Outdoor temperatures of ninety-plus degrees and the obvious effect of the heat on the fighters were enormous concerns when Bellator 41 headed to the Cocopah Resort and Casino in Yuma, Arizona last night. Fortunately, the event, held in front of a paltry crowd of casino goers, went on without a gaffe from an environmental standpoint, but it wasn't excluded from a broader epidemic that consistently rears its ugly head. Poor judging.
In the main event of the evening, reigning Bellator featherweight champion Joe Warren defeated WEC and Shooto veteran Marcos Galvao via unanimous decision (30-27, 29-28, 29-28) in a non-title affair. Unfortunately, the commissioned judges gave the fight to the wrong fighter, robbing Galvao of an impressive performance and putting the decision up for consideration as robbery of the year.
Galvao utilized his lengthy frame throughout the first two rounds, stopping Warren's relentless takedown attempts and positional dominance from the top. In nearly every instance, Warren came up short, either getting stuffed by Galvao's takedown defense or failing to control Galvao on the ground when he successfully dumped the Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt to his back. Galvao's impressive defense to Warren's Greco-style wrestling in the clinch allowed him to counter Warren's careless rushes, punishing the champion with counter punches and crushing knees. Warren pressed forward for the entire fifteen minutes however, completely unaffected by the myriad of strikes his chin had absorbed.
In the third round, Warren smothered Galvao in wrestling and ground and pound, throwing down punches and elbows from the top. Warren remained active enough to maintain the position for most of the round, easily winning the round on any judges' scorecard. Most fans, however, scored the first two rounds for Galvao and deemed this an upset despite the "non-title" tag on the match-up. Unfortunately, the judges cageside didn't agree, idiotically awarding Warren the victory.
Fortunately, the other three fights on the Bellator 41 main card didn't make it to decision. In a highly-anticipated rematch of their season two featherweight tournament semifinal, Team Black House fighter and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt Patricio Freire squared off against fellow Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt Wilson Reis in a season four featherweight semifinal showdown. Freire had won the previous encounter via unanimous decision back at Bellator 18 in May of last year.
Last night's encounter was cruising to a similar outcome as Freire peppering Reis with superior striking for a majority of the fight. Reis attempted to bring the fight to the ground consistently throughout the first two rounds, pressing Freire into a clinch and battering his legs with knees. Reis exploded into transitions for takedowns, putting Freire onto his back on rare occasion. Freire squirmed back to his feet quickly however, landing a few choice shots as he regained his footing.
As the fight dragged on, Reis grew weary from the clinch struggle, resorting to standing toe-to-toe with Freire. By the third round, Reis had nothing to offer along the fence, and Freire shifted into another gear, sensing that his opponent was on the rocks. Freire battered Reis with lefts and rights, sitting back in the pocket and countering everything that Reis threw at him. Reis landed a few glancing blows, but it was evident that the power wasn't there to stun Freire. Freire unleashed a three-punch combination, wobbling Reis along the fence and putting doubt as to whether he would last the round. Reis regained his footing for a split second, but Freire viciously attacked, obliterating Reis' chin with a six or seven punch combination that found the mark on every blow. An impressive victory for a man who has become one of the very best featherweights outside of the UFC. He advances to the tournament final for the second time in a year.
- In the second super fight of the evening, Bellator bantamweight champion Zach Makovsky knocked out Chad Robichaux in the third round of their non-title showdown. Robichaux, who entered the contest undefeated at 11-0, pressed forward wildly for a majority of the match-up, allowing Makovsky to counter with takedowns. Robichaux was a game opponent on the ground however, escaping tight situations and near submission attempts from Makovsky. Unfortunately, those situations occurred far too often. Robichaux's go-for-broke strategy allowed Makovsky to easily get the fight to the ground, eventually transitioning to Robichaux's back in the third and pounding him out.
- Daniel Straus advanced to the featherweight tournament final against Patricio Freire after grinding out Kenny Foster in the event's opening bout. Foster was able to outclass Straus on the feet in the early moments of the fight, landing choice shots on the wrestler's chin while avoiding his wrestling game. But Foster's aggressiveness hurt his chances, wading forward too far and allowing Straus to toss him to the ground on multiple occasions. While Straus didn't take full advantage of those situations in the first two rounds, he was able to control the rounds following Foster's mistakes. In the third round, Foster made the same mistake, only this time Straus was able to slip in a guillotine choke as Foster was in a sitting position along the fence.
- Mixed martial arts promotions should think long and hard about heading to Arizona to hold events. The sheer awfulness of the judging on display in the main event battle between Joe Warren and Marcos Galvao should be punished. I doubt the commission in the state is as progressive as other programs, but perhaps there will be some consequences if promotions publicly admit to avoiding the state due to incompetent judging.
- Bellator should avoid outdoor events at all costs. Even if we ignore the obvious pitfalls of having the Sun shining directly in your eyes, the heat combined with the strenuous activity of fighting can affect the outcomes of fights.
- Galvao proved that Warren's lofty goals of attaining two belts is going to be much harder than he anticipated. Warren didn't look good, and he had considerable trouble trying to bring Galvao to the mat. His striking has improved a bit, but his reach and size make it tough for him to implement a striking-only strategy in the cage. Fortunately for Warren, he would still be a favorite in a five-round affair, mainly due to his unrelenting drive and wrestling ability. If last night's bout had went to a fifth round, it isn't a stretch to say Warren legitimately wins that fight.
- I would make a case that Patricio Freire is a top 15, possibly a top 10 featherweight in the world at this point in his career. Bellator is contract hell however, so it's likely that we won't be seeing that status proven at any time soon. His performances speak for themselves however.