Bellator, oh beloved Bellator, how I missed thee. Tonight, the sixth season of the number two MMA organization in the world debuted on MTV2, bringing with it the quarterfinals of the latest featherweight tournament, plus a long-awaited championship tilt between reigning king Joe Warren and recent tournament winner Pat Curran. How did it all play out? Glad you asked!
If not for a kick to the grill that came out of nowhere, Marlon Sandro would be fighting Warren in lieu of Curran. But so it goes in MMA, and now the Brazilian Nova Uniao star was back in the tourney mix, taking on fellow 145-pound fighter Roberto Vargas in what was essentially a squash match. For the first minute the two probed each other with kicks and punches, and for a moment it seemed as if we were in for a fight. Yet at the minute-and-a-half mark Sandro flicked a switch, and began unloading – and catching –Vargas with overhands and uppercuts that put the American wrestler on jelly legs. Vargas covered up, wobbled about, and instinctively shot for a takedown to no avail, and soon the jiu-jitsu black belt was on his back, flattening him out for the rear naked choke. Vargas tapped after 3:35 had expired in the first round, and with the win Sandro moved on to the semifinals and one step closer to redemption.
To earn his slot in this featherweight lineup, Ronnie Mann had to transition from a badass UK fighter to a solid Bellator repeat offender and Bellator Summer Series tournament semifinalist. Conversely, to earn his slot, ex-Marine Mike Corey had to draw a very overrated Chris Horodecki. Can you guess which one was a canny fighter and which one was outgunned? If you said Mann, you’d be wrong. For the first half of the first round, Corey kept stepping in swinging and ate two or three rapid-fire hooks for his troubles. Then Mann put him on his butt with a right, and when the American popped back up, Mann sent him back down with the very next right hand he threw. Eventually Corey recovered, and with thirty seconds left in the frame he got the takedown and delivered fists and forearms from above.
The momentum shifted considerably in Round 2, as Corey began dinging his foe up on the feet then took him down and ground and pounded him for the vast majority of the period. Mann seemed to have no answer other than swiveling his hips into a couple ill-fated armbar attempts, and in terms of scorecards, it was clear Corey had evened things up.
Round 3 was the same as the one preceding, with Mann’s inability to escape from the bottom leading to a unanimous decision in Corey’s favor.
By virtue of making it to the Season Four featherweight tournament finals, Daniel Straus had proven himself to be a force to reckon with among the Bellator 145ers. His quarterfinal performance against Jeremy Spoon only further cemented that. Employing superior wrestling that enabled him to dictate if the fight was going to be horizontal or vertical, and employing harder, crisper strikes that banged Spoon up throughout, Straus was a man on a mission. The only real damage he took was an accidental knee to the junk in the first, whatever short punches Spoon managed to land during a brief wall-and-stall bid in the second and third, and whatever negative vibes Spoon mentally sent Straus’ way. Straus easily took the unanimous decision when time ran out.
Champ Warren has turned taking damage into an art form, but tonight the canvas he painted wasn’t pretty. Wielding his usual Greco-Roman prowess, Warren looked to fight the visibly larger Curran on his own terms by making the challenger wrestle. Curran had other ideas. After three and a half minutes of Warren trying to throw his foe down, Curran blasted him with a high-kick and smashed him with a slew of punches and knees. Warren survived, though, and came on strong in the second frame, where was successful in dumping the challenger to the mat twice. Then came the third round, and Curran’s absolute murder of Warren with the kind of knees, hooks and uppercuts that would fell an oak tree. The referee allowed far too many of those blows to land, and the subsequent knockout was brutal in the extreme. The official time of the KO was 1:25 of Round 3, and Curran was crowned the new Bellator featherweight king.
-Pat Curran def. Joe Warren via KO (Punches) at 1:25 in Round 3
-Daniel Straus def. Jeremy Spoon via Unanimous Decision (30-27, 29-28, 29-28)
-Mike Corey def. Ronnie Mann via Unanimous Decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28)
-Marlon Sandro def. Roberto Vargas via Submission (Rear Naked Choke) at 3:35 in Round 1