Photo Credit: Newsday
Light Heavyweight Emanuel Newton vs. Linton Vassell
The first round was a lesson in the strengths of Linton Vassell and the weaknesses of Emanuel Newton. Vassell pressured consistently to start off the fight, working back and forth in standup before scoring a takedown. On the ground, Vassell showed excellent transitional offense to work through from side control to mount, back mount, and around as Newton scrambled. While that was the predominant action of the first round, it demonstrated that Vassell had come from his loss to Newton in their first bout with a new strategy. He expanded his game, but also stayed calm once in an advantageous position. Vassell, and a lot of young fighters, tend to find a portion of the game that they have strength in and then expend all of their energy trying to capitalize on that small modicum of advantage. Vassell showed maturity in being pressuring without overextending himself. As for Emanuel Newton, his floundering on the ground was only match with the recklessness of his spinning back fist in the final moments of the first round. He did score two takedowns in the final minute, but neither position nor advantage came from them.
The second round was a display of absurdity in Emanuel Newton. While his strikes were clean and thrown with conviction, the aggressiveness of his game was lacking. And wherein Vassell had dominated him on the ground in the first round, Newton was not dissuaded from shooting for takedowns (and in many cases succeeding before bouncing away back to standing). But where the round got truly odd was in his third low blow in two rounds. The first two incidents, Newton looked to be throwing a legitimate strike the was illegal because of bad timing or movement. The third strike, on the other hand, was pure and cost him a point. Newton had Vassell against the cage, when he threw a straight knee right down the middle. Now there is a lament to sportsmanship here that should be at least touched on, but it also had repercussions within the fight. Newton outright won that round. However, because he could not refrain from throwing low, the scorecards were tied at 9-9 for the round. Effectively negating his comeback and trapping him in fighting for the draw.
Linton Vassell is a tough fighter. It was said throughout the lead up to this fight, but if nothing else demonstrates it in his highlight reel, the third round did. Three low blows in the last two rounds, including one that dropped him to the mat. A hard grappler constantly looking for the takedown and to get him in a dangerous top position in Emanuel Newton, and Vassell both survived and turned the third in his favor. With as much damage as he’d sustained, Vassell coming out and winning the third round through, once again, getting the takedown and riding out a struggling Newton was very well executed.
Linton Vassell by Unanimous Decision, 3rd Round.
Lightweight Melvin Guillard vs. Derek Campos
Two parts of this first round were truly fantastic: the pace with which both men were trying to maintain, and Mike Tyson’s guest commentating. Fifteen seconds into the first round, the fighters were exchanging quick blows, when Campos snuck one through and sent Melvin stumbling. Diving on the weakened fighter, Campos hit him again and sent him to the mat. What ensued was a dominate ground game, if moderately lackadaisical. Breaking apart several minutes later against the cage, Campos threw two bombs that didn’t land but did demonstrate the fighter’s desire to put Melvin Guillard down and keep climbing the Lightweight ladder. As for Iron Mike, he seemed to be firmly in Guillard’s corner, calling him the “better athlete” and striker. But, if the card wasn’t interesting to you, at least watch the video for this fight to listen to Mike talk about twitter for thirty seconds mid-round.
Boom! Thirty-three seconds into the second round and Melvin Guillard is out. With Mike Tyson looking on, Guillard forgot basic fundamentals of boxing and got caught with his chin out and stationary. Campos hit him just enough in the initial barrage to slow him, but the resulting left and right hooks were looking for the KO. Bent at the waist and swaying back and forth, Guillard tumbled into the mat and Campos took the victory. Also, Iron Mike had a few too many cocktails before grabbing the headset. And for that, Bellator, we’re grateful.
Campos by KO, 2nd Round.
Featherweight Daniel Pineda vs. Emmanuel Sanchez
The first round of this fight was an exhibition in good Brazilian jiu jitsu. After a brief brawl at the beginning of the round that saw no major shots land, the fighters went to the ground where Daniel Pineda looked desperately for the submission. There are certain subs in MMA that tend to be more prevalent because of the style of the sport. Guillotines are caught because someone’s opponent got lazy with a takedown. Bad top game leads to a triangle or arm bar. Bad bottom game ends in a rear naked choke. If you’re early Ronda Rousey, you rip through opponents with arm bars. But in this first round, Daniel Pineda attempted: a triangle, a rear naked choke, an arm bar, a knee bar, and a calf slicer. That is prolific for a straight BJJ bout, but in MMA it’s nigh unheard of. Which is exactly what Emmanuel Sanchez needs. For one of Bellator’s top prospects, a fight with an opponent always looking to finish is essential at this stage of his career. And while he didn’t look like he was in his element, he did step up and escape each submission attempt.
