Jackson, Ishii Headline Bellator 157: Chandler, Freire Battle For Vacant Lightweight Belt

After more than a year away from competition, Quinton "Rampage" Jackson returns to the Bellator cage for the first time since May 2014, when he takes on Japan's Satoshi Ishii in the Bellator 'Dynamite' main event, Saturday, June 24 (8 P.M. EST, Spike TV).

A two-time world champion, "Rampage" (36-11 MMA, 3-0 BMMA) last fought at UFC 186. But after settling a contract dispute, Jackson returns to Bellator, where he is undefeated.

For this comeback fight, which headlines Bellator's second attempt at a two ring, mixed martial arts and kickboxing hybrid event, Jackson has been pitted against Ishii (14-5-1, 0-0 BMMA), an Olympic gold medalist, who took top honors in judo at the 2008 Beijing games.

Jackson's game is a combination of heavy-handed boxing and wrestling. His impressive power and aggressive striking has led to knockouts of some of MMA's most elite fighters. And despite wins over athletes like Chuck Liddell, Dan Henderson, Lyoto Machida, and Wanderlei Silva, Jackson faces a unique challenge in Ishii, who only began to train in mixed martial arts in 2009.

Ishii, who will make his American debut on Saturday at the Scottrade Center in St. Louis, has evolved from a single-discipline master into a well-rounded MMA fighter. A natural heavyweight, Ishii will drop down to face Jackson in a 215-pound catchweight bout, which raises serious questions about his stamina and ability to go head-to-head with Jackson, who has spent the majority of his career at light heavyweight.

And while Ishii has previously done battle with MMA veterans Fedor Emelianenko and Mirko "Cro Cop" Filipovic, his resume pales in comparison with Jackson's.

Of course, upsets are nothing new in mixed martial arts, and Ishii's improved striking and kickboxing, not to mention his clinch game, make him a very legitimate threat to neutralize Jackson. But "Rampage" has too deep and extensive a knowledge of the MMA game, and it is because of this experience, not to mention his brutal punches, that Jackson has the edge.

Look for Jackson to earn the TKO victory some time after the first round.

In the evening's co-main event, promotional stalwarts Michael Chandler and Patricky "Pitbull" Freire face off in a rematch, this time with the vacant Bellator lightweight title on the line.

Chandler (14-3 MMA, 11-3 BMMA), a former Bellator champion, has looked impressive in his last two outings, after losing three-straight bouts and his title. The former NCAA Division-I wrestling standout, who won the first contest against Freire via unanimous decision, now looks to reclaim the belt he lost in 2013.

Also riding a two-fight win streak, Freire (16-7 MMA, 9-6 BMMA) will finally compete for the Bellator title, after signing with the promotion in 2011.

A well-round fighter, who is also a black belt in Brazilian jiu jitsu, Freire has been inconsistent inside the Bellator cage, often losing in the most pivotal moments. And while Freire has shown improvements with age, Chandler's wrestling and top control will likely be too much for the Brazilian.

Look for Chandler to take this one by TKO in the championship rounds.

Additionally, Bellator 157 features the promotional debut of heavyweight Matt Mitrione, who takes on Carl Seumanutafa, and a featherweight bout between prospects Justin Lawrence and Isao Kobayashi.