Photo Credit: mymmanews.com
CHUKA WILLIS DRAGS GASTON REYNO TO DEEP WATER
The first round of this fight demonstrated why both fighters are exciting prospects. Chuka Willis came out and executed a smart game plan: close the distance and take away Reyno’s explosive striking. Three-quarters of the first round were Chuka forcing Reyno against the cage, working dirty boxing and occasionally fighting for the takedown. When they broke, with about a minute and a half left in the round, Gaston Reyno took the reins and showed off some excellent striking. Reyno’s footwork and kick speed alone make him a top Bellator prospect, but the first round left him unable to find his range. He landed one solid front kick to Willis’ chin but the rest of his strikes were more showy than effective. Late in the round, Willis attempted to force closed the distance and shot for a sloppy double leg. Reyno, despite his habit for furious first-round TKO’s, showed a lot of grappling maturity in snapping in a guillotine. Willis, for his part, managed to escape and eventually take Reyno’s back, but not before sitting in a deep choke that left his face red and caused him to spit out his mouthpiece.
Round two exposed a flaw in Reyno’s style. Whereas he has the footwork and the movement that is cutting edge, working angles, playing with range, he is moderately sloppy when he feels “safe”. In this particular case, he threw a few lazy shots in the first part of the round. Willis watched two or three come in, and saw that Reyno wasn’t in a hurry to find cover after missing and closed the distance with a big right hand down the middle. Chuka immediately rushed, but then seemed to hesitate during Reyno’s recovery. His corner could have warned him about coming in, even when Reyno was injured, but his forcing Reyno against the cage and holding him for the rest of the round lacked killer instinct.
There was some discussion by the commentators during the fight about whether Reyno was the correct size for this bout. Having weighed in well under the weight cut-off of 146 (143.6), Reyno did not look like he had the strength to match Chuka Willis. Willis came out and utilizes his wrestling, once again, to pin Reyno to the cage and even score a takedown. Most of the round passed in that fashion, with a momentary breakup near the final minute of the fight that saw both men throwing into each other. Willis got the better of that flurry, landing a heavy left hand before Reyno took his turn pinning his opponent to the cage. Some desperate dirty boxing and the final seconds of the clock drifted down. And then Reyno showed why he’s such an exciting prospect, even with this dismantling looming over his previously unblemished record. He jumped up and sank in a deep guillotine. Willis, knowing he only had to survive for moments, waited it out. But not before Reyno proved why his hype should sustain after this fight.
Chuka “The Lion King” Willis by Decision, 3rd Round.
REBECCA RUTH OUT-WRESTLES OVCHYNNIKOVA
Pressure, pressure, pressure. From the moment the bell rang, Rebecca Ruth closed distance and walked down Lena Ovchynnikova. With an almost six-inch reach advantage, Ruth looked to smother the muay thai fighter, believing that her hands were better from the pocket. And save one well-executed hip throw by Lena Ovchynnikova, that game plan paid off. With Ovchynnikova pressed against the fence, or penned to the ground, Ruth didn’t give her a second without eating a punch. Or an elbow, or a knee.
This was a round of mistakes. In the opening salvo, Ruth misstepped throwing a kick and fell to the ground. Ovchynnikova threw furious punches that missed and Ruth was able to escape, but not before being moderately shaken from the exchange. Then with the maturity of a seasoned striker, she dropped back to her plan and executed, while Ovchynnikova made mistake after mistake. Midway through the round, the Ukrainian tried to subvert Rebecca Ruth’s clinch with a head and arm throw. But there is a reason that particular technique is a rarity in MMA: Ruth slipped her head out and took Ovchynnikova’s takedown and her back. Later in the round, Ovchynnikova, floundering for a new angle, tried a spinning back fist that lacked both the speed and surprise element to be successful. Her off-balance attempt sent her sprawling, aided moderately by Rebecca, who took an arm and started working for the arm bar. Given Ovchynnikova’s BJJ advantage, it was a risk, but her technique and Lena’s mistake almost proved enough to cement the submission before the bell rang.
If there was an overlooked component to this fight in the lead up, it was Rebecca Ruth’s wrestling. Presupposing that Ruth would not want to go to ground with someone who had numerous submission wins was a mistake. But it is important to differentiate that Ruth didn’t go the ground trying to beat Ovchynnikova in jiu jitsu, she went to the ground as a wrestler. She never committed her legs to anything but knees, refusing on several occasions to get a hook in. And rather than work a submission, Ruth was content to sprawl and throw strikes from a riding position. Ovchynnikova showed flair, the one-two at the end of the round was top level, but Ruth’s capable handling of her game plan was too much.
