It certainly wasn’t an ideal Bellator MMA debut for former Strikeforce champ Gegard Mousasi. The ex-UFC contender signed with Bellator MMA in free agency and was booked against former middleweight champ Alexander Shlemenko, and he was fortunate to come away with a unanimous decision win in Friday’s Bellator 185 main event at the Mohegan Sun Resort and Casino in Uncasville, CT. While Mousasi definitively took round 1, a left hand by Shlemenko caused serious swelling to develop on Gegard’s right eye, and it affected his performance the rest of the way. Shlemenko easily won round 3 and was landing heavy shots on the ground and at kickboxing range, but the three judges at cageside saw the closely-fought round 2 in Mousasi’s favor. Evidently they valued Mousasi’s work on the mat over the striking of Shlemenko, which admittedly wasn’t exactly a masterclass in efficiency.
Also on the card, Neiman Gracie improved to 7-0 with a submission win over Zak Bucia, Kristina Williams pulled off a big upset by beating and bloodying Heather Hardy, Ryan Quinn did enough to earn a decision over the previously unbeaten Marcus Surin, and Lisa Blaine kicked off the main card by edging out former boxing champion Ana Julaton on the scorecards.
Gegard Mousasi (43-6-2) def. Alexander Shlemenko (56-10, 1 NC) by unanimous decision (29-28 x3) - Middleweights
Mousasi evaded Shlemenko’s early spinning back kick, and then the spinning backfist. A good left hand caught Gegard’s attention and swelled up his eye, and he shot for a takedown. Shlemenko sprawled and had a brief headlock before letting go. Mousasi managed to get Shlemenko to at least a seated position for a few seconds, where he teed off with punches. Mousasi tossed Shlemenko down just a few moments later and Immediately jumped on a rear-naked choke, before switching to a neck crank. Gegard unleashed elbows from back mount as Shlemenko did all he could to fend off a submission attempt. Mousasi eventually lost position and Shlemenko was back to his feet. Gegard put him down again and bashed the Russian’s face with some vicious punches. Shlemenko’s standing kimura backfired and he gave up his back again, a wild scramble ensued, but nothing too serious came out of it as the first frame drew to a close.
Mousasi’s right eye was badly swollen as a result of that Shlemenko left hand in the previous round. Incredibly, the doctor did not stop the fight. Gegard couldn’t get the takedown he wanted in round 2, but Shlemenko wasn’t really connecting with too many crisp shots to try and take advantage of the compromised state of Mousasi’s vision. One spinning backfist did connect, but Mousasi muscled Shlemenko to the mat, only for the former Bellator champ to stand up again, and then take Mousasi down. Gegard swept Shlemenko and into side control. Two elbows slammed against the ear of Shlemenko, who would give up his back again in the final minute of the round. Another rear-naked choke try by Mousasi proved futile, and he just chilled out on Shlemenko’s back for the closing seconds.
“Storm” stormed out of round 3 with body attacks on Mousasi, both with punches and kicks. A hard body kick and left hook combo both hit Mousasi’s midsection, and Shlemenko was scoring with some good shots upstairs. Mousasi was low output, perhaps stemming from the damaged eye from round 1. Gegard went for a takedown and instead Shlemenko was able to trip him. They returned to striking with two minutes remaining, and a sweeping left hook cracked Mousasi across his jaw. Mousasi fell back during an exchange and Shlemenko hit him with some ground-and-pound, and stayed on top. Another spinning back kick to the body was on target for Shlemenko, and a right hand staggered Mousasi. It was a dominant round for Shlemenko but not enough to get him the win. The crowd booed the official decision, as Mousasi wins his sixth straight overall.
Neiman Gracie (7-0) def. Zak Bucia (15-8) by submission (neck crank) at 2:27 of round 2 - Welterweights
Gracie shot for a takedown inside of a minute, spun to the back while they were still standing, and then dragged Bucia to the mat. After a few punches to the head, Gracie maneuvered for a rear-naked choke, but Bucia fought the hands. Gracie remained draped all over Bucia, but when his choke attempt failed, Bucia found himself on top. Gracie attacked with an omoplata, then switched to a heel hook, and Bucia defended them all. Gracie couldn’t get the kneebar to end a compelling opening round.
