Bellator 80 is in the books, and while it was a solid night of fights, it didn't pack the fireworks we usually see from Bellator. There were a lot of decisions on the main card, though only the opener was a bit dull. The big news is the successful return of Joe Warren, plus setting two tournament finals in Richard Hale vs. Alexander Volkov and Shahbulat Shamhalaev vs. Rad Martinez. And, unfortunately, more Bellator referee controversy, this time courtesy of some awful work from James Warring in the Heavyweight semi-finals.
Joe Warren def. Owen Evinger by unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)
Joe Warren came into this fight in a must win situation, coming off those two tough KO defeats. And he did exactly what he does best - grind Evinger down over 3 rounds. This was consistently fought on the ground, with Warren in top position, working for better positioning, some ground and pound, and some submission attempts. There really was just nothing Evinger could do here, as he never mounted any offense of note. Weirdest moment of the fight came in round 1, where Warren had a body lock from the top, then just picked Evinger up, stood him up, and took him back down. Weird. One of the big questions was how would Warren's chin be, and we didn't get an answer to that one, as Warren never was hit clean. Expect to see Warren back in the next Bantamweight tournament thanks to this win. They were already running over time, so sadly no big post-fight promo from Warren.
Alexander Volkov def. Vinicius Queiroz by TKO, 4:59 round 2
Volkov claimed his spot in the Heavyweight finals with this impressive stoppage victory over Vinicius Spartan. Volkov again showed off the crisp striking skills we saw against Brett Rogers. He has a nice jab, good head movement, and puts his combinations together well to steadily wear down his opponent. Against Rogers he never was able to close the show, but here he poured on the pressure late in round 2 for the win. Unfortunately, the fight was a bit marred by some terrible referee work by former boxer James Warring. Warring stood them up very quickly, warned them not to do things that actually were not illegal, and generally interjected himself far too much in the fight. Still, great showing from Volkov, and the Volkov vs. Hale final should be pretty fantastic. I'll take Volkov for now, though his weakness on the ground could easily be exploited by Hale.
Rad Martinez def. Wagnney Fabiano by unanimous decision (30-27, 29-28, 29-28)
This Featherweight tournament semi-final between a wrestler and a jiu jitsu specialist was competed almost entirely on the feet. And much like he did in the quarter-finals, Martinez gritted through, pushed the pace, and steadily outstruck his opponent. I liked a lot of Rad's work here - the combos, the body shots, the feints - it was a deceptively strong performance. He'll really have his work cut out for him in the finals against Shahbulat Shamhalaev, but he's showed that he has the guts to pull off the win, and I'll be pulling for him. As for Fabiano, this was another of the tentative performances that have become his calling card in recent years. It's a shame, as he once looked like a future world champion, but that potential seems to now be gone.
Pre-fight, the Bellator hype was about how this would be an action-packed shoot-out, but that's not how it played out. Instead, Cooper used his superior wrestling to control his way to a dominant decision. Cooper was able to repeatedly take the fight to the mat and control Cobb, bringing down heavy ground and pound. On the feet, Cobb had a bit more success, but still was outgunned. An easy decision win for Cooper here, but the fans got a bit bored in round 3 and started booing at times, so definitely not the kind of big win he would like to have on the main card.
Cosmo Alexandre def. Josh Quayhagen by unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)
Shannon Slack def. Sky Moiseichik by unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)