Another Saturday night without the UFC or Strikeforce, which means another Saturday night with Bellator as our main focus. Yahoo! In tonight’s installment, we have two hungry bantamweights vying for a slot in an upcoming 135-pound tournament, a UFC vet on a serious decline taking on someone with leukemia, and this season’s welterweight tournament finals. So, without further ado…
You never know what you’re going to get when two sub-UFC heavyweights are matched up. Will it be a slugfest between behemoths or a hugfest between overgrown teddy bears? In the pairing between undefeated Ron Sparks and often-defeated Vince Lucero, it was thankfully the former. Employing a variety of strikes, including combinations that had his foe covering up and leg-kicks that had him tumbling to the mat, Sparks was large and in charge from the outset. The coupe de grace came via side-control and a keylock that had Lucero tapping at 2:18 of Round 1.
Former WEC champ Chase Beebe and Bellator inaugural bantamweight tourney semifinalist Jose Vega stepped into the cage to do the man-dance, with each man vying for a slot in the promotion’s upcoming 135-pound tournament, and each man bringing a similar quick and dangerous style into the cage. But whereas Vega mixes heavy hands with wrestling, Beebe infuses his wrestling with some very smooth submissions – and tonight, those subs made the difference. In the opening minutes the two threw leather and banged each other up nicely, yet whenever they clinched Vega kept ducking his head. Sensing an opening, Beebe exploited the mistake with a tight guillotine, and the tap came at 4:06 of the first round. Now Beebe joins the likes of Joe Warren, Marcos Galvao and a few other really small, really tough people in the next bantamweight conflagration.
In a match-up of unknowns, Richard Bouphanouvong and David Rickles scrapped at a 179-pound catchweight, and early on it became clear who was good at what. For Laotian-American Bouphanouvong, it was all about the wrestling and the ground and pound, and for Rickles it was accurate strikes and submission threats from the bottom. Round 1 was pretty back and forth, and based on effective offense Rickles likely took it by stinging his opponent with a variety of knees and fists. Rickles left no doubt in Round 2, though, ratcheting up the onslaught on the feet and forcing a dazed Bouphanouvong to shoot a takedown and fall prey to a triangle choke. Bouphanouvong called it quits at 1:11 of the second round.
UFC veteran Joe Riggs took on Bellator middleweight tournament finalist Bryan Baker, and for the first three minutes of their meeting they danced like men more interested in Broadway musical numbers than bashing each other’s head in. But Baker grew in confidence and began throwing kicks and flying knees, while Riggs seemed content to backpedal and counterpunch. It was a sad display by the fighter once considered a contender in the welterweight division, and Baker found the inevitable opening by trapping Riggs against the cage, digging hooks into his body and tagging his undefended chin with a left. Riggs dropped to the canvas and covered up, and when it was clear he was done the referee stepped in and waived it off at 3:53 of Round 2. Afterwards, Baker brought his girlfriend into the cage and proposed to her, which begs the question: if he had lost, would he have broken up with her?
To get to this season’s welterweight final, Jay Hieron and Rick Hawn routes both featured questionable decisions, so it was hard to watch them go at it at Bellator 43 without wondering how Brent Weedman versus Lyman Good was in Bizarro Universe tonight. Alas, what we got in our reality was Hieron versus Hawn, which had a former collegiate wrestler and IFL champ take on a judo Olympian in a maddening all-striking bout that was more about scoring points than anything else. For three rounds they pecked at each other with neither really exerting any kind of dominance, and when time ran out it went to the judges, who ruled it a split decision in favor of Hieron. Meanwhile, in Bizarro Universe, Good KO’d Weedman in a real barnburner. *Sigh* For his victory, Hieron gets to take on Bellator champ Ben Askren, which promises another unexciting decision.
-Ron Sparks def. Vince Lucero via Submission (Keylock) at 2:18 in Round 1
-Chase Beebe def. Jose Vega via Submission (Guillotine) at 4:06 in Round 1
-David Rickles def. Richard Bouphanouvong via Submission (Triangle Choke) at 1:11 in Round 2
-Bryan Baker def. Joe Riggs via TKO (Punches) at 3:53 of Round 2
-Jay Hieron def. Rick Hawn via Split Decision (29-28, 28-29, 29-28)