Bellator 59 is now officially history, and it certainly was memorable. With no UFC event taking place there were more eyes than usual on this broadcast, which took place in Atlantic City, NJ. And there was plenty to be seen.
The first fight of the live broadcast was Marcin Held vs. Phillipe Nover. The fight went for the full three rounds. Held was extremely active especially on the ground, pulling guard and going for submission after submission. However, he never really threatened Nover seriously. Nover was able to defend every sub attempt that Held threw at him, and had the upper hand in what little striking there was. However, the judges awarded Held a controversial split decision. As this was billed as a qualifier for the next featherweight tournament, Held should be guaranteed a spot. Perhaps Bjorn Rebney will also award Nover a place in the tourney after his performance tonight - he certainly earned it.
The next fight was the bantamweight tournament final, Eduardo Dantas vs. Alexis Vila. This one also went all three rounds. Vila spent most of the first round controlling Dantas against the cage, but Dantas, with a significant height/reach advantage, was better on the feet and took the second round. Third round saw Dantas taking Vila's back and working for a rear naked choke that he never quite got - but it was enough to give him the round and the fight. So Eduardo Dantas will challenge Zach Makovsky for the bantamweight title sometime in the spring of 2012.
Next, lightweight tournament runner-up Patricky Freire took on the un-retired Kurt Pellegrino. This one was short and bittersweet - Freire caught Pellegrino early with a left that dropped him, then when Freire moved in and was trying to finish the fight, the ref stepped in and stopped it. There was some controversy over this for the simple reason that Pellegrino wasn't out, wasn't turtled up, and was still trying to fight. In fact, he was in the middle of grabbing a single when the ref called a halt to the fight. While it's true that it was probably only a matter of time before Freire really did knock him out, Pellegrino certainly deserved the chance to turn things around and stay in the fight. He was very classy afterward, though, didn't complain about the stoppage, said many nice things about Freire, and then announced his retirement from MMA. Hats off to Batman.
Finally, the heavyweight tournament final was underway: Eric Prindle vs. Thiago Santos. This was another short and bittersweet bout. Santos got a couple of takedowns, as was expected. But when Prindle was on his back, Santos stood up to land some leg kicks... and kicked Prindle square in the cup. Santos argued that it was accidental, and perhaps it might have been, but it's really hard to see how. At any rate, Prindle took his 5 minutes but was still obviously in pain. He was heard to say that he felt like he was going to throw up. It was determined that he couldn't continue, so the fight was declared a No Contest. So we will have to wait until a rematch can be scheduled to find out who will go on to face champ Cole Konrad.
It was a strange night for Bellator, overall. But the fights were good even if the officiating and judging sometimes wasn't. And, again, it was certainly a memorable way to finish out season 5.