If Bellator has not become your weekly, Friday night ritual, I strongly suggest getting on board. The promotion consistently churns out some pleasing combination of highlight-reel finishes, back-and-forth brawls, up-and-coming prospects or watch-worthy MMA in general.
Tonight, Bellator 79 is on the menu. Tournament semifinal action transpires in the heavyweight division -- Richard Hale vs. Thiago Santos in the show's headliner -- and in the featherweight division with Mike Richman vs. Shahbulat Shamhalaev. Polishing off the main card, which begins at 8:00 p.m. ET sharp, is a catchweight bout pitting Douglas Lima vs. Kobe Ortiz and a welterweight affair aligning Ryan Ford vs. Kyle Baker.
The preliminary card goes live an hour before at 7:00 p.m. ET and, to avoid confusion, the Marcus Aurelio competing in the featured undercard bout is not the popular UFC and Pride FC veteran. Both lineups in their entirety are listed below. Join us back here for live discussion and play-by-play when the main card starts at 8:00, though the stream will be live and functional for your viewing pleasure when the undercard kicks of at 7:00.
Main Card (8:00 p.m ET on Bloody Elbow and MTV2)
Heavyweight Tournament Semifinals Fight: Rich Hale (238.4) vs. Thiago Santos (265.2)
Featherweight Tournament Semifinals Fight: Shahbulat Shamhalaev (145.6) vs. Mike Richman (145.2)
Catchweight Feature Fight(180 lbs): Douglas Lima (179.4) vs. Kobe Ortiz (179.8)
Welterweight Feature Fight: Ryan Ford (169.8) vs. Kyle Baker (170.8)
Preliminary Card (7:00 p.m. ET on Bloody Elbow and Spike.com)Catchweight Feature Fight(173 lbs): Christ Franck (172.2) vs. Marcus Aurelio (170.4)
Heavyweight Feature Fight: Vladimir Starcencov (260.2) vs. Vitaly Minakov (245.8)
Lightweight Feature Fight: Josh Pulsifier (155.4) vs. Magomedrasul Khasbulaev (155.4)
Lightweight Feature Fight: Jonny Carson (155.6) vs. Guillaume DeLorenzi (155.6)
Heavyweight Feature Fight: Ed Carpenter (236.6) vs. Josh Appelt (256.2)
We're live. It's Friday. Bellator is on. Everything is happening. And anything can. I'm your tour guide, Dallas Winston, checking in just as our first main card bout is about to pop off. Results from earlier fights are posted below.
Richard Hale vs. Thiago Santos
R1:The big men prod at each other from range at a slow pace early. Santos uncorks a brutal string of rights and lefts that puts Hale on roller-skates. Hale covers up while wobbling back, grabs the clinch but has his neck lassoed up in a Santos guillotine. Hale is patient and fights Santos' grip open to escape, and they stalemate in the clinch until Big Dan Miragliotta restarts them in the center.
Lunging loopers from Santos seem oddly desperate; Hale sidesteps with a counter combo and Santos goes down. Hale pounces with unanswered punches and Big Dan steps in. I didn't even see what dropped Santos and things sure went south quickly.
Richard Hale defeats Thiago Santos by TKO (punches), Round 1.
Shahbulat "Thank God for Copy-N-Paste" Shamhalaev vs. Mike Richman
Richman flicks out a triple jab right away. Shamhalaev looking to counter. Richman goes down in the next light-speed exchange but pops right back up; I couldn't tell why/how he dropped. He appears fine and peels off a quick, crisp flurry, looking sharp with his boxing and gaining confidence. Ruh-roh ... Richman leans in while hesitating on which combo to throw with Shamhalaev backed on the fence, which allows a lights-out overhand right to sneak through. Richman crumples and the referee waves it off.
- Shahbulat Shamhalaev defeats Mike Richman by KO (punch), Round 1.
Douglas Lima vs. Kobe Ortiz
R1: They undergo the cliche "feeling out" stage early. Ortiz shoots a double but Lima shakes it off. Ortiz keeping his hands foolishly low in exchanges. Right on cue, Lima rockets an overhand right through his gaping defense and floors him. Lima wisely steps past Ortiz' guard before showering down right hands, which enables him to take Ortiz' back when he tries to roll out.
