Corey Anderson carries the look of a big fish in a somewhat smaller pond after leaving the Ultimate Fighting Championship to sign a multi-fight contract with Bellator MMA.
“The Ultimate Fighter” Season 19 winner made a strong first impression in his Bellator 251 promotional debut on Nov. 5, as he put away Melvin Manhoef with a volley of second-round elbows. Anderson, 31, has rattled off five wins across his last six appearances and figures to move into contention for Bellator’s light heavyweight title sooner rather than later. The next six to 12 months will reveal much about the trajectory of the Rockford, Illinois, native’s career.
As Anderson awaits word on his next assignment, a look at some of the moments that have come to define him:
1. A Dose of Reality
Anderson took care of Alliance MMA’s Matt Van Buren with a flurry of first-round punches in “The Ultimate Fighter” Season 19 light heavyweight final on July 6, 2014 at the Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas. Van Buren wilted 61 seconds into Round 1, having absorbed copious amounts of punishment. Anderson let his hands fly, and the results were devastating. The Ricardo Almeida protégé rattled Van Buren with a multi-punch combination, backed it up with a takedown and unleashed some ground-and-pound for good measure. Van Buren managed to return to an upright position, at which point he was met with more fist-to-face contact and another takedown. He turtled at Anderson’s feet and did not react to referee Mario Yamasaki’s call to defend himself.
2. Speed Bump
Former Ring of Combat champion Gian Villante put away the previously unbeaten Anderson with an overhand right and follow-up punches in the third round of their UFC on Fox 15 undercard tilt on April 8, 2015 at the Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey. Villante sealed the deal 4:18 into Round 3. Anderson had no answer for the outside leg kicks the Strikeforce veteran brought to bear. The sustained punishment left him visibly compromised, even though he managed to keep himself in the fight. Anderson capitalized on decreased output from his counterpart in the second and third rounds, as he punched well in combination and began to change the complexion of the bout. However, in the final minute of Round 3, Villante let fly with an overhand right to the temple that had the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater alum out on his feet. Two more rights followed on the defenseless but still-standing Anderson before referee Liam Kerrigan saw fit to intervene.
3. Pole Position
Takedowns and punishing ground-and-pound carried Anderson to a lopsided unanimous decision over former KSW champion Jan Blachowicz in a UFC 191 light heavyweight showcase on Sept. 5, 2015 at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas. All three cageside judges scored it for Anderson: 30-25, 30-25 and 29-26. Blachowicz connected with a few punches and executed a takedown of his own early in Round 1, but the Pole’s situation deteriorated from there. Anderson closed the distance, took it to the mat and went to work. Blachowicz slowly broke. Anderson fed him a steady diet of elbows, forearm strikes and short punches from full guard and half guard in what amounted to a comprehensive beatdown.
4. Chin Check
Strikeforce veteran Ovince St. Preux knocked out Anderson with a spectacular head kick in the third round of their UFC 217 prelim on Nov. 4, 2017 at Madison Square Garden in New York. A short-notice fill-in for Patrick Cummins, St. Preux drew the curtain 1:25 into Round 3. Anderson enjoyed long stretches of success, as he bullied his way into the clinch, secured takedowns and assaulted the former University of Tennessee linebacker with ground-and-pound. Momentum appeared to be in his corner at the start of the third round, but one swing of St. Preux’s mighty left leg changed everything. Shin met skull in the center of the cage, instantly freezing Anderson where he stood. No follow-up shots were required. The result left Anderson at a crossroads, and he responded with consecutive victories over Cummins, Glover Teixeira, Ilir Latifi and Johnny Walker.
5. Change Spurred
Blachowicz avenged a 2015 defeat and staked his claim as the No. 1 contender in the Ultimate Fighting Championship’s light heavyweight division by knocking out Anderson in the first round of their UFC Fight Night 167 headliner on Feb. 15, 2020 at the Santa Ana Star Center in Rio Rancho, New Mexico. Blachowicz brought the rematch to an emphatic close 3:08 into Round 1. After a tepid start, Anderson marched toward the Polish powerhouse. A sweeping right hook sent him crashing to the canvas, where he was met with a brutal standing-to-ground hammerfist before referee Herb Dean stepped in to wave off the action. The loss ultimately spurred Anderson’s move to Bellator.