Photo via Bellator.com
Bellator 64 went off last night from the Caesers Windsor in Ontario, Canada. The centerpiece was Bellator welterweight champion Ben Askren defending his title against Douglas Lima, and the card was anchored by two bantamweight quarterfinal matches (Masakatsu Ueda vs. Travis Marx, Rodrigo Lima vs. Hiroshi Nakamura) and one featherweight semifinal bout pitting Marlon Sandro vs. Alexandre Bezerra. Each of the main card fights were decided on the score cards, which is uncharacteristic for the action-packed fight league.
Askren, an Olympic wrestler and unbeaten mixed martial artist, spent 95% of their 25-minute encounter fully adhered to Lima. From bell-to-bell, Askren gave Lima no breathing room: he swallowed the open space and attacked Lima's hips with double-leg takedowns, switched to low singles if he couldn't complete the double and easily neutralized Lima's guard with smothering top control for all 5 rounds.
Though the performance was unnervingly methodical and exhibited what might be the best combination of wrestling and submission defense in MMA, the spectators were unhappy with the monotonous dominance. Boos echoed throughout the audience as early as the first frame and persisted intermittently throughout. In his post-fight speech, Askren was not only unapologetic, but took a shot at the Bellator audience. "If you don't like the ground work, there's a sport called boxing," Askren jeered with an uncontainable grin, "It's not as fun, so I suggest you keep on coming here and watching my ass whoopings." Askren extends his record to 7-0 in Bellator, 10-0 overall and has won his last 6 by decision.
Beforehand, many pegged the featherweight semifinal collision between explosive Brazilians Marlon Sandro and Alexandre Bezerra as the guaranteed barn-burner of the night. In what was likely a mutual display of respect, the normally assertive pair did not look to steam-roll one another, but played it a bit more strategic with tactical jousting on the feet.
Sandro assailed Bezerra's lower half with arcing rear-leg Thai kicks in the first, chopping Bezerra's legs out from underneath him on two separate occasions. "Popo" was fixated on countering the onslaught with a left hook that continually sailed through a beat late. In the second, Sandro changed it up and flicked out relentless lead-leg low kicks that regularly found the inner thigh of Bezerra's front leg. The first two rounds were competitive but Sandro seemed to have a slight edge in the significance and volume of the striking exchanges.
The Nova Uniao juggernaut may have coasted in the third knowing he was up two, and ate a big punch early that sapped his aggression and output. Despite surrendering the final stanza, Sandro earned a unanimous decision and took another step toward rematching Pat Curran by securing a spot in the finals of the 2012 featherweight tournament.
Video highlights of Bellator 64 are posted beyond the jump along with the remaining main card results.
A legion of fresh 135-pound talent was on display in the two bantamweight quarterfinal scraps. Former Shooto champ and top-tenner Masakatsu Ueda made his Bellator and stateside debut against Travis Marx, a game Jackson's MMA rep. Marx jumped all over Ueda right out of the gate with a series of mid-range kicks and grounded Ueda with a nice throw. Marx swarmed Ueda frenetically with ground-and-pound from the top and refused to let Ueda settle in.
Ueda made it a closer fight in the last two rounds, snapping off unending left kicks to the body and better resisting Marx's lightning-fast takedown attempts, but to no avail. Marx received 29-28 marks across the board to pull off an impressive upset and advance to the semis.
The broadcast opened with a rousing back-and-forth battle between Team Nogueira's Rodrigo Lima and Hiroshi Nakamura, who was also making his promotional and stateside debut. "Ratinho" came out with cannons blazing on the feet but couldn't ward off the Judoka's staunch takedown prowess. However, even though Nakamura hit consistent takedowns, Lima forced him into nonstop defense-mode with a labyrinth of submission attempts.
Lima's guard was effervescent and effective, and he smoothly chained his sub-attempts together while answering Nakamura's sparse top-side striking with right hands from the bottom. After landing his second knee to the groin in the second, Lima was docked a point for the unintentional infractions. Most of the round played out just like the first with Nakamura getting takedowns and defending constantly, while Lima demonstrated better everything on my card: striking, grappling, control and aggression. Nakamura did have a demonstrative third round and took the unanimous decision with 29-27 scores from each judge.
Canadian and former WEC fighter Chris Horodecki captained the Bellator 64 preliminary card, and was blasted out by Minnesota Fight Factory's Mike Richman in the first round. Richman beat Horodecki to the punch from the onset and clocked him with a stiff hook early before uncorking a charging, maniacal combination that crumpled Horodecki to the canvas.