Lima puts both hooks in and alternates between clubbing punches and tying on the rear-naked choke. Ortiz defends but he's in sheer survival mode. Ortiz shakes out a hook and shows gameness by immediately sweeping Lima. Lima grabs vice-like wrist control to eliminate Ortiz' punches. Ortiz postures up, disengages and chews on a sharp up-kick from Lima. Ortiz showing shoddy striking defense by just ducking his head down to his waist and winging hooks. 10-8 Lima, just as much for Ortiz' complete absence of effective offense.
R2: Ortiz is game but just stepping in and out with ugly, looping meatballs with his hands still at his beltline. Lima, however, does not capitalize and is oddly just backing in and out with no counter-fire. Lima squeezes the trigger halfway through the round and buzz-saws Ortiz with another combo, resets and also drops him with a straight heat-seeker.
Lima chops away Ortiz' balance with a cleaving low kick, then snaps Ortiz down with a strong front headlock when he tries to stand. Lima slips in an anaconda choke but Ortiz squirts his head out and stands back up. This is playing out as nothing short of a mismatch. Ortiz glues himself to Lima's leg and they stall in that position for a while, then Lima breaks the clinch, plants a knee on Ortiz' face, and drills him with a clean salvo, again, and drops him flat on his back, again. Lima rips off a combo with the intention of finishing but the bell sounds first. 10-8 Lima, again.
R3: Ortiz ducks under a Lima left hook and tries to tie him up to no avail. Lima snaps his head back with a piston-like jab. Ortiz' hands have yet to rise anywhere close to his chin and he's still ducking over his right knee to defend. Lima slashes a left hook through. Ortiz takes a stiff low kick and flails with a stumbling overhand that whiffs entirely. Switch kick by Lima grazes, an uppercut lands. I don't think Ortiz has landed a single punch with 2 minutes left. Whiplash-inducing jab lands again from Lima.
Lima now enjoying target practice with some high kicks. Butterbean-esque low kick attempt from Ortiz. I don't mean to be too hard on the guy, but he doesn't belong in there with Lima. Straight 1-2 lands by Lima and Ortiz is gushing blood. A huge right hand and head kick lands for Lima, who ends the fight by TKO with 10 clicks left.
- Douglas Lima defeats Kobe Ortiz by TKO (head kick and punches), Round 3.
Ryan Ford vs. Kyle Baker
R1: Ford blitzes with a series of waist-level hooks that causes Baker to retreat and cover. Ford keeps the heat on by nailing a takedown and feeding Baker a steady diet of punches and elbows. Baker finally gets full guard and controls Ford's posture to slow the frenetic onslaught. Baker goes rubber guard to lock Ford down in a short respite with solid defense, but Ford breaks loose, postures up and hammers down another menacing flurry.
Baker scrambles free and stands back up; Ford mauls him with short-range haymakers in the process. Baker might be dazed and fighting entirely on instinct. He eats a high kick and more spoonfuls of leather. He proves me wrong by ending up on top after a scramble breaks out and ends the round pumping down short elbows with strong top control. Not enough to save him the round. 10-8 Ford for a dominant beatdown.
R2: Amidst some technical issues, the gist of the first 2 minutes plays out in a stalemate against the fence that referee Yves Lavignes separates. Baker gets mowed with another medley of big Ford punches but takes them like a handlebar-moustached zombie, and once again ends the round on top, throwing mid-power punches and hunting for chokes. I can't tell if Baker is 3 sheets to the wind or not, but he damn near did steal that round. I'll play it safe with a 10-10.
R3: The electric pace from earlier has died down and both fighter's shoulders are heavy. They exchange a few slow punches but neither stands out in the opening 2 minutes. Ford gets a double leg but can't do much with it and Lavigne stands them up quickly. Now Baker assumes the top position on the mat, threatens to pass to full mount and takes Ford's back when he defends sloppily.
60 seconds left and Baker is fishing for the rear-naked choke with Ford hand-fighting it off. Ford spins into Baker to escape the danger and ends up in full guard. Baker showing huge heart to the very end by patty-caking punches off his back, then wheeling out some up-kicks with some mustard on them. Ford comes back with a few thunderous punches to end a surprisingly entertaining little scrap. I might actually go Baker by a slim margin in that round, for mounting the more memorable and effective offense. That puts my 3rd round 10-9 Baker and leaves my score as 29-27.
- One judge has it 29-28 and the others see it 30-27 for Ryan Ford, who defeats Kyle Baker by unanimous decision.