Bellator 55 took place from the Cocopah Resort and Casino last night in Yuma, AZ., headlined by the bantamweight semifinals. Both tournament bouts were evenly contested and ultimately decided by the judging panel.
Though the result is being received as contentious, Olympic wrestling medalist Alexis Vila protected his undefeated record and squeezed out a razor-thin decision over Nova Uniao's Marcos Galvao. The respect that the fighters held for one another was evident, as Galvao had his hands glued to his chin to ward off Vila's tremendous punching power and Vila was hesitant to induce his stellar wrestling acumen against the feisty two-time BJJ world champion.
"Louro" was the fighter moving forward in the stand up, but his reluctance to pull the trigger probably cost him the decision. Circling backward and carefully picking his spots, Vila seemed to be the more judicious striker even though Galvao might have loosened the higher volume of blows. Vila did secure a takedown in the first round, but Galvao immediately created space and regained his footing. The jab was Vila's best weapon early while Galvao found the mark with crisp low kicks.
Galvao laid out some astounding takedown defense in the second, twice stuffing Vila's shots with commanding conviction. The theme from the first continued with Galvao walking Vila down with conservative output. Both fighters had their moments: Galvao rattled off hard kicks, this time up high and to the midsection, and threatened with stiff knees from close range while Vila pumped his jab and returned fire with a body kick of his own while alternating his overhand right and left hook.
The first two rounds were extremely close and really could have been scored for either fighter or 10-10; a formula that consistently produces debatable decisions. I felt the third round was the only definitive frame, as Galvao finally let his hands go and landed the cleaner strikes while Vila's pace fizzled out a little. The numbers reflected this as well: one judge gave Galvao all three rounds while the other two saw it 29-28 for Alexis Vila, who claims a slot in the tournament finals with the victory.
Continued after the jump.
In the second semifinal match, youngster Eduardo Dantas, also a member of Nova Uniao, met Ed "Wild" West in an entertaining, back and forth contest. Dantas was highly aggressive with his hands and feet in the first, cracking West with a sharp right hand and following him to the ground with heavy punches. West recovered well and threw up an armbar attempt, then connected with an uppercut when they returned to their feet.
West was busy with kicks in the second while Dantas swung for the fences with his dangerous boxing. The second half of the frame took place on the ground with Dantas taking West's back and locking in the body triangle while trying to slither his arm underneath his chin for the choke. West patiently defended the onslaught and swept, finishing the round on top and peppering with ground and pound.
The pair laid into each other in the third, both initiating clinches and trading heated combinations, but I thought Dantas edged West out in just about every round even though that assessment doesn't convey how close the fight was. The final scores were 29-28 both ways with a 30-27 swaying the nod to Dantas. Narrowly avoiding facing a teammate in the finals, Eduardo Dantas continues to impress and squares off with Alexis Vila in the finals of the 2011 bantamweight tournament.
In his first appearance since defeating Richard Hale to win the light-heavyweight belt, champ Christian M'Pumbu was unable to overcome the insurmountable takedowns and top control of seasoned veteran Travis Wiuff. Down two rounds, M'Pumbu launched a cleaving combination that wobbled Wiuff in the third, but the experienced wrestler regained his wits and wisely buried the Congolese fighter with a late takedown to avoid making it a 10-8 round and seal the victory.
This was Wiuff's Bellator debut and the match was deemed a non-title affair so, while Wiuff made a strong impression and undoubtedly secured his place in the upcoming 205-pound tournament, M'Pumbu still retains his title.
Yet another surging Brazilian successfully debuted in the show's opener, as Ricardo Tirloni laced up a rear-naked choke to defeat Steve Gable in the second round. Tirloni is already booked to face former WEC fighter Chris Horodecki at Bellator 57 in Ontario.
Though the match was inexplicably amiss from the broadcast, former TUF winner Efrain Escudero competed under the Bellator banner for the first time last night. Escudero quickly dispatched of Ceasar Avila with a takedown that led to the Arizona wrestler falling back for a guillotine choke to elicit the first round tapout.
Bellator 55 Full Results
Alexis Vila defeats Marcos Galvao by split decision
Eduardo Dantas defeatsby split decision
Travis Wiuff defeats Christian M'Pumbu by unanimous decision
Ricardo Tirloni defeats Steve Gable by submission in Round Two
Efrain Escudero defeats Ceaser Avila by submission in Round One
Richard Hale defeats Carlos Flores by KO in Round One
Steve Steinbess defeats Dano Moore by submission in Round One