Last night was a hotly anticipated date for MMA fans worldwide. On paper, it was a night in which we would see one of the most fun and memorable nights of MMA action ever. We saw everything from legends and future Hall of Famers to blue-chip prospects making their MMA debuts.
We saw everything from legends and future Hall of Famers to blue-chip prospects making their MMA debuts. There were titles on the line in some, and legacies in others.
Bellator NYC & Bellator 180 was guaranteed to be an incredible night in combat sports, and one that fans surely would not forget anytime soon, and that’s exactly what it was.
It wound up being an event with everything people want out of combat sports, but it has left some debating. Was it a good night for Bellator MMA? Let’s find out.
Chael Sonnen def. Wanderlei Silva via Unanimous Decision
The night’s main event was a grudge match nearly five years in the making. “The Axe Murderer” Wanderlei Silva returned from a four-year absence to take on “The American Gangster” Chael Sonnen.
On paper, this fight was a striker vs. grappler match-up, and that is exactly what it was. each and every round Sonnen secured a takedown and held Silva there. There were a few feeble attempts at a guillotine choke from the Brazilian, but nothing came of them. Despite losing, Silva had arguably the best moment of the fight, dropping Sonnen with a right hand in the latter half of round one. It was, ultimately, an underwhelming contest, but it was what many people expected. The final scores were 30-26, 30-27, and 30-27, all in favor of Chael Sonnen.
What happens from here? Well, the options are seemingly endless. Chael Sonnen, despite what people may think of him, undeniably sells fights like almost no one else can. He is calling out everyone from heavyweight great Fedor Emelianenko to welterweight contender Rory MacDonald. Hell, Sonnen talks so well that post-fight in NYC, he seemed to have Tito Ortiz believing that he did, in fact, submit to Chael Sonnen a few months back. Despite Ortiz in actuality defeating Sonnen in a matter of minutes. So, for this reason alone, it’s never a “bad thing” when Chael Sonnen wins a fight and attempts to call his own shots. It makes Bellator’s options plentiful and gives them an incredibly sellable fight regardless.
As for Silva? He’s Wanderlei Silva. He is one of the most exciting and beloved fighters in the history of combat sports and is seemingly interested in stepping back in the Bellator MMA cage as soon as humanly possible. Hopefully, we see Silva matched up with a fellow striker in his next outing. Maybe Silva vs. Melvin Manhoef, a fight that essentially sells itself.
Matt Mitrione def. Fedor Emelianenko via KO (Punches) in Round 1
The co-main event of Bellator NYC was highly-anticipated heavyweight bout that was supposed to take place at Bellator 172 in February. Fedor’s mystique is unrivaled. He is one of the most immediately recognizable names in MMA, as he is very much referred to as the greatest of all time. Matt Mitrione did not take that lightly. In fact, he fully acknowledged the legend of his opponent, but he didn’t let that intimidate him in the slightest.
What this fight provided us with was quite arguably Bellator NYC‘s biggest “Holy Sh*t” moment. Essentially, both men threw powerful punches at one another, and we saw the incredibly rare double knockdown. Both men were knocked down as they exchanged right hands, and both men looked very rocked from the blows. However, the younger, faster Mitrione recovered quicker and pounced on a downed Emelianenko, finishing him with heavy shots just 74 seconds into the fight.
What does this fight mean? Hard to tell. With their heavyweight belt recently vacated, every fight in Bellator’s heavyweight division is a big one. Fedor’s legacy was set in stone years ago, but that doesn’t make these losses any easier to digest. When asked during the post-fight press conference whether or not he still wanted to fight after the KO loss, Emelianenko responded with a simple “Yes, because I am a fighter.”
As for Mitrione; there are plenty of options. In my opinion, the most intriguing one is the former heavyweight champion, Vitaly Minakov (20-0), who reportedly asked for this fight after Mitrione defeated Fedor last night.
Brent Primus def. Michael Chandler via TKO (injury) in Round 1
This fight provided the night’s most disappointing moment. Michael Chandler was defending his Bellator MMA Lightweight Championship against up-and-comer Brent Primus (7-0) and suffered an ankle injury shortly into the fight. Despite badly rolling his ankle, Chandler still fought on. He even provided arguably the best bit of offense in the short fight when he dropped and flurried Primus midway through the opening round. However, the fight was called off, much to the displeasure of the fans and especially Chandler.
As Primus was celebrating probably a bit too much given the situation, Chandler was furious as he called for a rematch and simply said “Cut this thing off, I’ll keep going!!” talking about his injured left ankle.
— Punch-Drunk Pauly (@punchdrunkpauly) June 25, 2017
— Ahmar Khan (@AhmarSKhan) June 25, 2017
There doesn’t seem to be much upside to this unfortunate situation, but there really is. As now there is a sellable rematch handed to Bellator on a silver platter, featuring arguably their biggest homegrown star in Michael Chandler.
