Bellator capped off its fifth season tonight with a sold-out show at the Palladium Ballroom in Caesar’s Hotel & Casino in Atlantic City, and MMA Convert was on hand to catch the action. There were two tournament finals – one in the bantamweight division and one in the heavyweight division – plus main card bouts featuring a pair of UFC veterans, and a stacked preliminary roster full of top local talent. With Kurt Pellegrino and Phillipe Nover the aforementioned UFC veterans, and their fans making up the vast majority of the audience, it was one heck of a live show. How did it all unfold?
The Tournament Finals – Sort Of
Maybe Brazilian Eduardo Dantas was trying to tell us something by choosing “Sandstorm” (Wanderlei Silva’s theme) as his entrance music, like he was going to unleash hell striking or something. If that’s the case, then Alexis Vila’s music should have been “Baby, I’m going to press you up against the fence and hold you there,” which is pretty much how the first round of their tournament final bout played out. Round 2 had Dantas more able to fend off the Cuban Olympic wrestler’s hugging, and when there was space between them, the Brazilian landed punches, knees, outside leg-kicks with the kind of frequency that only pays dividends on the judges’ scorecards. Thankfully, Dantas made it easy for the judges in Round 3, spinning out of a sloppy Vila takedown attempt, taking Vila’s back, and threatening with a choke for the majority of the round. That right there earned Dantas the unanimous decision, and as tournament winner, the Brazilian gets next crack at 135-pound champ Zach Makovsky.
The heavyweight final between Eric Prindle and Thiago Santos got off to an interesting start, with the Brazilian putting the American on his back with takedowns, then standing up and out of Prindle’s guard and kicking him square in the junk. After a few minutes of Prindle squinting in pain, and the replay on the monitor showing Santos’ transgression over and over again (each time eliciting groans from the crowd), the bout was finally called. The official time of the “no contest” was 1:24 of Round 1, and these guys are going to have to rematch in Season Six.
A Pair of UFC Veterans Get Screwed
To say Pellegrino has legions of fans in New Jersey would be an understatement. It would be more accurate to describe him as something akin to Thulsa Doom, with countless Jersey-ites more than willing to jump off a cliff for him. And so it was that Pellegrino entered the cage amidst a chorus of raucous cheers, while opponent Patricky Pitbull was showered with boos and hisses. Then they fought, and when the Brazilian stumbled the American with a one-two combination, and swarmed him with a barrage of punches while Pellegrino was turtled and struggling to snag a leg for a takedown – a turn of events that prompted the referee to step in prematurely – well, it goes without saying that the crowd did not approve. The official time of the TKO was 50 seconds of the first round, and though Pellegrino immediately jumped to his feet and protested the stoppage, he later acceded, and took the microphone to proclaim his retirement from competition once more.
Would Pellegrino have been able to escape the clutches of Pitbull and changed the course of the bout? Who knows. But what we know for sure is that he was denied the chance to, and for that, Pellegrino was the first UFC veteran to get screwed at Bellator 59.
Nover had a rough time of it when he made it to the UFC, but those losses did nothing to diminish the fact that he wields heavy hands and a jiu-jitsu black belt – both of which he needed when confronted by the leglock stylings of Polish fighter Marcin Held. Like Masakazu Imanari, Held more than a few times dove into rolling kneebar attempts that forced Nover on the defensive, and he spun on his back like a top, threatening with anything he could when the Filipino-American was above him. But Nover defended everything, used superior wrestling to scramble on top, and dropped fists whenever an opening presented itself. Neither man could finish the other, though, and when time expired it went to the judges, with one seeing it for Nover and the other two giving the “W” to Held – a split decision victory that left the partisan crowd (Nover hails from Brooklyn) booing. Did Held deserve the win? He was aggressive, that’s for sure. But a failed leglock attempt is still a failed leglock attempt, and not worth more than the punches that bounced Held’s head against the canvas.
With the loss, Nover became the second UFC veteran to get screwed at Bellator 59.
Mixed martial arts is illegal in France, so Karl Amoussou has had to make due by sparring with baguettes. Okay, not really. But he’s got solid striking skills, which he used to great effect against local boy Jesus Martinez. Finding an opening with a left that dropped Martinez, then following it up with a storm of punches to the turtled fighter now on the ground, Amoussou earned himself a TKO win at 2:20 of the first round.
At the last Cage Fury Fighting Championship, Lucas Pimenta knocked out Bryan Danner so bad, Danner went into convulsions and had to be carried out on a stretcher. At Bellator 59, the experienced Doug Gordon faired no better. Catching Gordon with a right hand and then smashing him with about a half dozen forearms on the ground, Pimenta finished it in just 40 seconds, and left Gordon in the same condition he’d left Danner.
Chris Wing carved out a pretty impressive amateur record before transitioning to pro, and much of his success came from the timing and power that went into making his hook a deadly weapon. Levon Maynard was having none of that, however, and by combining a tight kickboxing game with some effective ground and pound, he prevented Wing from uncorking his magic and eventually took the unanimous decision.
Bryan Van Artsdalen may have fallen prey to a triangle choke in his last Bellator outing (at Bellator 49), but it was a kickass performance full of intensity, and the featherweight brought that same fire with him into the cage this time around. Unfortunately, Scott Heckman was ready for what Van Artsdalen was bringing, and after a high-amplitude slam and some slick scrambling, Heckman cinched in a standing Brabo Choke that forced the tap out at 1:38 of Round 1.
When last we saw Brandon Saling (well, when I last saw him, which was at a Philly event called “Locked in the Cage” – you probably didn’t see that), he was knocking out the veteran brawler Lamont Lister. Opponent Greg Milliard was hip to Saling’s ability to find KOs, though, so he spent all three rounds nullifying his foe with a smothering ground game. Milliard took the unanimous decision after time expired.
- Thiago Santos vs. Eric Prindle – “No Contest” due to Accidental Foul (Groin Strike) at 1:24 in Round 1
- Patricky Freire def. Kurt Pellegrino via TKO (Punches) at :50 in Round 1
- Eduardo Dantas def. Alexis Vila via Unanimous Decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28)
- Marcin Held def. Phillipe Nover via Split Decision (29-28, 28-29, 29-28)
- Karl Amossou def. Jesus Martinez via TKO (Punches) at 2:20 in Round 1
- Levon Maynard def. Chris Wing via Unanimous Decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-26)
- Lucas Pimenta def. Doug Gordon via KO (Forearms) at :40 in Round 1
- Scott Heckman def. Bryan Van Artsdalen via Submission (Standing Brabo Choke) at 1:38 in Round 1
- Gregory Milliard def. Brandon Saling via Unanimous Decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)