With the fifth season of Bellator underway, tonight saw the quarterfinal round of the latest middleweight conflagration unfold – sometimes in dramatic fashion, sometimes in the kind of fashion that makes you want to gouge out your own eyes. There were repeat customers stepping up for another turn at the trough of violence, and there were noobs both heralded and unheralded. How did it all play out? Dude, I am so glad you asked…
You’d expect the jiu-jitsu instructor at Wanderlei Silva’s Las Vegas academy to at least fight like a he gave a damn. But Brazilian Victor Vianna defied expectations in his bout against Sam Alvey, choosing instead to do about ten seconds of hard work in the five minutes of Round 1, thirty seconds of sustained effort in the five minutes of Round 2, and some semi-consistent output throughout the duration of the third. Was it his game plan to come off as not caring? Who knows. What we do know, however, is that for the opening frame Vianna let Alvey throw leather with more and more confidence as they circled the cage. Only in the waning seconds was the monotony broken with a Vianna takedown attempt. The second round was more of the same, Vianna changing it up with a successful takedown that went nowhere plus slightly more exertion, while Round 3 saw him finally acting like he wanted to be in there by way of more punches thrown and more takedowns attempted. It was an uninspiring performance – mainly because we expected more from Vianna – but it was enough for the Brazilian to eke out the split decision.
On paper, the pairing of Croat striker Zelg Galesic and Russian striker Alexander Shlemenko should have yielded the kind of stand-up battle that would have had all dangling heavy bags within a hundred-yard radius inexplicably bursting into flame. But no, reality had to rain on our parade. Making clear his intentions of taking the fight to where Galesic was weakest, Shlemenko was tossing his foe to the canvas almost right out of the gate, and though Galesic did land two hard up-kicks to reassert his dangerousness, the end came from a submission – albeit one from the standing position. At the 1:55 mark of the first round, Shlemenko caught Galesic against the fence with his neck down, and the ensuing guillotine left the Croat with no choice but to tap out.
I had high expectations from Victor O’Donnell, having him seen him smash guys like Rafael Natal in person and watched him mess people up on SpikeTV. However, I did not expect Brian Rogers to hit as hard and explosively as he did, and I sure as heck didn’t think a bad referee call would make the ultimate difference in the match-up’s outcome. From the outset Rogers was tossing lightning bolts, looking for the “off button” as O’Donnell mixed punches with tie-ups. But a blocked high-kick and a hard left had O’Donnell tumbling to the canvas, and Rogers was on him instantly, feeding him hammerfists in rapid-fire succession. Was O’Donnell done? No, not really, but he was grimacing, and his closed eyes no doubt prompted referee Troy Waugh to step in and waive the bout off. O’Donnell was livid at the stoppage, and rightfully so, but them’s the breaks, and Rogers’ TKO win at 1:56 of Round 1 means he moves on to the semifinals.
In a welterweight preliminary bout that found its way onto the broadcast, American Top Team rep and jiu-jitsu black belt Ailton Barbosa had his way with local boy Ryan Keenan. It didn’t take long for the fight to go to the ground, nor did it take long for Barbosa to have Keenan’s back with the figure-four locked in. To Keenan’s credit, the rear naked choke wasn’t quite as quick, as the American put up a somewhat decent fight trying to resist the arm around his neck. But the tap out was inevitable, and it eventually came at 1:55 into the first.
All chronic leukemia and horrific knee injuries aside, Bryan Baker and Jared Hess are two tough-ass fighters who could be dropped off the back of a moving bus and still want to fight for three full rounds. Don’t believe me? Then look no further than their first round, which had Hess dogging out a takedown and snapping onto Baker’s back like a giant Lego. The rear naked choke that followed was so damn close I nearly passed out from watching it, but Baker somehow escaped, the back and forth that followed saw wrestling transitions galore and Baker hunting for a pair of Anacondas that would’ve spelled doom for lesser men. Hess was exhausted in the second and it showed, as his transitional power was sapped and Baker was able to alternate between mount and back-mount with regularity, and when Round 3 came around it was the Bryan Baker Show, with him assuming control of Hess’ back, flattening him out, and punching him out for the TKO at 2:52 in. Good fight, and of all who fought in tonight’s middleweight quarterfinals, Baker came off as wanting it the most.
-Victor Vianna def. Sam Alvey via Split Decision (29-28, 28-29, 29-28)
-Alexander Shlemenko def. Zelg Galesic via Submission (Guillotine) at 1:55 in Round 1
-Brian Rogers def. Victor O’Donnell via TKO (Punches) at 1:56 in Round 1
-Ailton Barbosa def. Ryan Keenan via Submission (Rear Naked Choke) at 1:55 in Round 1
-Bryan Baker def. Jared Hess via TKO (Punches) at 2:52 in Round 3