Ruth by Decision, 3rd Round.
GROVE KO'S FRANCE
Leading into this fight, the biggest mistake most pundits would say Francisco France could make is standing at range with Kendall Grove, but for a majority of the first round he seemed comfortable to stand at that dangerous distance. When he did work to close the massive gap (keep in mind that Kendall Grove is six-foot six), he worked much better from the clinch against the cage. Grove, despite a lackluster wrestling performance, looked to be keying in on France. None of his big strikes landed, but he seemed to be learning the timing, especially on some of France’s more belabored punches (the overhand right to close space is not recommended).
And BOOM! Kendall Grove scores another astounding knockout. Feeling the range, both men came out looking to strike, but Grove turned a corner in his aggression. Pushing into France, he shoved him against the cage and threw the same right hook twice. The first time, France stepped under it. But Grove was rapid-fire, and while France was coming back up from the first, the second right hit him in the temple with a crack and the fight was over.
Grove by Big Right Hand, 2nd Round.
THE CAVEMAN, WILD AND RECKLESS, KNEES SUPER DUPER IN THE FACE
The shame of this fight isn’t that the cards was stacked against “Super Duper” Bobby Cooper (fighting against a favorited opponent, who happens to be a bit of a hometown hero). The shame of this fight is that he was hit with one knee and stopped before his superior striking could take him the distance. The fight started in a haze of strikes and smiling by David “The Caveman” Rickels, who seemed to take the hometown crowd into his head and throw out caution. While his head movement was excellent, Rickels routinely ran in at Bobby Cooper, swinging wildly. In fact, save the final ten seconds of the fight, Cooper was winning this contest. But with a minute thirty left in the round, Rickels charged Cooper into the cage and pulled his head down into an unseen left knee. The ref then gave Cooper several opportunities to recover, but in a daze of punches and blood gushing from his head, Cooper was TKO’d in the very first round.
Rickels via Berserker Striking, 1st Round
KONGO BY SPLIT OVER "SPARTAN"
By the end of this round, the crowd was booing. They booed because nothing dynamic happened, but given the strength of both men and Kongo’s style in the fight, their hesitancy was warranted. Kongo, at forty, doesn’t want to over engage. In this case, meaning either in a brawl or in any prolonged grappling battle. Utilizing leg kicks to great effect, Kongo preferred to stay at range and score points while sidestepping any straightforward striking from Vinicius “Spartan”. When Vinicius tried to close the distance, even pulling off a trip takedown at one point, Kongo scrambled well. That’s not to say Kongo didn’t engage in grappling, but the times when he did, he pinned Vinicius to the cage and did very little tangible damage.
For the first half of the second round, Vinicius “Spartan” looked confused and out of his element. His attack seemed to be pursuant on Kongo attacking, but the way Kongo chose to fight left no openings for counter. Cheick, on the other hand, incorporated a few combinations at the back end of his leg kicks. This allowed him to close distance on “Spartan” and land a shot or two, because Vinicius had grown comfortable springing backwards and then resetting. Halfway through the round, however, Kongo made a small mistake. He didn’t keep his range and never saw the double leg coming. But, almost shocked that he pulled it off, Vinicius fumbled into half-guard and never could quite pass. The round is an even split, both control and time wise. Neither man scored heavily, but both controlled separate parts of the ring.
Vinicius finally found himself in this fight and did an excellent job replicating the latter half of the last round. Within the first minute, Vinicius was able to close the distance and take Kongo down. Again, unable to do much damage, they went back to feet. And then Vinicius changed the game and made this fight controversial, hitting Kongo with a clean left hand. Vinicius’ mistake was not being able to finish after dropping the big Frenchman. Because despite rocking Kongo and scoring the cleanest strike, and potentially the most poignant moment of the fight, Vinicius lost the split decision.
Kongo by Split Decision, 3rd Round.
Kyle Noblitt def. David Hammons via TKO (punches) 1st Round
Gregory Babene def. Brandon Farran via submission (rear-naked choke) 1st Round
Andre Fialho def. Manny Meraz via TKO (punches) 1st round
Chris Harris def. Julian Marquez via unanimous decision, 3rd Round
Henry Lindsay def. Marcio Navarro via TKO (punches) 1st Round
Thai Clark def. Deron Carlis via unanimous decision, 3rd Round