Bellator’s first show of 2017 is in the books, and so is Tito Ortiz’s career (we assume for real, this time). Ortiz submitted Chael Sonnen with a rear-naked choke — to be honest, I wrote rear-naked choke, it’s officially a rear-naked choke, but it looked like an RNC/neck crank hybrid — to win his retirement fight. He even had his son Jacob put his gloves down on the center of the Bellator cage to signify the end of his fighting days.
I know the fight may have felt a bit anti-climactic, but good for Tito to get a win in his swan song. He’s been the butt of jokes for many years, but he is/was also one of the most important figures in this sport’s history, and in his heyday, he was a major star for the UFC, and is one of the greatest light heavyweights of all-time. On Saturday night, fans were treated to one last gravedigger routine, and he even nailed his retirement speech, so if you were bracing for an onslaught of Tito-isms, you were left empty-handed.
Tito Ortiz entered the Bellator cage as a near 2-to-1 underdog, but exited the cage as the greatest light heavyweight ... of the night. (I couldn’t resist)
More thoughts on tonight’s show:
- ...I guess you do Chael vs. Wanderlei in Rizin? Maybe?
- Paul Daley annihilated Brennan Ward with one hell of a flying knee, and this was after he appeared to have Ward hurt from a spinning back elbow. That was a vicious shot, and a terrific KO to get him back on the winning track. He’s since called out Rory MacDonald, and while I’m 99% sure Daley gets taken down a bunch and loses a 30-27 decision, I’m not against booking that fight for Rory’s Bellator debut.
- I think Brennan Ward is an entertaining fighter, and he’s still only 28 years old, but I’m leaning towards him just being an action fighter more than a future Bellator champion. The KO by Daley was brilliant, but Ward was losing the stand-up exchanges, which is why he hurriedly went towards a wrestling-based plan, and that didn’t work out, either.
- Good on Bellator for announcing to the crowd that Ward was responsive and being taken to the hospital for further evaluation, as he was stretchered out of the cage.
- King Mo vs. Rampage Jackson 2 is happening on March 31st, and it’ll be at heavyweight, which makes sense, because Rampage looks like he’s trying to gain enough weight so that he can be equally sized to fight Baruto in Rizin.
- Hisaki Kato vs. Ralek Gracie was a steaming pile of cow shit. There was no redeeming value. Kato was hesitant to throw against RALEK GRACIE, who must have thrown about 15 strikes in total. Gracie had Kato in full mount at the end of round 3 and never came close to a finish. This was a royal waste of everyone’s time. Metamoris shows didn’t feel as drawn out and depressingly awful as this fight was.
- Emmanuel Sanchez switched things up. He normally fights to split decisions, but thanks to a point deduction for two extremely illegal knees (which came after he was illegally upkicked), he beat Georgi Karakhanyan by majority decision (28-28, 28-27, 28-27). Round 2 was a 9-8 round on all three scorecards, which I have no issue with, as Sanchez was dominating Karakhanyan in that round even with the point deduction.
- Bellator’s production team had a rough night. INSNANE is a typo you’d expect from Reebok, as is misspelling Dan Henderson’s Twitter account. They also spoiled the King Mo vs. Rampage 2 announcement on the big jumbotron, sabotaging their own surprise. Also, Sean Grande twice said that Fedor Emelianenko was fighting in the US for the first time in ten years, and that’s definitely incorrect.
- Derek Campos’ power advantage really posed problems for the overweight Derek Anderson, who lost a close, entertaining bout by unanimous decision. Campos hurt Anderson in rounds 1 and 2, Anderson hurt Campos in round 3, and while I scored the fight for Anderson, I have no issue with the decision. Anderson getting rocked in the opening round probably outweighed the success he was having with his jab. Campos has now won three straight fights.
- Meryl Streep did not attend tonight’s card, but it wasn’t for a lack of trying on Bellator’s part. At least Jon Lovitz showed up, so that’s when you know an MMA show is star-studded.
- Of note on the prelims, Chinzo Machida scored a dramatic late knockout of Jamar Ocampo, Kevin Casey threw away a 10-8 opening round and wound up with a majority draw vs. Keith Berry, Guilherme Vasconcelos (now with Demi Lovato, for those interested!) obliterated John Mercurio with a brutal series of combination punching against the fence.