How do I put this eloquently? Bellator NYC/Bellator 180 was a weird-ass card. I mean it was extremely weird, but in a fun way! If you wanted entertainment, you got entertainment (mixed in with cringeworthy moments along the way). We didn’t have actual epic back-and-forth fights, but we did have a double knockdown, a title change hands due to a broken ankle, a prospect get wrecked in 24 seconds, the PPV broadcast began with a title fight for some reason, and I haven’t even written about Chael Sonnen or Wanderlei Silva yet! So I might as well get to it.
With Wanderlei inactive for four years and Chael having not won for four years, I didn’t even bother with actual analysis for this grudge match. Turns out that this was pretty much the exact fight most people had predicted when they tried to book these two in the UFC in 2014. It was arguably the most normal fight on the main card. Wanderlei can’t stop the takedown, Chael couldn’t finish him, and in the few striking exchanges we saw, Wanderlei rocked Chael. None of this mattered for Wanderlei, as Sonnen got the unanimous decision win. Silva shoved Chael in the post-fight, and Tito Ortiz spent the entire contest trash-talking Sonnen. I don’t want to see those two rematch because there’s just no point. In the aftermath, Chael said he hated New York (Note: I live here and I can see his point!) and then called out Fedor, which reminds me...
- Can you believe what happened between Matt Mitrione and Fedor Emelianenko? DOUBLE KNOCKDOWN. I’ve seen them in MMA and boxing but never in a fight of this magnitude. Mitrione recovered more quickly and then knocked Fedor out cold, which gives him the biggest win of his career. That is one of the craziest finishes I’ve ever seen and I was both yelling out loud and also kinda bummed that Fedor got starched that way. I don’t know if that was the last we’ve seen of The Last Emperor, but this loss should solidify the fact that he’s extremely past his best. Father Time is undefeated and your heroes get old.
- Mitrione’s post-fight interview was all over the place. He said “f**k the Golden State Warriors” and asked President Trump to have him visit the White House in lieu of the NBA champions. Then he finished it by notifying everyone of the GoFundMe account set-up after the tragic passing of Tim Hague, who once fought Mitrione in the UFC.
- I have no words for Bellator’s decision to have the anthems of the United States and Brazil played before the main event. Talk amongst yourselves in the comments section.
- On the broadcast front, Mike Goldberg was ... well he was himself, but perhaps a little more loose and sounding less robotic on tonight’s broadcast. Both he and Mauro Ranallo showed good chemistry with Jimmy Smith, who is a consummate pro. The less said about Josh Thomson and Brendan Schaub’s analysis, the better. I already got an earful from the Schaub hive on Twitter, but I really don’t care. You’re not going to dissuade me from my stance because you tag his handle in the replies.
- Neiman Gracie submitted Dave Marfone by rear-naked choke in the swing bout. He was expected to win and he did! They moved this fight from the prelims to just before the main event due to time constraints. That’s all there is to report here.
- I had a big rant about the ending to Michael Chandler vs. Brent Primus and how Todd Anderson was wrong for stopping the fight to have doctors check on Michael Chandler’s clearly jacked up ankle. Normally you either intervene to stop the fight and call it an injury TKO without doctor intervention, or you let the fighter resume competing. My Three Amigos Podcast co-host Iain Kidd did some digging and found that Anderson was within his rights to do what he did. Primus is your new lightweight champion. Chandler literally fell on his ass after the commission took the stool out from under him. Ouch.
- It sucks that Chandler lost his title in bizarre fashion and I thought he and Primus were gearing up for a really good fight before that craziness ensued. Hopefully there’s an immediate rematch, especially since Patricky Pitbull is currently set to fight Ben Henderson.
- Aaron Pico was hyped as the greatest prospect in MMA history. His profile was on ESPN’s front page. He still may become one of the best fighters we’ve ever seen, but that time is absolutely not now. Pico’s pro debut ended in 24 seconds, with Zach Freeman flooring Pico with a devastating uppercut and then submitting him with a d’arce choke. A couple of us wrote in the staff picks (self-included) that putting a raw talent in there against a capable 8-2 fighter was a curious decision, and your end result is the hype train needing to go into the rail yard for serious repairs. Pico is only 20 so it’s insanely stupid to write him off, it’s just a horrendous way to lose given the high expectations set by putting him on a PPV main card, and it’s yet another instance of a heavily hyped Bellator prospect suffering a big upset loss.
- How about a round of applause for the actual winner?! That was a beautiful performance by Freeman. The quickness of the finish after rocking Pico with the uppercut was fantastic, and many of you who know me are aware that I love d’arce chokes.
- It wasn’t a thriller (much to my slight disappointment), but I found Douglas Lima’s win over Lorenz Larkin to be compelling viewing. Larkin was getting into a rhythm in round 2 and then Lima whacked him with a short left hook that changed the complexion of the fight. Lorenz’s switch to southpaw worked out well for him, but winning the last two rounds wasn’t enough for him to take the welterweight crown away from the Brazilian. The 50-45 Lima scorecard is bonkers but I felt the right guy got the nod. Kudos to Lima for his effective counter-punching and punishing kicks to build up an early lead, and now we’ll see him against Rory MacDonald is next. It’s going to be awesome.
- Rory was underwhelmed by Lima vs. Larkin. I can understand his viewpoint, as there was not nearly enough blood for him to drink off the mat.
- Ryan Bader is Bellator’s new light heavyweight champion after a split decision win over Phil Davis, his second in as many fights. I scored it 48-47 for Bader and don’t really think he won four rounds, but there was just very little to separate these two. Ryan stuffed all of Phil’s takedowns, Phil made sure Ryan didn’t do anything with his two takedowns, and the striking exchanges were close. It was not a good fight to watch. Tactical? Yes. Exciting? Hell no. Congrats to Bader, who finally wins a major LHW title, and he wins the Bellator belt on his first attempt.
- Holy hell, James Gallagher! I expected him to beat Chinzo Machida but he made it look very easy. The smaller (but elder) brother of Lyoto had no chance on the ground and was swiftly choked out once the Irishman locked up the body triangle. Gallagher is the youngest fighter on the Bellator roster, and yes, that he trains with Conor McGregor means we can expect to see the exciting prospect get a bigger promotional push than most.
- Pro boxing star Heather Hardy didn’t have it easy in her MMA debut against Alice Yauger, but after a nasty headbutt opened up a big cut on Hardy late in round 3, she just took Yauger apart after the restart, scoring a well-deserved TKO finish. The 35-year-old may be up there in age but her pro boxing debut was in 2012, so she doesn’t have the mileage of Holly Holm. The Brooklyn-native got the win in style, and I look forward to seeing whether or not she becomes a star for Bellator.
- I was amused that Hardy dropped Yauger at the end of the fight and let her get back up, as if it was boxing. No 8-count here, Heather! Kudos to Big John McCarthy for the standing stoppage, as Yauger was just taking too many unanswered shots.
- I didn’t really pay attention to the online prelims, but there were four finishes out of those five fights, so Mike Goldberg got to shout “IT IS ALL OVER!” a lot, except for Ryan Couture, who won a one-sided unanimous decision over Israel’s Haim Gozali.