The much hyped Bellator debut on Spike TV is in the books. While it was a good show, it may not have been exactly what Bellator was looking for, at least for much of it. Curran vs. Pitbull opened the show, providing a more cerebral battle than the war that would have been ideal. The Babalu fight picked up the pace with a 1st round finish, but it was the marquee fighter Babalu on the receiving end. But in the night's main event, Michael Chandler delivered, absolutely dismantling Rick Hawn in a very impressive showing.
I'm sure there will be some grips, but this was a solid show. Here's a recap of all the action, with gifs from ZP.
Michael Chandler defeats Rick Hawn by submission (Rear naked choke), Round 2 3:07
A lot of fans went into this looking at Hawn as the favorite, but as it turned out, this wasn't even close. In the opening round, champion Michael Chandler effectively used his wrestling to not simply ground Hawn, but also put a beating on him. In round 2, he stepped up the pressure, applying a perfect Hughes-Trigg-esque rear naked choke for the win. If there was any doubt, this should prove it - Michael Chandler is a legitimate top 10 Lightweight in the world. He's going to be tough to defeat. This win also makes an Eddie Alvarez Bellator return even more desirable, as Chandler vs. Alvarez II sounds better and better.
Mikhail Zayats defeats Babalu Sobral by TKO (punches), Round 1 4:49
The best laid plans... Bellator was pretty clearly angling for a Babalu vs. King Mo Light Heavyweight final, but Mikhail Zayats put an end to that with a big upset win. This was honestly a pretty dull fight for much of it, with both men fighting in the clinch. As the round drew to a close, Zayats landed a stiff spinning backfist that knocked Babalu loopy, then followed up with ground and pound to put the veteran out. Zayats proves a valuable lesson - never doubt a Russian fighting in Bellator. As for Babalu, this pretty much cemented the fact that his terrific career is basically at an end. I'm not saying we'll never see him fight again, but we probably won't see him winning at the top level.
Pat Curran defeats Patricio Pitbull by split decision (48-47 x 2, 47-48)
Good fight here, though one that perhaps didn't live up to the all-action expectations. But really, that should have been expected. Both fighters are capable of highlight reel moments, but they're also two fighters who are patient and wait for the opening. At the same time, they're both solid fighters who don't give their opponent an opening. Put that together and you end up with this - a supremely technical, razor-thin back-and-forth battle that lacked many huge fireworks. The best action came late in the fight, as Curran poured it on in the final round, only to see Pitbull charge back in the closing seconds. I had Curran winning 48-47, and I'm glad the judges saw it that way, but it was a tough one to call, and I could have seen it going to Pitbull easily.
They ended up sneaking this Light Heavyweight quarterfinal onto the end of the Spike broadcast, and I'm not positive that worked out so well. Neither man looked great, with Petruzelli turtling up and offering no resistance at the end. This sets up Noe vs. Zayats in Light Heavyweight semifinal #1.
Emmanuel Newton defeats Atanas Djambazov by submission (rear-naked choke), Round 2