Oh Bellator, how we love thee on a UFC- and Strikeforce-less Saturday night. Tonight’s 42nd installment of the only nationally-televised MMA promotion not owned by Zuffa featured a pair of light-heavyweight tournament semifinals, plus a bantamweight, featherweight and 190-pound catchweight bout of varying degrees of violence. But ultimately, the event – broadcast live on MTV2 – was entertaining. And isn’t that what counts?
Thanks to a rich and vibrant fight circuit that runs throughout the country, Brazil has got a talent pool so deep you could drown in it. Case in point: Luis Nogueira, who stepped into the Bellator cage repping Luta Livre (a fighting style mixing wrestling, submissions and striking) and sporting the kind of skill-level and experience that would make him a tough match-up for anyone. But against a local Oklahoma wrestler named Jerod Spoon with a wild right hand and nothing else? Forget about it. For three rounds the Rio de Janeiro native nailed Spoon with everything but the kitchen sink, racking up points and keeping the American on his bicycle from beginning to end. Credit goes to the bantamweight Spoon for not going down despite absorbing a plethora of flurries, kicks and flying knees, but when the judges’ scorecards were tallied and Nogueira was awarded the unanimous decision, there was no disputing it.
There are two things you don’t want to do when facing a superior striker: don’t chase them around, and don’t let them hit you. American jiu-jitsu fighter Tim Carpenter broke both those rules in his light-heavyweight semifinal tournament bout against Congolese face-puncher Christian M’Pumbu, and after walking after the striker eating a number of shins and knuckles, he paid the price by taking two square on the chops that put him out. The end came via a right and an uppercut, and the official time of the TKO was 2:08 of the first round.
“No wrestling? No problem.” That should be Brit featherweight Ronnie Mann’s motto, as he met NCAA Division III wrestler Josh Arocho’s takedowns head on with sprawls and sweeps and utterly mushed the American with the kind of ground and pound that makes the faint of heart weep. Arocho was barely in this bout, and when it was all over, he was a bloody mess and Mann was the recipient of a well-earned unanimous decision.
Jared Hess’s comeback fight after a gnarly knee injury suffered in Bellator’s second middleweight tournament went off without a hitch, as he rebutted Chris Bell’s takedown with a smooth triangle choke from which there was no escape. The tap out came at 1:40 of the first round, and presumably, Hess gets to walk around without crutches tomorrow – a vast improvement over his last outing in the cage.
You know what sucks? Being just as skilled as your opponent but only about three quarters of their size. Such was the case when DJ Linderman took on Rich Hale in this season’s last light-heavyweight tournament final. Working with way too much of a reach and height deficit, Linderman did his best to chase the bigger Hale down, winging kicks and punches and eating a steady diet of them in return. Still, it was a close contest – that is, until Linderman failed in a takedown attempt and wound up with Hale mounted and affixed to his back for most of Round 3. When time ran out, two judges gave it to Hale and one judge to Linderman, rendering Hale the victor by split decision and setting up the tournament finals with M’Pumbu vs. Hale.
-Luis Nogueira def. Jerod Spoon via Unanimous Decision (30-27, 29-28, 29-28)
-Christian M’Pumbu def. Tim Carpenter via TKO (Punches) at 2:08 in Round 1
-Ronnie Mann def. Josh Arocho via Unanimous Decision (30-25, 30-27, 30-27)
-Jared Hess def. Chris Bell via Submission (Triangle Choke) at 1:40 in Round 1
-Rich Hale def. DJ Linderman via Split Decision (29-28, 29-28, 28-29)