Arizona hates Marcos Galvao. That’s a fact. When last the Brazilian set foot in the state, he fought Joe Warren and beat the American from pillar to post, and when the bout went to the athletic commission-appointed judges, Galvao was robbed of what should have been a decision in his favor. Last night at Bellator 55 a similar injustice was meted out, with a screwjob once more befalling the jiu-jitsu black belt in the warm desert night. What the heck is going on here? Does Galvao bear resemblance to some reviled Arizona villain of yore? Is his visage on a poster on the wall of the athletic commission offices with a red circle and line going through it? Bellator 55 featured the two Season Five bantamweight semifinals, with Galvao taking on Alexis Vila and Ed West taking on Eduardo Dantas, and a non-title bout between light-heavyweight champ Christian M’Pumbu and the veteran Travis Wiuff. But the bad taste left in the mouths of viewers – and in poor Galvao’s maw – was that as long as a cage is erected in the last state to be admitted into the Union, the judges are going to make sure someone gets the shaft. And that sucks.
The night began with a match-up between Brazilian Ricardo Tirloni and jiu-jitsu black belt Steve Gable. Despite possessing a black belt in jiu-jitsu himself, Tirloni was exceedingly effective on the feet, stinging his foe with his Muay Thai and tying him up with solid wrestling. Gable was able to land only a couple good punches, both in the form of a strong right hand, but it was pretty much the Ricardo Tirloni Show, and the ending sequence saw Tirloni on top, peppering Gable with knuckles until Gable turned over and got choked out. The tap out came at 3:54 of Round 2 via rear naked choke.
Bellator pitted their best light-heavyweight against a guy who’s fought just about everyone and everywhere, and though no title was at stake, the stakes were high in terms of the value of their 205-pound champ’s belt. But hey, what could wrong with striker M’Pumbu taking on wrestler Wiuff? I’ll tell you what could go wrong – both for Bellator and M’Pumbu. Wiuff could call upon his vast eighty-bout experience and takedown ability to stymie the Congolese stand-up specialist and impose his will throughout almost all their three-round contest. Round 1 saw the American secure top position, and though he couldn’t do much with it, he was on top and M’Pumbu was stuck. In Rounds 2 and 3 the champ landed a few hard strikes in the form of a knee and crosses, but again, when Wiuff wanted it on the ground it went to the ground. When time expired he took the unanimous decision, and the win earned him a berth in the next light-heavyweight tournament.
Rich Hale can do inverted triangles (see Bellator’s highlight reel from now until eternity), and apparently he can score hellacious knockouts, too – as local fighter Carlos Flores learned all too painfully. Hale came out, softened Flores up with a pair of knees, then landed a right hook square on Flores’ “off” button. It took only eighteen seconds, and Flores was snoozing on the canvas.
Dantas took out fellow Brazilian Wilson Reis with an explosive flying knee and some punches to secure his semifinal slot, while West out-danced Luis Nogueira to earn a narrow split decision. Thankfully, putting the two together at Bellator 55 was a recipe for action. In the opening seconds of Round 1 it became apparent that West’s frenetic, unorthodox striking style was no match for Nogueira’s concise and aggressive Muay Thai, as Nogueira just kept coming forward and was able to knock his opponent silly. West never stopped flitting about, though, scoring here and there while doing his best imitation of the Riverdance and the Electric Bugaloo. Round 2 had Nogueira getting West down, taking his back and threatening with a rear naked choke, and the final frame was all about the American and the Brazilian doing things like the Cha-Cha and the Charleston. When all was said and done, Dantas took the split decision, and advanced to the tournament finals. His opponent?
Well, since we already know that the other half of the semifinal bracket had Galvao getting screwed against Vila, there’s no mystery in who Dantas is facing. So let’s see how it all came about, shall we?
If you were expecting the Cuban Olympic wrestler to come out and flatten Galvao like he did Warren, you were undoubtedly disappointed, as Round 1 featured an abundance of caution and both men feeling the other out and testing their range. Vila got one true takedown, but it went nowhere. The second round, however, was when the heat went up a few degrees in the cage. With a height and reach advantage, Galvao began punching, kicking and kneeing his more compact foe repeatedly – a theme that recurred all the way to the final bell. Vila had his moments, landing with power, but as the seconds ticked away and fifteen minutes were finally gone, it felt as if the Brazilian had done enough to win. According to the Arizona judges, it wasn’t. The shafting was so blatant, Bellator honcho Bjorn Rebney awarded Galvao a win bonus, although it was likely cold comfort given that Vila takes his spot in the finals.
-Alexis Vila def. Marcos Galvao via Split Decision (29-28, 29-28, 27-30)
-Eduardo Dantas def. Ed West via Split Decision (29-28, 28-29, 30-27)
-Travis Wiuff def. Christian M’Pumbu via Unanimous Decision (30-27, 29-28, 29-28)
-Ricardo Tirloni def. Steve Gable via Submission (Rear Naked Choke) at 3:54 in Round 2
-Rich Hale def. Carlos Flores via KO (Punch) at :18 in Round 1