Emanuel Newton may not have believed that Phil Davis was going to take his arm home, but Francis Carmont had to know something powerful was coming after him. Honestly, in a career that has, to date, been defined by a submission win over Alexander Gustafsson and a highly debated win over Lyoto Machida, this may be the highlight of Phil Davis' fighting career. A highlight submission finish and his first flush KO in the same night, and over legit competition. It's hard to look better than that. Oh, except for me, because I went 10-0 on fight predictions.
Disclaimer time: This really doesn't need much disclaimer. There weren't any great deals to be had in the odds and I can't imagine them getting a lot of play. Maybe, anyone who parlayed a whole bunch of fights might have got some value out of it, but otherwise favorites won across the board. But, I don't gamble, I just use odds to reflect expectations and create narrative out of a fighting career. I'm getting the odds from Odds Shark and taking the mode for each fighter. So, on that note:
King Mo (-300) vs. Linton Vassell (+255) (I picked Mo, I was right)
- The Expectation: King Mo was going to win this fight if for no other reason than the fact that his wrestling, both offensively and defensively, remains elite. And he's never been a guy to get subbed on the fly. Vassell had to take him down to make something happen, especially since he really prefers top control, and he just couldn't make it happen with any consistency. To Mo's credit, he took advantage of Vassell's lack of striking early, but still ended up having to work way too hard against the Englishman to make a second fight in one night a reality.
- Fallout for Mo: This is probably the best result he could have gotten out of this whole tournament. Vassell has a cinderblock for a head, so Mo finishing him was never that likely. After that, Mo was basically set up for a knockdown, drag-out war for two rounds. One that would leave him ill equipped to fight again shortly afterward. So, he didn't. He got a win on the night, looked decent enough beating up Vassell, and then went home. He's still a hairsbreadth from a title shot over in Bellator, and he still has miles on the tread.
- Fallout for Vassell: Unfortunately (and doubly so on a roster with very little room for also-rans) Vassell may be one of those here today, gone tomorrow fighters. It took years for him to make his way out of the UK scene and while I don't think he's done in Bellator, I do think he's a long way from a title shot. At that point it's just a matter of the wrong loss on the wrong night to him being shunted out into the wilderness. Vassell is big and tough, but he hasn't put the right skills together to beat most high level competition.
Phil Davis (-360) vs. Emanuel Newton (+300) (I picked Davis, I was right)
- The Expectation: For some reason I had it in my minds eye that this would be an easy win for Phil Davis than Vassell was for Mo. And I say that as someone who wanted nothing more than to see "Big Homie" hit a backfist KO. Newton just doesn't have the physical stature of a true LHW nor the power to make up for it. He's fun and surprising, but Phil Davis made a meal of him by walking him down and wrestle-grappling him to death.
- Fallout for Davis: I'll get into his tournament win later. Safe to say, the immediate fallout of this fight was him moving on to the finale.
- Fallout for Newton: Kinda like Vassell, Newton's in a weird spot. Fortunately for him, he's still got the dap of being a former Bellator champ and the kind of mesmerizing persona that typifies the kind of fighter Coker likes to keep around, but he's gonna need a rehab fight or two after this. Eventually the best direction Bellator could probably take him in is to get him a couple wins and build him as a challenger for Brandon Halsey's middleweight belt. Halsey's been talking about taking a shot at 205, and so even if Newton didn't go down, meeting Halsey on the way up would be fun.
Mike Bronzoulis (+700) vs. Josh Thomson (-1200) (I picked Thomson, I was right)
- The Expectation: Part of me says that the odds on Thomson should never have been this long. The fact that he basically fought to these odds gives me pause in that declaration, but I'd still stand by the idea that Thomson isn't really at the point where he should be -1200 over any reasonable fighter. Nonetheless, he put on a show and got the best possible result for his own career and Bellator's matchmaking needs.
- Fallout for Bronzoulis: He fulfilled the role that Coker has always generally held for guys like him: get just enough of a buildup to look like legit competition, and then get beat by an established name in order to rehab that fighter's value. I feel for him in that role too, because Bronzoulis has gotten better, just not better enough. Still he did his job and I expect Bellator will bring him back for action filler and eventually use him for another top fighter in need of a boost.
- Fallout for Thomson: He had to get this win, and more than that, he had to look good winning. Thomson is exactly what Bellator needs right now, a fresh face at 155 to potentially challenge for the title... As long as he's still fighting. His tearful goodbye to San Jose makes me wonder about that. If he's staying, he's positioned himself well. If he's leaving, this was a weird way to go out, but good on him.
Tournament Finale (I picked Davis, I was right)
- The Expectation: I figured we'd see Davis vs. Mo in the finals and even had the provision that Mo would probably lose because he'd be a lot more gassed out and beat up from his fight with Vassell than Davis would be from his fight with Newton. That was basically how it went down, with the change that Mo was so beat up he couldn't fight, so Francis Carmont took his place. Carmont's first round bout was an ugly scrap too, and Davis shocked the world by KOing him in the first.
- Fallout for Carmont: He fought the way he normally does, only more and more he's starting to pay for it. One of the side effects of him moving to LHW and no longer being freakishly over-sized, is that fighters find him less imposing (time has shown him to not really be a venomous striker too) as such they're much more willing to walk through his feints and knock him out. Add a long career and potential fading physical tools and you've got a guy getting cold cocked by Phil Davis.
- Fallout for Davis: He's one really good fight from being Bellator's light heavyweight champ. Between Davis' performance against Newton and McGeary's against Ortiz it really does feel like a well prepared Phil Davis owns that bout. He can run submission safe top control as well as anyone in the sport right now. And we've already seen McGeary against a guy with good sub defense in his prime, and he squeaked out a decision over Newton. Phil Davis looks confident fighting in Bellator, as such it just about feels like that belt is already around his waist.
Liam McGeary (-900) vs. Tito Ortiz (+600) (I picked McGeary, I was right)
- The Expectation: I'll just assume that those people picking Ortiz were doing so in good fun. I mean... I get that he looked like he was in control early. Touching McGeary pretty much ensure's he'll end up on his back. But, McGeary is crafty and dynamic off his back, he loves to be there and Tito's game has not evolved a lot to meet the challenges McGeary threw at him. It was always going to go this way, I'm just glad it was as exciting as it was inevitable.
- Fallout for McGeary: He's got Phil Davis staring him in the face and it looks like a fight he's much less likely to win. McGeary still hits hard, fights with a dynamic style, and can pull out all kinds of crazy subs. But, it's just not a game built for consistency at a high level. Anyone who can shut down his grappling while taking him down can out work him for a win, and pretty much anyone can take him down. At this point he'll need a lot of work on his sprawl to beat Davis.
- Fallout for Ortiz: He's still a name fighter for Bellator with something to market, he's still hella awkward on the mic. Time, tide, Tito Ortiz saying some random stuff, these things wait for no man. Hopefully Bellator can keep him to the "legends" circuit where we can watch him get weird wins along with saying weird things.
Those are my thoughts on the latest big tent pole production for Bellator. As always, so much of what I wrote seems obvious now, but that's the benefit of hindsight. Until next time, when I hope to write about more freak-fight weirdness under the bright lights of Viacom.
*This week's quote from the movie Coffy.