Bucia couldn’t stop Gracie from taking him down and controlling his back. Gracie locked up a neck crank and that was a wrap. Gracie remains unbeaten while Bucia loses by submission for the first time.
Kristina Williams (1-0) def. Heather Hardy (1-1) by TKO (Doctor stoppage) at 2:00 of round 2 - Women’s Flyweights
These two wasted no time exchanging big strikes. And the underdog Williams was firing and landing some good punches in the early stages. A head kick by Williams connected cleanly. Hardy, a talented boxer, committed to her jab and also was willing to trade power shots in the pocket with Williams. Hardy clipped Williams with a sharp right hand but ate yet another head kick shortly thereafter. Heather was bleeding from her nose and definitely didn’t have the greatest of opening rounds.
Hardy cracked Williams with a left hook and a right hand early in round 2, and also dug in some shots to the body. Williams retaliated with an inside elbow and a side kick, and it didn’t take long for Hardy to start bleeding again. Hardy ducked into a head kick and was rocked badly. She was wiping blood from her nose and was in a bothersome state. The referee called time, the doctor took a look at Hardy’s destroyed nose, and the fight was stopped. Hardy’s second MMA fight ends in defeat and a broken nose, while Williams celebrates an emphatic win in her pro debut.
Ryan Quinn (14-7-1) def. Marcus Surin (4-1) by unanimous decision (29-28 x3) - Lightweights
It looked as if a takedown attempt for Quinn would lead to Surin ending up on top, but Quinn rolled and was able to get top position. He tried to take the beck but Surin wouldn’t let him. Just as Surin got to his feet, Quinn tripped him back down and did gain full back mount. With the body triangle in, Quinn sought the rear-naked choke. Surin escaped to his feet but not free from Quinn’s grasp. He tried turning the tables on Quinn with a headlock throw, but he couldn’t keep Quinn down. It was still a clear-cut round 1 in Quinn’s favor.
Quinn caught Surin with a right hand early in round 2, and he changed levels for a takedown. He took the back briefly but couldn’t get the rear-naked choke or neck crank. Surin just had too many problems dealing with the pressure and wrestling of Quinn. Still, he was surviving and not in serious danger of being finished.
Surin came out aggressively in round 3 and also stuffed a takedown by Quinn and turned it into top position. This time it was Surin who was dictating the pace of the fight, but he needed something big to pull off the W. Surin’s rear-naked choke effort was unsuccessful, and Quinn countered with an anaconda choke. When Quinn couldn’t get that submission, he went for back mount, lost control, and Surin was able to scramble to side control. With under a minute to go, Surin landed some good shots against the fence, but found himself reversed in the closing seconds. It’s the fourth win in Quinn’s last six outings, and he had a great blueprint to beat “The Blueprint.”
Lisa Blaine (2-0) def. Ana Julaton (2-3) by split decision (29-28, 28-29, 29-28) - Women’s Flyweights
Much of the opening round was contested at kickboxing range, and the former world boxing champion Julaton was quite active with her kicks. Blaine closed the distance and was able to clinch against the fence, and after some jockeying for position, Blaine was able to get the trip into side control. Elbows were dropped by Blaine, but Julaton reversed position and got back to her feet, plus fended off the standing guillotine.
In round 2, Julaton attempted a single-leg takedown off a caught kick, but Blaine showed good balance to stay upright. It was a stalemate in the clinch for an extended period of time, and the referee saw it fit to separate them. Julaton had a nice spinning back kick to the body, which was one of the few clean shots landed by either fighter. Blaine took Julaton down again with over a minute left in the round, threw some hammerfists, but was reversed and wound up on the bottom. Julaton closed out the middle frame in Blaine’s guard.
A minute into round 3, Blaine was able to secure another takedown. This time she managed to maintain her top control and get in some ground-and-pound. Blaine kept the pressure on with some solid elbows and punches. The referee warned Julaton for upkicking the head of Blaine while she was down, although it was more of a push than a forceful kick. Blaine let Julaton get back to her feet, they exchanged a series of punches and knees in the clinch until the fight’s conclusion. Blaine took this matchup on four weeks’ notice, and she pulled off the upset over fellow Bellator newcomer Julaton.
Preliminary Card results (via MMA Fighting)