To Primus‘ credit, he did release a statement on Instagram post-fight.
I wish Chandler a fast recovery and hope he's ok. I've looked up to @mikechandlermma and respect him more than I can put into words. I know we're going to throw down again and I can't wait. Fighting him and fighting at Madison square garden was a dream come true. Chandler is a champion in the cage and out of the cage. It's been a crazy camp full of injuries and set backs but that's how this fight game goes. Thank you god for this life and everything you've given me, thank you to my family and friends for all the support and my beautiful pregnant wife. I can't wait to have our baby and be a dad and have our own little family. I'm going to heal up my injuries and be back to defend the Bellator lightweight title. @badboybrands @rootsorganics @eugenefishmarket @donlewisplumbing @big_kahuna_bowls @halotopcreamery @performancemartialarts @teamoyama @gbportland @iridiumsports @bellatormma • • • • • #lifeisgood #thankyougod #champion #cantwaittobeadad #champ #family #thankyou #blessed🙏
Zach Freeman def. Aaron Pico via Submission (Guillotine Choke) in Round 1
Aaron Pico entered this bout with a record of 0-0 at the age of 20. He is one of the hottest prospects to ever get into the sport of MMA, having a ridiculous wrestling background to his name as well as some golden glove experience. It was almost shocking that they matched him up with a very legit 8-2 Zach Freeman in his Bellator debut, but despite that, many people still expected Pico to steamroll him.
It cannot be understated that the amount of hype Pico had was almost unfair. The only way he would have lived up to it was if he went out there and finished the former RFA title-challenger Freeman in under thirty seconds. But the exact opposite happened. During an exchange, Freeman staggered Pico with an uppercut, and during the scramble that followed he locked in a guillotine that forced Pico to tap. It only took 24 seconds.
On the surface, this might seem like it went horribly for Bellator. Their prospect lost! But, in actuality, I see it as the total opposite. Aaron Pico is still a highly credentialed 20-year-old prospect. He lost to a very legit lightweight in his debut. Now, given the loss, maybe he will be built up gradually. As a prospect should.
The main reason this is a win-win for Bellator is that now people have been introduced to Zach Freeman. Bellator’s lightweight division isn’t “struggling”, necessarily. They have a very deep division, but they’re running out of fresh match-ups at the top. It seems like constant rematches are happening at 155 lbs. The division needs a few new faces, and Zach Freeman could very well be one of them.
Douglas Lima def. Lorenz Larkin via Unanimous Decision
The fight that was the most intriguing to the “hardcore” fans surprisingly opened the Bellator NYC pay-per-view. We saw Bellator MMA Welterweight Champion Douglas Lima look to defend his title against Lorenz Larkin who joined the Bellator MMA ranks while positioned in the Top 5 of the UFC’s welterweight rankings.
It was a chance for the man who Scott Coker refers to as “the best welterweight in the world” to further back up that claim. Douglas Lima leads the entire Bellator MMA roster in KO’s entering the fight. He is lethal with every limb and he proved that in round two of this fight when he dropped Larkin with a clean left hand.
— Bellator MMA (@BellatorMMA) June 25, 2017
That was probably the best strike of the fight, but both men had good offense throughout. They exchanged low kicks for the entirety of 25 minutes, but were not afraid to swing leather at one another while in the pocket, either. It was primarily a stand-up battle that saw Lima come out victorious, with the official judges’ scores being 50-45, 48-47, 48-37.
— Douglas Lima (@PhenomLima) June 25, 2017
It has been all-but confirmed that Lima will defend his title against Canada’s Rory MacDonald next, another man who entered Bellator MMA as a Top 5 UFC welterweight. Fresh off his dominant win over Paul Daley in London, MacDonald was not impressed with Lima’s performance at MSG.
Bellator NYC was a massive success. A highly entertaining success. It was a good night for the fans, even though it’s never fun seeing legends lose, and all-in-all, it was a good night for Bellator MMA.
It was their biggest card to date, so there were even more noteworthy moments that haven’t been discussed yet. Ryan Bader made his Bellator MMA debut and beat Phil Davis to become the new Bellator MMA Light Heavyweight Champion, and is now 2-0 against Davis. Neiman Gracie did Neiman Gracie things and submitted Dave Marfone after nearly being spiked on his head. Irish prospect James Gallagher made quick work out of Chinzo Machida. Boxing phenom Heather Hardy lit Alice Yauger up in her Bellator MMA debut, picking up a TKO in the process. And finally, Ryan Couture returned to the win column with a unanimous decision victory over Haim Gozali.