Quinton Jackson has some self-examination ahead of him.
The former Ultimate Fighting Championship light heavyweight titleholder showed up for his Bellator 175 main event with Muhammed Lawal at 253 pounds and lost a unanimous decision to “King Mo” on Friday at the Allstate Arena in Rosemont, Illinois. All three cageside judges scored it 29-28 for Lawal, who avenged his controversial 2014 loss to “Rampage” and rebounded from his Dec. 29 defeat to Mirko Filipovic.
While Lawal has already been handed his next assignment -- he will face Ryan Bader at Bellator 180 on June 24 -- Jackson’s immediate future seems far less certain. A return to his natural weight class would probably be in his best interest. The loss to Lawal inspired little in terms of confidence and snapped a five-fight winning streak that stretched back more than four years. Perhaps most importantly, Jackson turns 39 in June and has piled up the miles on the odometer.
In the aftermath of Bellator 175, here are four matches that ought to be made (online sportsbooks):
Quinton Jackson vs. Liam McGeary-Linton Vassell loser: While Jackson has compiled a 4-1 record since signing on Bellator MMA’s dotted line in 2013, he has yet to fight for a title and has not established a definite direction moving forward. The 38-year-old Memphis, Tennessee, native might find sweeter fruit in Bellator’s light heavyweight division, which has been beefed up by the acquisitions of the aforementioned Bader and reigning champion Phil Davis. McGeary and Vassell will lock horns at Bellator 179 on May 19 in London.
Sergei Kharitonov vs. Fedor Emelianenko-Matt Mitrione winner: Kharitonov rebounded from his surprising knockout loss to Javy Ayala in spectacular fashion, as he mowed down onetime Titan Fighting Championship titleholder Chase Gormley with a nasty two-punch combination in the first round of their heavyweight showcase. The Russian paratrooper has won six of his seven bouts since he submitted to a Josh Barnett arm-triangle choke in the Strikeforce heavyweight grand prix semifinals in 2011. Kharitonov, 36, now sports 23 finishes among his 24 career victories. Emelianenko will meet Mitrione in the Bellator 180 co-main event on June 24 in New York.
Emmanuel Sanchez vs. Noad Lahat: Were it not for his failure to make weight, Sanchez might have found himself in title contention at 145 pounds. Nevertheless, the Roufusport standout improved to 7-2 in Bellator with his three-round unanimous decision over Marcos Galvao and kept alive his hopes of fighting for featherweight gold. Sanchez, 26, carried all three scorecards with 30-27 marks and has rattled off back-to-back wins since his Bellator 159 loss to former M-1 Global champion Daniel Weichel in July. Lahat, meanwhile, has begun to fulfill some of the promise that accompanied his arrival in the UFC three years ago. Now anchored at Xtreme Couture in Las Vegas, the Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt recorded his second straight submission with a rear-naked choke on Lloyd Carter.
Steve Kozola vs. Adam Piccolotti: Kozola raised the value of his stock considerably in the 155-pound weight class, as he moved to a perfect 8-0 with his 28-second blowout of MMA Lab export Jake Roberts. The 27-year-old Naperville, Illinois, native has finished all eight of his opponents, five of them in the first round, and has started to make waves as one of Bellator’s most promising young lightweights. Piccolotti, who has spent time training at the star-studded American Kickboxing Academy camp in San Jose, California, stayed unbeaten at 9-0 with a unanimous decision over Brandon Girtz at Bellator 165 on Nov. 19. The Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt has registered three of his five wins in Bellator by submission.