto became the inaugural Bellator featherweight champion in 2009 before an eventual move to bantamweight. He signed with the UFC in 2014 and was initially scheduled to face fellow UFC debutant Anthony Birchak on the preliminary card. The event was supposed to be headlined by the rematch between newly crowned champion TJ Dillashaw and Renan Barao but on the day of the weigh-ins, Barao withdrew. This led to Soto getting the call to headline the PPV and fight the champion the next day, a once in a lifetime opportunity. Little was expected of Soto but his performance exceeded expectations, he fought well and lasted until the fifth round — an especially impressive feat given he only had a three-round camp.
- EDDIE ALVAREZ – UFC record: 4-3, 1 NC
Eddie Alvarez is without a doubt the most successful Bellator fighter to ever crossover to the UFC. He still holds the distinction of being the only fighter to win championships in both the UFC and Bellator. After losing his UFC debut to Cowboy Cerrone in 2014, ‘The Underground King’ put together back to back wins over Anthony Pettis and Gilbert Melendez to earn a shot at the UFC lightweight championship. Rising to the occasion, Alvarez rocked Rafael Dos Anjos on the feet and put the champion away with follow up strikes in the opening round.
A few months later Alvarez was scheduled to defend his title against then-featherweight champion Conor McGregor at UFC 205. The event marked the UFC’s first trip to Madison Square Garden after New York had finally lifted their ban on the sport. Alvarez was soundly defeated by the Irishman. However the following year Alvarez defeated then-undefeated Justin Gaethje in a ‘Fight of the Year’ performance. The last fight on his UFC contract was against the rising Dustin Poirier, he lost that fight and subsequently signed with ONE Championship.
- WILL BROOKS – UFC record: 1-3
Will Brooks was the Bellator lightweight champion, a title he defended twice before signing with the UFC. After a tepid, albeit successful debut against perennial gatekeeper Ross Pearson, Brooks was ranked the 11th UFC contender. But his ascension into the top ten came to a halt in his second fight after getting stopped by an overweight Alex Oliveira.
His third outing saw him tapped out by Charles Oliveira in the first round. The UFC then gave him a step down in competition for the last fight of his contract against Nik Lentz. Brooks was once again submitted and subsequently let go by the UFC.
- ALEXANDER VOLKOV – UFC record: 6-2
Alexander Volkov entered Bellator’s heavyweight tournament in 2012, winning the title later that year. After a few years with the promotion he left and had a two-fight stint in M-1 until signing with the UFC in 2016. Volkov started his UFC career with a 4-fight win streak that culminated towards the main card matchup with Derrick Lewis. A late knockout by Lewis put an end to Volkov’s winning streak but the Russian fighter has since gone 2-1 and remains a top ten heavyweight.
Volkov has more UFC wins under his belt than other Bellator champion and he’s currently scheduled to headline an event against Alistair Overeem on February 6th.
- BEN ASKREN – UFC record: 1-2
Ben Askren signed with the UFC in 2019 after a surprising trade deal with ONE Championship. Askren had previously retired from the sport in 2017 with an 18-0 record. As a dominant champion in both Bellator and ONE, fans were eager to finally see the wrestler tested. And on the main card of UFC 235, the fans got just that.
After surviving a disastrous opening minute against Robbie Lawler, Askren managed to rally back from the brink of defeat and catch Lawler in a bulldog choke. Askren gained a lot of momentum with the win but it all came to a violent end in his second outing. At UFC 239 Jorge Masvidal landed a flying knee that rendered Askren unconscious in just five seconds — setting the UFC record for the fastest knockout. Askren made the walk once more a few months later when he fought fellow grappler Demian Maia. He lost the back and forth fight by submission and decided to once again hang up the gloves.
The combined UFC record for Bellator champions is 21 wins with 27 losses for a 43.7% win rate. However, their cumulative subpar record is deceiving at first glance given that nearly half of their opponents were former UFC champion or title challenger. This shows that when Bellator champions make the foray into the UFC they’re not brought up slowly, instead they’re thrown in the deep end where they either sink or swim.
The questions surrounding Chandler’s place in the division will be a developing narrative heading into UFC 257. But if he can secure a win over Hooker it will assure him a top ten ranking and place him on the shortlist of contenders vying for their shot at the UFC lightweight crown.