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Michael Chandler 478x270Bellator MMA on Wednesday announced the first event of its 2013 Summer Series.

Lightweight champion Michael Chandler headlines Bellator 96, putting his belt on the line against Season 7 Lightweight Tournament winner Dave Jansen in the main event on June 19 at WinStar World Casino in Thackerville, Okla.

Chandler (11-0) also kicked off Bellator’s Season 8, the promotion’s first season on Spike TV. He submitted Rick Hawn in the second round.

Chandler has quickly risen to the upper echelon of the world’s lightweight division since defeating Eddie Alvarez for the Bellator belt.

“I’m excited to get back in the cage and defend the belt against a tough guy like Jansen,” Chandler said. “He’s proven to be a very tough and durable competitor. My plan is the same as every fight, which is to show up new and improved and collect another dominant finish for the fans.”

Jansen (19-2) has been unstoppable since he exited the WEC in late 2010 and signed with Bellator. He has won all six of his bouts in the Bellator cage, which includes capturing the Season 7 lightweight honors, securing a shot at Chandler.

“I really want this fight to be an absolute grind and make Mike as uncomfortable as possible inside that cage,” Jansen said. “I’ve been known in my career to really be able to weather the storm and I really feel like I get stronger inside the cage as the fight goes on, and I’m really looking forward to having that full 25 minutes to work with and take this fight in deep waters. This is just an incredible opportunity for me and would a huge validation on my career to become a Bellator world champion.”

Bellator has loaded up the main card for its return to Spike TV for the summer.

Aside from the lightweight title bout, Muhammad “King Mo” Lawal makes his return following a disappointing loss in the Season 8 Light Heavyweight Tournament. He squares off with UFC veteran Seth Petruzelli in a semifinal bout as part of the promotion’s four-man Summer Series 205-pound tournament.

The other half of the light heavyweight bracket includes Renato “Babalu” Sobral, another recent high-profile signee that saw an early exit in the Season 8 tournament. Babalu gets his second chance at a Bellator tournament in a semifinal bout against Jacob Noe, who had a nine-fight winning streak ended by Mikhail Zayats in the semifinal round of last season’s eight-man tournament.

TUF 6 veteran War Machine – although he was Jonathan Koppenhaver during his Ultimate Fighter stint – finally makes his Bellator debut after a stint in jail kept him out of the cage for the past year and a half. He faces WEC veteran Blas Avena, who enters the fight coming off of a victory in his promotional debut earlier this year at Bellator 91.

The Bellator 96 main card will air live at 7 p.m. ET on Spike TV, marking a shift to the promotion’s new summertime night of Wednesday. The preliminary card will be streamed live on Spike.com starting at 5:30 p.m. ET.

Bellator 96 Main Card:

-Michael Chandler (11-0) vs. Dave Jansen (19-2)
-King Mo Lawal (9-2) vs. Seth Petruzelli (14-7)
-Renato “Babalu” Sobral (37-10) vs. Jacob Noe (11-2)
-War Machine (12-4) vs. Blas Avena (8-6)

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