It’s been about a week since it was announced that Eugene, Oregon fighter Brent Primus would be facing Michael Chandler for the lightweight title at Bellator 180 on June 24th at Madison Square Garden. Some seemed surprised by the decision to slot the 7-0 Oregonian up against the likes of Chandler. Primus is not yet a household name and with only 7 fights to his credit, his relative inexperience is tough to overlook. That being said, his career trajectory is incredibly similar to Chandler’s and some would argue that he is in a perfect position to play spoiler to the defending champ.
When a young Michael Chandler was making his way up the rankings, his early fights were quick and decisive. Through his first 6 fights, he had 6 finishes, 5 of them coming in the first round. He followed up that run with his two hard fought fights, a decision win against Lloyd Woodard and another decision win against Patricky “Pit-bull” Freire. Following these two decision victories, he would get his first chance to fight for the lightweight title. He upset then champion Eddie Alvarez and with just nine fights to his credit, he was the new lightweight king. Now, 10 fights later, Chandler stands 16-3 with the belt firmly strapped to his waist.
Enter, Brent Primus. Primus, much like Chandler, has made waves in the early part of his career. Through his first 5 fights, Primus had 5 straight first round finishes. He followed that run with two hard fought fights, a decision win against Derek Anderson and another decision win against Gleristone Santos. Following these two victories, he is now getting his first chance to fight for the lightweight title. Sound familiar? Primus has essentially matched Chandler step for step to this point in his career. Chandler certainly understands this and has gone on record saying he was offered a very similar shot when he faced Alvarez and that he is not taking Primus lightly. However, he has also said that he expects Bellator officials to bring in top talent to face him in the future. If that isn’t looking past your opponent I don’t know what is.
As far as major differences between Chandler and Primus are concerned, there are two main points to address. First, both fighters have strong grappling backgrounds but each in a different discipline. Chandler was an NCAA Division-I All American at the University of Missouri while Primus is a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt under Wellington “Megaton” Dias. Chandler is clearly the better pure wrestler but the overall grappling advantage might go to Primus. His submission skills far outweigh Chandler’s, and he trains with many of the top wrestlers in the state of Oregon, which will help him to defend against the control and pressure of Chandler. The other big difference here is age. When Chandler got his first shot at the lightweight title, he was just 25 years old. His relative inexperience showed in the fight even though he able to leave the cage victorious. Fast forward 6 years and Primus will be getting his first shot at the age of 32. While this may seem like a minor difference, it could pay off greatly for Primus should the fight become mentally taxing. He is one year older than Chandler currently and with both fighters being in their athletic prime, this could easily turn into a fight that forces mental errors.
Experience is something that Michael Chandler might look to lean on come June 24th. Both his time in the spotlight and his time in the cage will help him against Primus. But Primus has a veteran moxie that many fighters getting their first title shot don’t have. Having spent time training with Donald Cerrone at the BMF Ranch and the team at Gracie Barra Portland, Primus has surrounded himself with veteran talent from the highest level of the sport. History has a funny way of repeating itself; don’t be surprised if Primus becomes the prime example of that at Bellator 180.