While the UFC was making network television history on FOX, the number two organization in the sport was chugging away on MTV2, providing closure for Bellator’s Season Five welterweight and middleweight tournaments. There were submissions, stunning strikes and hard-fought wars. How did it all unfold?
The evening began with a pairing between Brazilian submission specialist Alexandre Bezerra and Alaskan journeyman Doug Evans. It didn’t take long for the more-experienced Evans to stick his jab in his opponent’s face and mark him up. In response, Bezerra took things to the ground, and was soon cinching on a guillotine. Evans countered by lifting him up and slamming him, and from then on it was a race between the American’s constant barrage of fists from above and the Brazilian’s sub onslaught, which included two close armbar attempts (that Evans answered with slams) and a heelhook attempt. Bezerra was the one to ultimate find success, with that final heelhook ending up too tight for Evans to spin out of. The tap out came at 4:04 of Round 1, and though he took damage, Bezerra definitely impressed.
Former Division I collegiate wrestler John Hawk came to Bellator 57 a light-heavyweight on a mission. That mission? Defeat Canadian Roger Hollett. Mission: unaccomplished. Despite a distinct reach advantage, Hawk was unable to cope with Hollett’s wider array of striking techniques and overall confidence. This manifested itself in things like Hollett’s leg-kicks, which were sharp and accurate whenever Hawk planted himself; Hollett’s punching, which was measured and concise; and Hollett’s head-movement, which enabled him to get in range and avoid trouble. By Round 3 Hawk was seriously trying to push Hollett through the fence like a piece of cheddar through a cheese grater, and though the Canadian wound up with a cut over his left eye, none of it stopped Hollett from scoring meaningfully. When time expired the split decision went to Hollett, but it wasn’t as close as the scorecards made it seem.
Vying for a shot at 185-pound champ Hector Lombard was Russian Alexander Shlemenko and Brazilian Vitor Vianna, two men who’d waded through a tournament field comprised of tough but not stellar middleweights to meet in the tournament finals. Who wanted it more? Clearly Shlemenko, as Vianna – a capable jiu-jitsu black belt – inexplicably eschewed going to the ground and instead chose to face his foe where his foe does best (standing). There were spinning-kicks and backfists galore from the Russian, and no matter how many times Vianna put knuckles to his cheek, Shlemenko kept coming forward and a rarely took a step back. Vianna did have his moments, like the occasional instances where he his punches forced Shlemenko to pause, or the brief time in Round 3 when Vianna got him down. But it was all Shlemenko all day, and he came away with the clear-cut unanimous decision at the end of it.
TUF and UFC veteran Ben Saunders had the cards stacked in his favor entering this season’s welterweight tournament, and when he handled all in his way en route to the finals, it seemed like meeting up with champ Ben Askren was in his destiny. Fellow finalist Doug Lima never got that memo, apparently. Round 1 saw a lot of clinch-work against the fence and jockeying for underhook dominance, and when Lima caught a kick and dumped Saunders onto the mat, the American swept him, mounted him, and punished the Brazilian until the remaining seconds ticked away. Round 2 began to play out the same way, with the two battling it out against the cage, but after a restart Saunders came forward and walked into a hellacious right hand. He dropped, and Lima followed him down to deliver a storm of hammerfists. The referee called it off at 1:21 of the second round, and for his hard work and fistic ferocity, Lima has now earned the right to get the blanket treatment from Askren.
-Doug Lima def. Ben Saunders via TKO (Hammerfists) at 1:21 in Round 2
-Alexander Shlemenko def. Vitor Vianna via Unanimous Decision (29-28, 30-27, 30-27)
-Roger Hollet def. John Hawk via Split Decision (29-28, 28-29, 29-28)
-Alexandre Bezerra def. Doug Evans via Submission (Heelhook) at 4:04 in Round 1