There was a great deal of talk amongst the announcers for this round (two) about pace. On the one hand, Pineda came out lethargic and unable to push, shoot for positions, or attack for submissions like he had in the first round. And for the Sanchez, he stayed entirely one note. His pace didn’t alter, he was neither faster nor slower in this round. His aggressiveness was a small uptick, but that could have come from his advantageous position. What is concerning about this is, even with a tired opponent and the positional advantage, that Sanchez didn’t try and push for a finish. He risked nothing, save what was bare minimum to maintain his advantage. And in fact, in this round, Pineda risked a great deal more. This inability, or lack of desire, to push his advantage to anything but a decision has plagued Sanchez his entire career and will eventually cost him. The only guaranteed wins are those that are finished.
Pineda came out this round looking completely fatigued. His movements were languid, if not searching, and Sanchez capitalized. Routinely taking him down and gaining dominant position, the Duke Rufus trained Sanchez keep pushing until the final bell. His style wasn’t explosive, and he never looked in danger of finishing the fight. But despite the split decision, Sanchez left his opponent defeated and bloody. In the end, Pineda’s eye was swollen all but closed. Sanchez won this fight on constant pressure, being aware of Pineda’s coying style (including a rolling knee bar attempt that Sanchez saw coming and defended perfectly), and great cardio.
Sanchez by Split Decision, 3rd Round.
Heavyweight Kimbo Slice vs. DADA 5000
It’s apt that Bellator’s mascot is a gladiator, because this was not an MMA fight. This was a spectacle of blood sport that grew fatigued. The one event of the first five-minute round, other than both fighters becoming visibly tired by the closing bell, was that Kimbo gained full mount. The takedown was worthwhile, as was holding onto a much larger opponent and gaining mount. But then…nothing. Nothing, whatsoever. Kimbo Slice got full mount and didn’t try for anything, not a sub, no ground and pound. Nothing. They didn’t touch gloves, though. So the fight was dramatic.
Kimbo was stood up from full mount in the second round. These two fighters were exhausted. Big Jon had to throw them apart at one point because both could barely stand. Kimbo scored a takedown when Dada fell over from exhaustion when they were grappling. There’s really not much that can be said for this round. Dada’s one redeeming fight quality seems to be that he grew to three hundred pounds and Kimbo doesn’t appeared to have prepared for this fight.
The fight commentator summed this knockout victory up extremely well: “I want to say it was punches, but it could have been fatigue”. Dada 5000 fell over in the middle of the third round, unable to go on. I expected nothing of this fight and, yet, somehow I’m still disappointed.
Kimbo and gravity in the 3rd round.
Openweight Ken Shamrock vs. Royce Gracie
Royce Gracie kneed Ken Shamrock in the testicles, kneed him in the head as he was doubling over, and then finished the fight with hammerfists on the ground. After a Kimbo Slice/Dada 5000 fight that left everyone baffled, this fight was all controversy. Up to and including Ken Shamrock yelling at everyone including the ref, baffled commentators, and a double arm raise despite the fight declared a TKO for Gracie.
I hate that the greatest and first rivalry in all of MMA ended in a bout so lackluster and steeped with controversy, but I’m grateful that it appeared competitive. And prior to the replay of the low blow, it looked like a storybook style of win for Royce (who admittedly didn’t even wrap his hands to strike). It’s bittersweet, but there is hope that both now fade into their respective places in the annals of the MMA hall of fame.
Royce Gracie by TKO, 1st round.
Manny Lozoya def. Jacob Norsworthy via submission (guillotine choke) – Round 1, 2:33
C.J. Hancock def. Ruben Esparsa submission (rear-naked choke) – Round 3, 1:26
Mike Trinh def. Angel Zamora via submission (armbar) – Round 1, 3:49
Justin Wren def. Juan Torres via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)
Jason Langellier def. Anthony Ivy via submission (anaconda choke) – Round 1, 2:09
Adrian Yanez def. Ryan Hollis via unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28)
Jeremy Mahon def. Davis Sylvester via TKO (punches) – Round 2, 4:22
Isaac Villanueva def. Richard Knepp via TKO (punches) – Round 1, 0:42