It was the most important night in Bellator MMA’s short history. The small-time promotion that targeted the untapped Spanish-speaking fight community made it to the big time on Spike TV, the network that made the Ultimate Fighting Championship a household name.
The debut on Viacom’s major platform wasn’t one that would knock a casual observer’s socks off, rather a night that offered a little bit of everything and two high-caliber fights between some world-ranked professional cage-fighters.
Pat Curran’s gas tank proves to be biggest asset in retaining featherweight crown
Curran has been widely regarded as one of the best fighters at 145-pounds since he abandoned the lightweight ranks and tonight he proved it. Facing Patricio ‘Pitbull’ Freire, the season four tournament champion he faced one of his stiffest test to date.
This well-contested, competitive fight might not have set Irvine, California ablaze like Bellator officials suspected when pitting this as the opening bout of the evening but it was a hard fought fight that went down to the wire. ‘Pitbull’ started strong with his powerful leg kick and the champ attacked back with his jab and constant activity.
Heading into the final frame it was split two rounds a piece on most score cards and Curran just had the cardiovascular fitness to continue at the same pace while his Brazilian counterpart was fading which ultimately allowed him to continue until the final buzzer to nab a narrow decision.
Zayats finishes Babalu with a second on the clock
Mikhail Zayats collected the biggest victory of his young career tonight. Facing former UFC light-heavyweight title-challenger Renato ‘Babalu’ Sobral he was considered the underdog but that didn’t matter.
The fight was hardly a barn burner when it began, in fact most bickered on their social media devices at the clinch-fest that relegated on their television screens but with less than a minute on the clock a spinning-back-fist from 31-year-old Russian put the UFC veteran on wobbly legs. In retreat mode, Sobral staggered but Zayats pounced with a short left-hand and fired off with hammer-fists until the action was called to a halt.
With this victory, the odds-on favorite to make it to the finals and meet Muhammed ‘King Mo’ Lawal is knocked off the docket and a fresh face steps in.
Noe trumps Petruzelli, scores second light-heavyweight tournament upset
Seth Petruzelli, the fighter most famous for knocking out Kimbo Slice on CBS met a promotional newcomer Jacob Noe in the opening round of the 205-pound tournament and unfortunately, it wasn’t a great spectacle.
Petruzelli was looking for the takedown early and I think it broke his spirit when he couldn’t get it. Noe fenced off three takedowns early and once he started putting his punches together he had Petruzelli turtled up as he let his strikes go as yet another fresh face runs over an established name.
With this victory it sets up Noe to meet Zayats in the first light-heavyweight semi-final.
Chandler dominates Hawn, makes a statement
This fight all came down to whether or not Michael Chandler can take down Rick Hawn, an Olympic Judoka. Not only did he take him down, he did so without breaking a sweat.
Early on Hawn started firing off with that heavy right-hand, even tagging the Division I All-American wrestler who clearly didn’t like getting punched so he went to his bread-and-butter executing a flawless takedown. The first round Chandler remained on top for the lion’s share of the round doing damage.
The second frame Chandler proved his naysayers wrong, once again taking the challenger to the mat without issue and finishing with a standing rear-naked-choke and thrusting his name up the 155-pound ranks now that he’s taken out arguably his two stiffest tasks in the division.
Catch the full results here.