In case you missed it, last night Bellator, WSOF, and UFC went head to head to head like some great, self-loathing hydra. It was a night full of title defenses, new champions were crowned, ears exploded, eyes exploded, an Eye exploded, somewhere off in the distance Michael Bay thought he heard his name in the wind. It was that kind of night.
One of the more interesting aspects of the night was the showcase of styles between Bellator and the UFC. For the most part, Bellator was finally able to nail a mixture of theatrical presentation and exciting fights. The live crowd provided lots of energy and the presentation wasn’t as over the top as the build up to it. Muhammed Lawal got some fresh food and Mike Richman made Nam Phan look silly. Let’s be honest, Joe Schilling and Melvin Manhoef had a kickboxing battle under the context of an mma match, and all one round and thirty-two seconds were fun to watch.
Will Brooks Wins Lightweight Gold
Will Brooks and Michael Chandler put on fight of the night to crown a new Bellator lightweight champion. Will Brooks cemented his title reign in a fight that mostly mirrored their first. Chandler was the more aggressive of the two during the opening rounds. He did a good job controlling the center of the cage and effectively kept Brooks against the wall, but he was unsuccessful on many of his takedowns. Brooks was the more effective striker and took advantage when Chandler began to wane in the third round. By the fourth, Chandler was fighting with his hands down and charging in recklessly. Brooks was able to repeatedly settle and land a couple of stiff jabs and hard overhands. Chandler’s downfall came after a toss from which Brooks quickly recovered. On the way up, Brooks hit Chandler with a hard right hook and Chandler countered by calling timeout. As he backed away, Brooks charged in to finish him, because fuck that trickery.
Ortiz vs. Bonnar: Why God Why?
The low point of the main card was the headline battle between Tito Ortiz and Stephan Bonnar. Their battle looked like two old men fighting in the Wal-Mart parking lot over a bad parking job on Black Friday. The two brought name recognition to the card that got a lot of otherwise uninterested people to tune in, but this is the direction that Bellator does not need to go. Fights like this provide a good short term solution to get viewers to tune in and if they use that to promote rising talent like Brooks, Chandler, and Richman, they can continue to grow. They have to walk a thin line so they’re neither graveyard nor feeder organization for UFC fighters. Ortiz managed to grind out a split decision over a Stephan Bonnar with very little to offer competitively. Tito used head movement and level shifting to keep Bonnar guessing and mostly swinging at the air in front of him, yet Ortiz was also unable to finish it convincingly.
WSOF: Only the Bloggers Know for Sure
World Series of Fighting put on one of its best cards of the year on a night when there was just too many fights going on at once. Jessica Aguilar is like a 115 lb. Cain Velasquez and proved why she’s the best in her class. She imposed her will over Kalindra Faria and left the Brazilian with few escapes as she repeatedly took her down and blasted her with punches. Aguilar is one of the promotions brightest stars and is set to continue her run into 2015. Similarly, WSOF lightweight champ stepped up to face Melvin Guillard who missed weight for his second consecutive fight within the promotion. Gaethje picked up the split decision in a tough scrap that pitted the more technical striking of Guillard against the power and aggression of Gaethje. David Branch extended his winning streak to five by knocking out fellow UFC vet Yushin Okami.
UFC 180: Good Time for a Bad Card
Okay, it wasn’t THAT bad, there just wasn’t much reason to watch it. UFC 180 ended up being better than it looked on paper, but it still shows some of the huge issues with their current roster, matchmaking, and expanding market. 180 is the promotion’s first foray into Mexico. Tickets sold out within eight hours when the card was to be headlined by heavyweight champ Cain Velasquez. The problem is that this card seemed to be centered entirely around this premise. The preliminary card for this one centered around the finals for The Ultimate Fighter: Latin America. Jessica Eye and Leslie Smith put on the only undercard fight that was not associated with TUF:LA. The main card was equally devoid of anything pay-per-view worthy. 180 was a regional card, at best, masquerading as a $60 pay-per-view package sold specifically on the strength of an interim title fight. It looked like one of those boxing cards that Dana White used to famously bash. UFC built its brand on having the best of the best, and if people want to watch B level MMA, there are plenty of free options available. Many of their own fight nights have had better rosters.
Despite having eight of eleven fights end via ko/sub and a raucous audience, the card felt more amateurish than we’re used to seeing from a promotion that prides itself as having the best of the best. I would even wager that within two years half of these people are no longer under contract with the UFC. Fans love stakes and the mystery of who will win in a good fight. There was little of that on display Saturday night.
Regardless, the talent they do have came out in force. Jessica Eye put on the best performance of her career as she outworked Leslie Smith. Eye clipped Smith early in the fight and blew out the cauliflower in her ear. The fight was stopped after a few more shots rendered Smith in danger of having it flap right off. Two new ultimate fighters were crowned and someone decided it would be a good idea to have Augusto Montano debut against the guy the Brendan Schaub subbed via omoplata somewhere on the main. Ricardo Lamas managed to Snap Dennis Bermudez’s seven fight win streak and Kelvin Gastelum all but retired Jake Ellenberger in the eyes of the internet. Finally, Mark Hunt’s Cinderella story came to an end after a long flying knee, pretty much the last thing anyone suspected, came from Fabricio Werdum and connected flush against the chin of the Super Samoan.